BYOD: between perspectives and educational realities

Our new feature deals with the “Bring Your Own Digital Device” (AVAN) trend, better known by its acronym BYOD (for “bring your own device.” This new type of configuration, more and more present in the classroom, responds to financial needs, but also educational needs, in a society where education is more and more personalized and integrated with consumption needs.

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By Aurélien Fiévez and Gabriel Dumouchel

A joint dossier of L'École branchée and Carrefour education.
Illustration by Mélanie Leroux


1. Introduction
2. What does BOYD mean?
3. The different BYOD integration models
4. Why use BYOD in a classroom?
5. How to integrate BYOD in a school?
6. How to set up BYOD in a classroom?
7. What practical resources for BYOD?
8. BYOD: conclusion
9. BYOD: references

In recent years, we have seen a new form of technology integration in the classroom: “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)” or “Bring Your Own Technology” (BYOT) or “Bring Your Own Device (AVAN)” in French. This new type of configuration is more and more present in classrooms, because it meets financial needs, but also educational, in a society where teaching is more and more personalized and integrated with the needs of consumption. In practice, teachers use this configuration in the classroom when they allow their students to bring their personal technological tool (s) in order to perform specific tasks. However, this new educational approach brings with it its share of perspectives and realities. Indeed, it requires preparation and an in-depth analysis of the teaching-learning environment in order to successfully integrate.

This dossier aims to shed practical and scientific light on the use of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD). It should allow teachers, practitioners, educational actors, but also researchers to understand the origins of its existence and the realities that surround it. At the same time, it should be noted that information and communication technologies (ICT) are now an integral part of the daily life of citizens of the 21e century. Moreover, the number of individuals owning at least a cell phone, a computer or a smart phone is constantly increasing. According to Statistics Canada, in 2010, 80 % of Canadians used the Internet and had one of these tools. The same year, in Quebec, we note that 77 % of individuals have a digital tool. For their part, 81 % of workers in companies use the Internet and have their own device. As a result, companies have realized that they cannot ignore this new reality. Thus, BYOD has made a slow, consistent and often effective entry into the world of work. Moreover, employees specify that the fact of using their personal device allows them to have at their fingertips a tool they know, easy to access and which combines the personal and professional information of their daily life (Garlati, 2011 ). It was therefore necessary to put in place rules, measures, but also tools to help employees work and effectively appropriate these technologies in their workplace (Émery, 2012).

At the same time, schools are following this trend as more and more of them allow their students to bring their personal device to school (Burns-Sardone, 2014). The realities raised by companies are partially transposed into the school context. Thus, certain advantages, such as increased motivation of the user in carrying out his tasks, or the increase in the technological skills of learners (Benham et al., 2014) are highlighted. However, drawbacks also appear, such as student distraction, or the management of teaching-learning, which becomes more complex.

So what are the realities, what are the prerequisites and the outcomes of BYOD integration in a classroom? How can teachers juggle these tools? What are the real advantages and what are the disadvantages of BYOD in a school context? It is to all of these questions that this dossier will attempt to provide explanations. We will successively address the definition of the concept, the practical perspectives of its use, the resources currently available and we will end with an overall conclusion leading to avenues for reflection.

What does BYOD mean?

BYOD, acronym for “Bring Your Own Device”, or in French AVAN, for “Bring Your Digital Device”, appeared around 2005 in companies; he recently appeared in classrooms. The prospect of BYOD is to enable the user to work anywhere and anytime with their personal digital device. In this approach, companies saw it as savings in infrastructure while the school saw it as a way to promote student learning. According to some, the school and the student are both winners because the student chooses and uses a tool (laptop, tablet, phablet or smartphone) that he knows and masters. Although increasingly popular, the implementation of this new practice raises many questions, particularly about classroom management, planning or equity between students.

In addition, note that the multiplicity of technological tools no longer surprises anyone. From a global point of view, BYOD certainly shows interesting prospects. In fact, the technologies used integrate many sensors, such as Internet access and the “cloud” (cloud computing, in French) in order to communicate with each other, thus making it possible to promote teaching and learning. However, these tools are often confined to the family sphere and only enter gradually in the school sphere. Why not use them more often at school, some will ask. In this way, the teacher would have tools in the classroom that would allow digital and interactive activities to be carried out easily and quickly. In short, if BYOD brings interesting educational perspectives, the key will be to effectively integrate this method in classrooms.

Many studies have looked at the subject and offer distinct approaches. We have synthesized all of these approaches in order to propose a model that will allow successful integration.

The different BYOD integration models

Figure 1. Model of integration of BYOD in an educational context (Fievez and Dumouchel, 2014)

The teacher has a choice of which tools and platforms he wants (and can) use in his classroom. Depending on the freedom it gives students, different models of BYOD integration emerge. A Alberta Education Guide initiates this reflection by highlighting the different possible configurations of a BYOD infrastructure. For this chapter, we adjusted this model based on our findings and research to create a BYOD integration model (Figure 1). In the classroom, each student brings with him a particular and different tool; the teacher must then combine and sometimes juggle all of these technological artefacts. By analyzing the different possibilities, we can identify four different integration approaches. Thus, teachers define the degree of integration of technology that they want to see in their classroom. As “learning orchestral masters”, they choose the instruments that will be used. Depending on the degree chosen, different realities appear.

Thus, the approach of restricted use asks the teacher to choose a particular tool (for example a 64 GB iPad Air 2) that is unique to everyone. This model allows easy control over teaching and learning, making it easier for the teacher to take ownership of the technology. The latter chooses the tool and the software / applications that the learners will use. He can thus train easily and help his students from a technical point of view, but also pedagogically. On the other hand, the pupils have to tame a tool which they do not necessarily usually use and which is imposed. This restrictive model has advantages for teachers, but it limits educational innovation; the “BYOD” characteristic is therefore not very present here.

The approach of targeted use leaves the choice of device to the student (for example a tablet or a computer). However, it must respect certain technical characteristics (such as the processor or the minimum memory required). He must also respect the choice of software / applications planned by the teacher. The latter masters the software / applications and the platforms used. The lessons can be based on precise tools and the teacher's latitude is quite present. However, the educational freedom of the pupil is still limited.

The approach of single open use allows the student to choose his tool and his software / applications. The student's freedom is more important, however the teacher must adapt to the different platforms, he must show flexibility in his teaching.

Finally, the approach of multiple open use covers all perspectives of BYOD. It allows the student to use any tool and even multiple tools in the classroom. Teacher flexibility is important and classroom management more complex, but pedagogical innovation is also greater.

In addition, note that it is necessary to take into account the various external and internal factors that will influence the use of BYOD in the classroom. In fact, the financial, technical and educational resources available to the teacher are important elements to consider when integrating a BYOD approach. Having digital tools in your classroom for students who cannot afford a personal tool is essential. Also, external support from a pedagogical advisor or trainer will be of definite help for the teacher. All of these factors detailed in Figure 1 will influence the effectiveness and achievement of BYOD integration.

These different approaches that we have presented in our BYOD integration model give rise to different perspectives of the use of technologies in the classroom. Depending on the choice of teacher and / or management, the flexibility of the teacher and / or student will be adjusted. Consequently, it will be necessary to identify the most appropriate approach according to the envisaged objectives. Moreover, the goal is not to transform the classroom into a common place for the student's personal technological tools, but to get him to use them for learning purposes.

What are the possible configurations in the classroom?

Depending on the choice of teachers, educational decision-makers and different backgrounds, multiple configurations of technological tools are regularly observed in the classroom. As shown in the figure below, two types of layout often come up. The first is characterized by a specific tool (sometimes imposed) owned by the pupil (tablet, computer, etc.); the second by making computer rooms (laboratories) or mobile carts (for tablets or computers) available in the school.

These two types of establishment respond to specific needs and precise realities (institutional and economic), but often show their limits for an adequate educational and technological openness.


BYOD offers an interesting alternative. Depending on the activity to be carried out, some tools prove to be more relevant than others. For example, a computer will be more suitable for performing complex statistics, spreadsheets or graphs. For its part, the tablet will be more suitable for an outdoor activity in geography requiring precise geolocation. Also, students have preferences for the tools used based on their personal characteristics and experience.

Thus, in a 100 % BYOD environment, the class could have at its disposal:

  • touch tablets (iPad, Android, Windows, others);
  • laptops (Mac, PC, Linux);
  • one or more fixed computers already in the classroom;
  • digital music players (iPod, for example);
  • electronic reading lights;
  • smart phones (iPhone, Android, Windows, others).

Real puzzle in sight? In fact, if we manage to ensure that each of these tools has access to the school network, we can then focus on the pedagogical aspect: what is the task to be carried out, the objective to be achieved? For example, by avoiding the instruction "Make a PowerPoint on such and such a subject" in favor of "Make a visual presentation on such and such a subject", the teacher relieves the need to master a particular application and lets the students exercise their creativity. After all, don't we say that the end justifies the means?

Why use BYOD in a classroom?

The idea is interesting, but is it as easy as they say? Does BYOD represent a technological opening of the school or rather an educational complexity? According to several recent studies, the use of a specific tool in a classroom already presents daily management difficulties. Consequently, implementing a multitude of tools and platforms would logically pose greater educational problems. However, some schools have chosen BYOD. For example, the Peel District School Board, in Ontario, has been offering students the opportunity to use their own device since 2013. In order to best integrate the BYOD project in schools, the school board has even put in place tools to help parents and students. A explanatory video, a guide for parents, a digital code of conduct and a set of resources for parents thus come to help integration in the classes. Moreover, it is clear that BYOD asks the teacher to redefine his role and to think about how to understand this novelty.

Relevant questions then arise for the teacher: where should I start? How will BYOD affect my teaching? How to proceed with those who do not have a personal device? How to deal with the variety of platforms?

On this subject, a teacher from the Peel District School Board, who has been integrating BYOD in her class for three years, gives us some possible answers: “ I allow students to bring their own device, for targeted activities, research, creation or collaboration. I see that the students quickly share the tools. »She adds that "The downside is that they have access to the Internet at all times and that they can do other things [that the requested task] ". According to this teacher, "The simplest devices can have a lot of potential. However, support is important, even if they know how to use their tool. They must be empowered ".

Through our readings and the testimonials collected, we can see various advantages of a BYOD type integration. The most important is certainly the immediate availability of a “digital Swiss Army knife” for the pupils, thanks to which they can access the material quickly and easily. Other advantages relate to collaboration, motivation or even the personalization of learning.

In spite of everything

However, BYOD also comes with its share of drawbacks, such as the lack of fairness among students and overloading the teacher. On the one hand, allowing a personal digital device to enter the classroom may require parents to additional investment, come into conflict with their parental approach to technologies or expose students to the socio-economic realities of their families. On the other hand, the teacher will often have to manage tools with different operating systems and versions. However, knowing each operating system and each tool can be very difficult, if not impossible for many. However, with BYOD, it will be necessary, at some point, to either troubleshoot the students with or without the help of a technician, or to designate student experts who can help their classmates to solve the technical problems encountered in the context. learning. The tool can thus become both an object and a vector for collaborative learning in a problem-solving approach.

Summary of advantages and disadvantages

The following table summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of BYOD present in studies carried out in an educational context that we have consulted and in the testimonials that we have collected.

Benefits Disadvantages
• Increased collaboration between students;
• Critical thinking and empowerment of students;
• Increased communication between students and teacher;
• Access to information anywhere and anytime;
• Continuity between school and home;
• Lower costs for the school;
• Prepare students for professional realities;
• Personalized learning.
• Technical prerequisites: bandwidth and infrastructure;
• Lack of equity between students; need for additional equipment;
• Network and data security;
• Complexified classroom management;
• Requires additional technical mastery for the teacher;
• Lessons planning made more complex;
• Additional workload.

Different recommendations

In addition, we can identify different recommendations from the literature and comments collected about BYOD:

  1. It is above all necessary that the school deals with technologies. On the one hand by adapting to their existence, and on the other hand by regulating their educational use.
  2. It is necessary involve students and parents in the choice of the tool since the users are the first concerned in this selection. As for the school and its teachers, they can provide advice on the most relevant tools for the envisaged context, in particular by identifying the student's needs and the technologies with which he interacts easily. In short, target the tool that will be best suited to succeed in schooling.
  3. The school must think its infrastructure according to these new realities. Students must be able to access the school's platforms and the tools put in place in an optimal way. This amounts, among other things, to ensuring that the wireless network is sufficiently efficient, that the school portal is accessible on different platforms, and that access to software and sites relevant and useful for their training is not available. is not blocked at the institutional level.
  4. Our technical and educational support is a necessity to successfully implement BYOD in a school. Concretely, this is to ensure that teachers are able to help their students when they have difficulties in using their device and that technicians are sufficiently trained and available to meet demand. which is not an easy task.

How to integrate BYOD in a school?

Integrating BYOD requires changes in the role of the teacher, but also at the level of the institution itself. Allowing the use of multiple tools within a school requires structural adaptations in the administration and management of the school. The management considerations are based on technical characteristics, but also on staff and student management. The school's internal policy must be reviewed as well as the rules for the use of technologies. We can highlight different points that it is necessary to take into consideration for the management of a school or a school board that wishes to integrate BYOD:

Allow reliable and efficient access to the Internet network

Access to the network is an essential element in the integration of a technological tool in a classroom. It is essential to have an Internet connection that allows easy access to data, with sufficient bandwidth. These prerequisites are necessary in order to allow the use of the school platform from any device, to easily configure it and to access the portal from different operating systems.

Promote equity among students

Technology is seen as a way to facilitate student learning. It helps bring complementary and new skills to the classroom. However, new technologies are intrinsically linked to financial matters. The technology is supported either by the institution or by the parents, but someone has to foot the bill down the line. In addition, BYOD further increases the financial realities of schools. Indeed, each student can bring with him the tool he wishes and as a result, some students will have the most recent model of a touchscreen tablet or laptop while others will have to be content with a older and less functional model. Others will not have it at all, because their parents will not be able to afford it. The school must therefore ensure, within the limits of its means, that all students can access technology. A sufficient supply of functional material will allow pupils to benefit from the advantages of ICT in an educational context. Also, the school can form partnerships in order to offer parents accessible financial plans. Finally, note that a reliable Internet connection at home is necessary so that the student can use his device outside of school, another economic issue for parents that schools must consider in the integration of BYOD within of their establishment.

Empower students when using technology

The studies identified, such as that carried out in Alberta (2012), show that student empowerment is the essential element of successful technological integration. The distraction of the pupils is often important and it is necessary to "channel" the use of the adopted tool. In other words, students must clearly distinguish the activities necessary for their learning and which promote their academic success. Thus, prohibiting certain applications or restricting the use of the tool to certain periods would be unnecessary and illusory. Bypassing the bans is easy, and they might find motivation to do so. It is therefore preferable to confront them with their mistakes and to highlight the consequences of misuse on their academic success. In other words, the use of social networks, texts and other elements of communication should not be outlawed, but thoughtful. The solution most often adopted by schools is the use of a charter, a code of conduct or internal regulations. This document is often completed with the help of teachers and students so that it is as complete and fair as possible. It is then given to the students who will have to approve it. Parents are of course concerned, because they are essential actors in this process of empowerment. Such a document should include the following elements:

  • The use of the device inside the establishment implies precise rules;
  • The consequences of improper use are clearly defined;
  • The regulations must be moderate to avoid a demotivation and a lack of attendance of the pupils;
  • The rules for using Internet sites are specified and prohibited sites are determined;
  • The rules of conduct are established: respect for oneself, respect for others and respect for the school.

For this, it is essential that schools:

  • Promote digital access by ensuring the participation of all students;
  • Promote communication through interactions and exchange of information; and
  • Promote fluency, that is to say, they lead students to learn to use their tool from a technical point of view in order to promote their learning.

This accountability is essential, on the one hand for a proper functioning of the educational institution and for an optimal management of teaching-learning on the other hand. In continuity, it is necessary for the school to prepare students to become digital citizens. They must understand and apply the rules of an active, ethical and responsible digital citizen. It is therefore necessary for the school to put in place the means which allow the pupils to achieve these objectives. For example, by promoting online experiences, by accessing digital resources, collaborative platforms and by getting students to use differentiated learning styles.

Depending on the characteristics that have just been established above, we can see that the use of the Internet in a school requires structural adaptations on the part of the school, but also on the part of teachers. As we have shown previously, integrating a BYOD approach shows drawbacks in logistical and technical terms, but also has the significant advantage of preparing students for digital culture and the relevant use of a technological tool. These different realities, properly implemented, have the potential to greatly promote the development and learning of learners in a BYOD environment. In short, integration into the educational establishment and preparation of the infrastructure are essential elements for this purpose. However, most of the work will be done by the teacher who will have to integrate it into their classroom.

How to set up BYOD in a classroom?

Teaching and learning in a BYOD environment requires adaptations. It is necessary to lay down rules and to take measures in order to allow an optimal use of this approach. The goal is to allow learners to develop disciplinary and transversal skills, but also to build their digital culture, by making use of their personal technological tool (s) in the classroom. . For this, we saw in the previous chapter that the school must put in place appropriate means and rules in what we could consider as the macro aspect of BYOD management.

For his part, the teacher must act at the level of micromanaging the teaching-learning environment. To do this, he must:

  • Personalize learning to motivate students through their interests and needs;
  • Foster students' participation in the classroom and in their learning, in particular by promoting communication, cooperation and collaboration between them;
  • Promote student productivity. Students can produce content from what they learn. Put the tools necessary for the production of documents: software or application to organize (concept maps), to write (word processing) or other.

Overall, it is necessary to promote collaboration and sharing between students. BYOD allows each student to make a contribution to teamwork and the teacher must allow while supervising these exchanges. For example, it can build learning sequences where students are involved in a project that mobilizes their knowledge and skills. The finished product will often be in the form of digital content, depending on how the teacher places technology in their classroom. The latter must keep in mind that the tool is only one means among others. Moreover, the technological tools envisaged will only support the planned sequences. Thus, a reflection on the added value expected during the use of the tool is necessary in order to determine the place that the tool will take in the classroom.

How to integrate the available digital content?

To facilitate the management of a BYOD classroom, it is important for the teacher to establish beforehand the digital content that he wishes to use with his students. This content can be in the form of an e-book, digital manual, text document, concept map, spreadsheet, or the like. More and more companies or publishers are developing tools and manuals for students. The use of digital content promotes motivation and interest in the course. It would therefore be relevant to use it, but adequately.

To this end, the teacher must ensure that each tool brought to class by his students allows them to access and use the digital content previously selected for teaching-learning. Without necessarily requiring that each student use the same software to perform a task, for example, the teacher must identify with the students similar software that will lead them to achieve it. For example, if a school assignment requires the production of a concept map, a student with a laptop computer will have the choice of using software that they will have to download and install (ex: cMap) or directly use a concept map building website (ex: MindMUp). For his part, a student with a touch pad will have the choice to use these same websites or applications designed for this purpose (ex: Popplet). In short, without requiring a standardization of the digital content used in the classroom, the fact that BYOD involves various tools requires both the teacher and the student to identify the different online services, software and applications that will allow them to carry out an activity. learning given. In addition, the fact that each student could have for example designed a concept map with a different tool would diversify the presentation of their work to their classmates and thus make not only the realization but also the sharing of their productions more motivating.

What practical resources for BYOD?

Several types of resources are available for the BYOD approach depending on the target audience. In this section, we present a selection of videos, articles and blogs that cover different practical aspects of BYOD:

Videos about BYOD

BYOD: AVAN is for now! : a comic video summarizing BYOD produced by educational consultant Marc-André Lalande.

Why BYOD? : a video explaining why the Peel District School Board (Ontario) has chosen to implement BYOD in its schools.

BYOD Classroom Management Video : a video presenting tips for managing a BYOD class.

BYOD for Students : A video that explains BYOD to students trained in schools in the Whitehall-Coplay School District (Pennsylvania).

BYOT Success : video recounting successful implementations of BYOD in schools.

BYOD Articles or Blogs

Everything you need to know about BYOD (PedagoTIC, 2014)

BYOD: an asset for digital classrooms? (emedia, 2013)

The future of education: BYOD in the classroom! (Ludomag, 2013)

What Districts Should Know About BYOD and Digital Learning (EdTech, 2013)

Equipment at school. How about playing AVAN? (TIPES, 2012)

AVAN: a desirable policy for engineering schools and universities (TIPES, 2012)

These classes that could not be done without an AVAN posture (TIPES, 2012)

A matter of trust above all (Zecool, 2012)

Surprise quiz on your cellphones (OWNI, 2012)

10 Real-World BYOD Classrooms (And Whether It's Worked Or Not) (Edudemic, 2012)

Should Schools Embrace “Bring Your Own Device”? (neatoday, 2012)

5 Strategies to Deliver Edtech Access to Every Student (Getting Smart, 2012)

Infographic: Are You Going BYOD? (Getting Smart, 2012)

BYOD: Conclusion and references

The idea behind BYOD is that schools use the devices that students use every day to support learning. However, the school will also have to find the means to introduce these tools and to make them accessible to all, in particular by providing solutions for pupils who cannot obtain technological tools. The involvement of parents in the choice of the tool, but also in the follow-up of the pupil is therefore essential, on the one hand to help him in his appropriation of the tool, but also in the responsible use of the tool. this one.

In summary, we find that BYOD encourages learning across time and space. However, training, technical and educational support, as well as the tools available, are essential elements to consider in the implementation of BYOD in a school context. It is therefore important that educational actors are aware of the positive and negative implications of such integration. The perspective of BYOD is to allow the student or teacher to choose the tool based on the task at hand, not the other way around.

On the other hand, the school must establish a framework of action for the technologies used: which tool for which educational activity? When to use it? How to use it? Why use it? Questions that will give meaning to a relevant use of any BYOD approach in an educational context, for both the student and the teacher.

Certainly, BYOD provides its share of solutions through immediate availability of the digital tool; it also makes it possible to establish in the classroom an interactivity that it often lacks. However, we must put in place beacons that make it possible to create a BYOD environment accessible to all. In other words, it is important that technopedagogical innovation does not involve an increase in social inequalities within the school.

However, we are aware that this represents quite a challenge as educational institutions are paying the price for budget cuts. How can a school board or a school provide tools to students from disadvantaged backgrounds whose teachers use the BYOD approach when its budget does not allow it? What economic solution to choose to make educational innovation possible for everyone? Make a request for computer equipment at the institutional level or encourage the creation of events such as shows to finance the purchase of new tools by students and their teachers?

In a way, it seems to us that the concept of "Bring Your Own Digital Device" often begins with "Bring Your Own Solution" in order to achieve a successful integration of personal technological tools into a classroom. In short, to answer our initial question, the BYOD approach certainly complicates the teacher's task, but it is undeniable that it offers interesting opportunities in the use of educational technologies.


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About the Author

Gabriel Dumouchel
Gabriel Dumouchel, Ph.D., is a lecturer in educational technologies at the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi and at the University of Quebec in Outaouais. He is also a consultant in communication, education and medical pedagogy.

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