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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Do BYOD Programs Encourage Bullying?

In theory, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs in schools are a great idea; students can use their own tablets, laptops and smartphones in the classroom, and can take advantage of a wider range of apps and programs than they might be able to normally access in school. There is a case to be made that doing so can make schools more cutting edge and capable of engaging students through methods that they're comfortable with. However, there's also a risk that BYOD could lead to bullying and inequality within schools. How, then, can BYOD be successful without causing these kinds of problems?

The growing popularity of BYOD is a trend that has appeared in the workplace and schools over the past few years; partly, this has been in response to gaps between the technology found at work and school, and what people are using in their spare time. By allowing people to bring in their own devices, employers and schools create a greater consistency between how employees and students normally access information and learn, and the standards set within the workplace and the classroom.

For schools, particularly those whose budgets are struggling to keep up with the pace of technology, BYOD offers cost savings. Implementing BYOD means that a school's ICT system can be expanded to include more apps and more flexibility when it comes to using internal networks and developing class projects. Students familiar with using their own devices at home have the potential to relate much better to these rather than to the school's technologies, and that familiarity can extend their skills for comprehension and the creative use of apps to literacy, numeracy and other school subjects.

Risks and Problems

However, there are some risks attached to BYOD programs. Among the more general problems they might create, data breaches and confidentiality represent a real issue if not properly handled. Network security is also crucial to address when multiple devices are logging into a shared Local Area Network. BYOD schemes require a comprehensive security program to ensure that viruses are not being accidentally or maliciously released into a school's system.

Bullying can also be a potential problem for schools that are introducing BYOD programs. Inequality between students over devices can be created, mirroring the issues that prompt some schools to require uniforms instead of letting students wear their own clothes. Out of date or older devices could become a source for embarrassment, while students might also be subject to cyber-bullying through emails and social messages. Discussing the impact of BYOD on schools in the United States, one website notes how BYOD could intensify the "already significant divide between students from high and lower income families." BYOD could similarly lead to problems with device theft, inappropriate messaging and intentional damaging of expensive devices.

Plans and Rules

What, then, can schools do to make the most of BYOD, while reducing the impact of the above problems? One solution could be to arrange for a purchase scheme, where a school buys a selection of devices at discounted rates, which can then be issued to students that can't afford their own devices; this could help level the playing field for students, albeit with the problem of there still being a gap between BYOD and school equipment.

Other solutions come from the business world, and from schemes like COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled), which buy up devices, but then allow users to personalize them for use both at work and at home. For schools, this approach could make it easier to standardize the amount of devices available, but could also defeat the point of BYOD as a means of introducing more cutting edge devices into learning and teaching.

Schools could also attempt to tackle bullying by setting up strict rules over how devices are used. This could include blocking 3G and 4G signals, and encrypting networks so that students can't access some apps or browse the Internet as freely. Such measures represent a compromise by making the most of student devices for some features, while reducing their superiority to more inexpensive devices owned by other students.

Middle Ground

Probably the best option to approach bullying, then, is effective management of BYOD schemes to ensure that they're not simply an excuse for students having free rein to use their devices in school. A system that allows high-quality devices while also placing strict rules and limits on their usage means these devices can still improve the quality of classroom engagement without creating as much of a divide within a student body.

Schools that are considering BYOD consequently need to look carefully at how they manage their networks and Internet access, while also finding ways to invest in devices that can be loaned out to students who can't afford their own. Looking at school uniform policies, there's a middle ground where schools do allow normal clothing, but maintain restrictions over, say, certain brand labels or styles of dress; BYOD could achieve a similar balance between opening the door to more diverse devices and limiting certain features to prevent them from setting some students apart from their peers. But having a system in place, any system at all, is crucial if schools hope to avoid falling behind in Internet and communications technology.

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Melanie Link Taylor's picture
Melanie Link Taylor
Educator, Blogger, Southern California

Good article. Cell phones have been present for quite awhile--optimistically, students could BYOD safely to school. Issueing devices would require careful organization. Eliminating bullying needs to be thoroughly dealt with from K-12. School staff are going to have to increasingly hang together and implement plans of supervision and interaction with the classes.

nathan_stevens's picture

BYOD or BYOT is about enabling the student and the teacher to have freedom to express their knowledge in a variety of ways. Being able to access have to tools that can convey their understanding of materials is key to their future as learners and paramount to our future as a country. If a student does not have a device, does not mean that they go with out. They can go to their media center and check one out. the idea is getting students to use devices that they are use to using to decrease time of learning how a technology works and spend more time on learning in the classroom. Saying that that letting the students use their own devices could increase bullying is nothing new. Giving students pencils and paper I eases bulling to writing notes, or giving a marker to write on a whiteboard could lead to the, writing messages in a bathroom stall. It is teaching students the skills to be good digital citizens. This has to start early in their lives. Students have devices in their hand at an earlier age than ever before. It should be part of the Kindergarten cirriculum to develop these skills. Edmoto is a great place to teach anti-bullying skill and digital citizenship. It is up to us to teach students or the students themselves to create class norms to abide by to havean effective classroom. If you are interered in being part of the BYOT or D discussion on twitter. The chat is on Thursdays at 9:00pm est. We discus a wide range of topics including digital citizenship. This is a new idea for a lot of schools and their several concerns to be addressed. This is why we have a hat and it is a great forum for all of us to learn. For more information, check http://www.byotchat.com

Martti Malmi and the Bullies on the Bitcointalk Forum's picture

To a Bitcointalk.org outsider or a lurker, it can be a bit intimidating submitting a post on this forum as a newbie. Not knowing all the ins and outs and who knows who, it can be a bit daunting. The TOS (terms of service) or forum rules here only serve to favour the regulars and bullies if there is some flaming going on in a particular thread. Most of these bullies are moderators who double up as 'hero members.' One such bully is Sirius aka Thymos aka Martti Malmi.

Well, I can deal with bullies on forums, trolls and the like a lot easier if I didn't have to worry about the forum administrators protecting them! I get tired of myself and others being dismissed as oversensitive or censored when we fight back against these bullies. So much for free speech!

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