BYOT Implementation


Your ultimate goal in implementing a model of BYOT (Bring your own technology) is to transition from your present situation to a position where all your students have normalised the everyday use of their suite of digital technologies in all the school’s operations, to the extent that it becomes invisible.

The attainment of that goal requires all of your teachers to employ a style of teaching where the students naturally recognise the imperative of them bringing the relevant technology to each class.

In brief, you want to replicate in your school, the kind of normalised, near-invisible usage that already exists in the vast majority of students’ homes and in the wider, networked society.

Clay Shirky very astutely observed: “Communication’s tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.” (Shirky, 2008, p105).

The desire ought to be to normalise the use of the students’ technology in the school to the extent that it becomes as natural, and as boring, as the use of paper, the pen and the teaching board, and BYOT, as an issue, slips from the vocabulary.

It is a goal that will only be achieved by the astute addressing of a suite of interrelated human and technological variables, and a capable school leadership.

Indeed, the present signs are that many schools will not reach that stage in their evolution for many years. In the meantime, the nature of schooling provided, and the gap between those schools that do provide for the implementation of BYOT and those that do not, will grow ever wider.

The successful, whole-of-school implementation of BYOT, that ought to be interwoven into all school operations and simply used in the classroom, and the realisation of most of the opportunities it presents, needs to be addressed thoughtfully over a concerted period of time.

That said, as you’ll see below, it is not rocket science, but rather a considered professional addressing of a suite of variables that schools, small and large, rich and poor, rural and urban, are successfully addressing globally.

While, at the time of writing, our team couldn’t locate any that have secured a 100 per cent BYOT uptake, there were a significant number likely to reach that point in the next 12 to18 months.

At this point, it is important to stress that I’m talking BYOT as Martin Levins and I have defined it, where, of their volition, the students use their desired personal technology in the school, and not an approach where the school compulsorily stipulates the technology that all students must acquire.  Such approaches, unless employed in a transitionary process, are alien to the wider, societal developments. Moreover, philosophically, they are not designed to realise the breadth of educational enhancement possible with BYOT and, as such, are destined for a limited existence.

The key is to recognise that a successful BYOT implementation strategy has, ultimately, to be based on attraction, collaboration, trust, respect and collective action, and not on some imposed, magic-bullet technology.


Before schools can realistically begin embarking on BYOT, they have to be ready to undertake that journey.

Until the research that our group and Alberta Education (2012) undertook, the concept of school readiness hadn’t been mentioned in the literature.

The assumption was, and still is, for many, that any school or education authority could introduce a model of BYOT tomorrow. It can, but the chance of sustained success is miniscule.

As indicated in the previous edition of Education Technology Solutions, until your school meets the key readiness conditions, it is best to hold off any school-wide move to BYOT until those preconditions are met.

As Martin Levins and I flesh out in Bring Your Own Technology (2012), and Alberta reiterates in its guidelines (2012), you’ll need to have reached the position where:

  • At the very least, a critical mass of your teachers (75-85 per cent) is using the digital technology, naturally, in their classrooms every day and have normalised its use. There is little to be achieved by inflicting BYOT on teachers not already using digital devices and, potentially, much to be lost.
  • The vast majority of your teachers are of a mind to reach outside the school walls and collaborate with their homes and community in the teaching of the young, and have begun adopting a networked mindset.
  • The school has a principal willing and able to lead the move into uncharted territory.
  • All teaching rooms have the appropriate, instructional technology and the school has the requisite, support infrastructure.

When you’re in that position, you can then begin shaping the strategy that will be appropriate for the school at this particular phase in its evolution, and which will enable you to transition to total, normalised BYOT usage.

It bears underscoring that you will want a strategy appropriate for your context and your school’s educational vision, and not one imposed from on high or plucked off the shelf.

BYOT Model

A major, first step is to identify the particular model of BYOT that suits your situation.

Martin Levins and I have fleshed those options out in, Bring Your Own Technology (2012), and on our BYOT blog at: Alberta Education has done the same in its Guidelines (2012).

We’ve not the space here to explore all those options, simply to make a few key observations, such as:

  • The model chosen should be consistent with the school’s shaping, educational vision
  • You’ll want to attract 100 per cent of your parents and students support to allow their precious, personal technology to be brought to class every day. Anything less than that ideal and total usage might not be achieved.
  • A key decision will need to be made regarding the kind of operational parameters you initially opt to work within, the extent to which the school is willing to trust the students, and how you choose to reach those decisions. All the approaches will have consequences. Do you unilaterally decide on an ‘acceptable use’ policy, negotiate a ‘responsible use’ policy with the stakeholders, or opt to simply trust the students and have no written policy?  Or, do you move, as Alberta Education is about to do, and scrub the old, acceptable and responsible use policies and, instead, address the usage as part of a far wider, digital citizenship framework?
  • It is already apparent that astute principals are willing to phase in the BYOT model, invariably loosening the reins as staff appreciate the worst of their fears are not being realised.
  • Adopt a model for a 24/7/365 holistic education, conscious that the students’ ever-evolving suite of technologies will be used in every facet of their teaching and learning, in and outside the classroom, and in their everyday lives.

Implementation Principles

What is already evident is that many, maybe most, schools’ moves to BYOT will be led by the technology and information services staff and, invariably, their natural inclination is to adopt a technology solution.Try to forestall that inclination.

The successful, whole-of-school and community use of the students’ technology, as a normal part of the learning regime, is primarily a human challenge.

The Technology Is The Easy Part

Changing the fundamental nature of schooling, teaching, the home and school relationship, the ownership and control of personal instructional technology and the resourcing of the school (for that is what the introduction of BYOT will assist you to do) is a far greater task than simply adopting a new technology solution.

In implementing a model of BYOT, it is imperative you appreciate you’ll be markedly assisting fundamental, whole-school change with significant, flow-on implications.

In Bring Your Own Technology (2012) and on the BYOT blog, Martin Levins and I explore each of the principles to be  mindful of when shaping your implementation strategy, and just what principles need to be addressed in the actual implementation.

Here, we’ll look only at the key principles. Most of the points mentioned in the summary below will be obvious.

However, there are several that need a little amplification.

A key issue that relates to the planning, but which is not wholly addressed in the summary, is the kind of strategic planning model used by the pathfinders and which we’d suggest you adopt.

Strategic Planning And Evolution

All of the case-study schools are working with a general, highly-flexible, big picture, whole-school development strategy, where the BYOT implementation is integrated within the relevant parts of the fuller strategy.

In light of the significant, whole-school implications, BYOT is not, and ought not to be, the responsibility of a special committee, such as the legendary ICT Committee. While specific staff might have significant responsibility for its implementation, BYOT is a development that ought to be led by the principal and involve all the parents, students and professional staff.

Interestingly, while all the schools we studied in the UK, US, New Zealand and Australia were obliged by an education authority to complete a three-or five-year, written, strategic plan, none made use of it. The plan simply fulfilled bureaucratic obligations.

Significantly, none of the path-finding schools had planned to move down the BYOT route; the development was a natural consequence of the school’s normalised use of digital technology.

For example, Forsyth County in Georgia, USA, one of the world leaders in this area, had no grand plan to move to BYOT. It simply evolved from the County’s normalised use of digital technology.

What the County has done, as have all the schools studied, is to shape that evolution.

If yours is a school where BYOT is evolving naturally, follow the lead of astute principals and let the growth continue and to evolve and, shock, horror, avoid over-planning.

Have a clear appreciation of where you wish to travel and, when it comes to projects like upgrading the school’s Wi-Fi network, have a specific plan and timeline. But, in general terms, let the development evolve, only intervening when required.

Indicative Timeline

That said, it is important is to have an indicative timeline approximating how long it will take the school to transition from the present to the normalised, whole-use
of BYOT.

It will vary from school to school, and be influenced by a host of variables, including the school’s readiness, its leadership, its current technology obligations, the model of BYOT chosen and the size of the school.

Some schools will make the transition within a year or two, while others will take four to five years and longer.

Nonetheless, it is important to prepare an indicative timeline, and to vary it as needs be, but to have a guide that the leadership can use to judge the effectiveness of the school’s BYOT implementation strategy.

Remember, the major dividends of the school’s shift to BYOT will only be realised when normalised use is achieved.

Attraction, Incentives And Purpose — All Go Hand-In-Hand

To achieve total, sustained, student usage, schools are going to have to convince every family to let their children take the precious technology to school.

It is a very new and, in many situations, a considerable challenge for schools.

In brief, in your planning, you are going to have to simultaneously attract and provide incentives and a very real purpose in order to convince the parents to let the technology be taken to class. Impose any unnecessary or unintentional, impediments, or fail to respect the client’s concerns, and your efforts could be torpedoed.

The most compelling purpose for allowing the gear to be used, is that it is integral to the everyday teaching and learning process.

If teachers don’t make meaningful use of the kid’s technology in their teaching, the students, rightfully, won’t bring the technology to that class.

Trust, Respect, Responsibility And Collaboration

All four of these relate closely to convincing the parents and the students to bring the technology to class.

If the school, consciously or unwittingly, communicates that it doesn’t trust the students to use the gear responsibly, doesn’t respect the contribution they can make to their learning with their technology or, indeed, doesn’t respect their ethical and legal rights, and are not prepared to genuinely collaborate with the parents and the students, little will be achieved.

Schools, teachers and even education authorities and governments, often seemingly believe that when it comes to the young, the laws of the land, particularly as they relate to the ownership of property and privacy,  don’t apply to the young within the school walls.

The School Decides What Is Right.

The parent/student ownership of the technology and, vitally, the content therein, introduces a significantly new, and potentially litigious, variable to school operations that teachers may well need to be briefed on.

One will, often for the first time, be working with the property of others.

You’ll find some school, BYOT, student-acceptance policies indicating the school can take the students’ technology and check its content.

One wonders what would happen if a principal took a teacher’s personal technology and demanded to see the information it contains.

Effectiveness And Impact

It is important, in your implementation,  in place the wherewithal to not only judge the effectiveness of the school’s BYOT strategy, but also the impact the change is having on the school’s total operations.

The tools currently in use by most schools and education authorities can’t do that job at all adequately in an ever-evolving, rapidly-changing organisation.

It is a shortcoming other digital and networked organisations have long appreciated, and most industries and
major public-sector organisations have opted to use some type of ‘benefits realisation’ model.

A model that can be used with BYOT will be elaborated upon in Mal’s next article.

For a full list of references please contact

Mal Lee is a former director of schools, secondary college principal, technology company director and now, author and educational consultant. He has written extensively on the impact of technology and the evolution of schooling.


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Mal Lee
Mal Lee is a former director of schools, secondary college principal, technology company director and now, author and educational consultant. He has written extensively on the impact of technology and the evolution of schooling.

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