Leicester City Schools Taking BYOD Forward

Photo credit: Picture shared under a Creative Commons Licence by Charles Rodstrom

Schools internationally are looking at how the currently untapped resource of learner owned devices can be put to better use. This has resulted in a recent explosion of discussion, planning and activity around how schools can engage with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approaches. BYOD approaches are also sometimes called BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) – although these two acronyms don’t represent significantly different approaches.

Leicester City Council is committed to ensuring that the investment currently being made in the City’s Secondary Schools through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Programme is used to ensure all our young people can take advantage of the opportunities that the use of technology affords. Our ambition is for learners in Leicester to be confident, thoughtful, positive and creative in their use of technologies. Schools play a critical role in supporting this, through modelling effective and engaging practice, promoting responsible use, and by using technologies to support learners in achieving.

Some schools in Leicester are already supporting the use of student owned mobile phones in lessons. There are several drivers that make this a good time for Leicester schools to investigate an expanded and strategic approach to BYOD.

All schools in Leicester understand and are enthusiastic about the benefits technology can bring to support learning, teaching and school community development. Learners themselves increasingly have access to up to date technology. Some learners don’t – and it’s critical that the City schools and libraries can support less privileged learners and ensure that they aren’t further disadvantaged by lack of access to and support in the use of technology.  At a time when schools are looking to increase technology provision and budgets are flat, it makes sense to look at ways the whole school community can contribute to provision.

Learners increasingly have access to devices for personal use. Recent research from Ofcom (Children and Parents – Media Use and Attitudes, 25 October 2011) indicates that half of all children aged 5-15 in the UK have a mobile phone (52%) and one in five (20%) parents of children aged 5-15 say their child has a smartphone (a phone capable of connecting to the internet). Mobile phone ownership rises to 87% amongst 12-15 year old boys, and 88% of all girls aged between 12-15.

The research also shows that overall children aged 5-15 who use the internet at home are more likely to mostly use a laptop rather than a desktop PC (56% vs. 33%). This represents a change in findings from the 2010 survey – since 2010; 5-15s are now more likely to mostly use a laptop (56% vs. 44%) and less likely to mostly use a desktop PC (33% vs. 48%).

The BSF Programme in Leicester is ensuring all secondary schools in the programme will have the wireless infrastructure and bandwidth capacity to support reliable and flexible access to school networks and the internet right across the school. This represents a big change for schools who have previously relied on designated teaching rooms and fixed computers for access, and opens up opportunities for the flexible use of technology right across the school building – including the dining room, sports halls and some outdoor spaces. While the Programme is providing schools with new staff and learner devices, increasing device numbers and types can take even more advantage of the flexible approach the schools are designed to support.

We held the first meeting of Leicester City Council’s new Schools BYOD working group on the 19th June. Fifteen Leicester City Secondary schools attended the initial meeting; Ash Field School, Babington Community Technology College, The City of Leicester College, Crown Hills Community College, English Martyrs Catholic School, Fullhurst Community College, Judgemeadow Community College, Keyham Lodge School, The Lancaster School, Moat Community College, New College, Rushey Mead Secondary School, St. Pauls Catholic  School, Sir Jonathan North Community College, and Soar Valley College.

The group discussion focused on two main approaches to BYOD; school managed leasing schemes and ad-hoc BYOD support. There are two key issues this group will investigate and make recommendations on:

School and City Wide Device leasing

This model of BYOD would provide every learner in the school with the opportunity to lease a device. Device types would be selected by the schools, in consultation with learners, parents and carers.

Key issues to explore around this model include management of the scheme, funding models, the collection of payments, insurance and security issues, systems security, infrastructure capability, engaging parents and carers, and of course pedagogic practice/staff development.

The obvious benefits of this approach are that it could increase provision and access to all learners by providing an affordable device; provide all learners with access to a consistent, shared platform; support the school in taking forward the integration of technology to support learning and the school community; provide learners with out of hours access to a device: and could enable capital to be redirected to support other investments.

Ad-hoc BYOD support

We also want to explore the potential benefits of schools providing support for a range of learner owned mobile devices, such as their own mobile and smart phones, netbooks, tablets and laptops. This is a different model and raises a different set of challenges and opportunities for the school and for learning and teaching. It does not address parity of provision for learners but does support innovation in learning and teaching practice.

Key issues to explore around this model include school policies and behaviour, systems security, onsite management, technical management of an ad-hoc range of devices, engaging parents and carers, and again critically, pedagogic approaches and staff development.

This approach provides the school with an opportunity to actively address issues around device use and classroom management; enables staff to work flexibly and develop a range of approaches to learning activities and approaches; personalises learning to preferred and familiar devices; enables the school to deploy and develop skills and confidence in using a greater array of technologies than it would be able to do so through standardised provision.

A third approach – where schools work with learners, parents and carers to provide a recommended device list, will also be discussed.

“What are the implications for teaching and learning if everyone can connect and interact?”

The group discussed their current and future plans and ambitions. The group were very positive about BYOD but also aware of the challenges –identifying a range of issues that need to be tackled. Smaller teams are being set up to address issues and make practical recommendations to take technology supported education in Leicester forward.

Further reading

BYOD Leadership implications Figuring it Out, 22 June 2012

Wolf Creek Public Schools Embraces BYOD, Puts Pedegogy First Converge, 5 July 2011

Considering BYOT/BYOD next year? Get started with this sample policy and answers to FAQ The Innovative Educator, 30 May 2012

Bring Your Own Device at Saltash.net Microsoft UK Schools blog, 3 January 2012

A principal’s reflections: It is time for schools to seriously consider BYOT A Principal’s Reflections, 19 January 2012

The Contraband of Some Schools is The Disruptive Innovation of Others with BYOT (Bring Your Own Tech) The Innovative Educator, 26 April 2011


About Josie Fraser

UK-based Social and Educational Technologist, currently working for Leicester City Council (Local Government) as ICT Strategy Lead (Children's Capital). I support schools across the city in making effective and innovative use of technology to support learning, teaching and whole school development.
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