"You can't stop students using the powerful computers in their pockets," notes the director of IT at England’s prestigious Queen Elizabeth School.
In a world where screens increasingly dominate life, learning and leisure, it’s an observation that gets to the heart of the challenge facing today’s schools.
It’s only been a few short years since the Australian federal government instituted - and then rescinded - its $2.1 billion Digital Education Revolution policy. The initiative aimed to ensure every Australian student had 1:1 access to a learning device at school.
The 2013 decision to end that policy signalled a decisive turn in the road - away from school-supplied 1:1 devices and towards a new era in which parent-supplied devices, aka BYOD, have become the new normal.
A national survey of 1267 schools across Australia, conducted by Softlink, revealed that BYOD programs grew by 30 per cent in 2014 alone.
But it’s not just Australian schools. The trend to BYOD is evident in education systems all over the developed world, from the US and Canada to Scandinavia, the UK and beyond.
The advantages to schools are obvious. BYOD transfers the expense of purchasing and maintaining learning devices from school to parent. They’re also likely to be upgraded more frequently than school-owned devices. Finally, students are familiar and comfortable with them and therefore require less training.
The drawbacks? BYOD presents equity issues for many school communities. Devices are expensive. And so is home internet - an expectation, now that the majority of homework is screen-based.
But the biggest obstacle to successful BYOD deployment - in any school setting - is not expense. It’s safety.
When schools require learning devices, they have a duty of care to protect those devices during school hours - and that means blocking adult content, and filtering social media and gaming.
With school-supplied devices connected to the school WiFi, that’s a relatively straightforward task. But with student-owned BYOD devices, many of which will also have their own 4G data, things can get incredibly complicated, incredibly quickly.
Add students’ personal smartphones to the mix, and the potential for distraction and digital disobedience increases exponentially.
Then there’s the problem of off-premise protection. When devices travel from school to home, what if any filtering is applied? Are parents aware of their duty of care to keep their children safe online outside of school hours?
It’s true. In a digital world, “you can’t stop students using the powerful computers in their pockets” - either in the classroom, at home or on the go.
But there’s an alternative to locking down student devices on the one hand - or letting them go free-range and unfiltered on the other.
At Family Zone, our unique ecosystem approach combines state-of-the-art digital management for the entire school community with education for genuine digital wellbeing.
Family Zone's acclaimed e-safety solutions and sophisticated classroom tools have been chosen by thousands of schools and parents in Australia, New Zealand, the US and beyond. Let us help your school work through these challenges. To learn more, or to book a free demo, visit Family Zone Education Solutions today!