Bring Your Own Disaster: Why Most BYOD Deployments In Schools Are Like My Instagram Experience

article1_139386761A group of the presenters at the Using Technology Conference recently attended a dinner together. As you might expect, all of us were eating, chatting and at the same time, all on our devices.

At one point, everyone was on Instagram – that is, everyone except me.

I had an Instagram account but quickly stopped using it when I discovered that I could not easily post screen captured images from my computer. I persevered for a while – after all, Instagram was innovative and everyone was raving about how amazing this tool was.

But my patience wore out one night after I wanted to post a photo of the Sydney skyline from my hotel room and discovered that you could only take square images. I wanted to take a panoramic view that showed people the full picture of what I was seeing, but I was left with no option but to post a tiny segment of what I was looking at. As far as I was aware, square photos evolved to landscape in about the 1980s, and I was not about to go back.

So, we are sitting around the table, eating some amazing Indian food by the way, and I asked the other presenters why they use Instagram? I told them of my experience and frustration and how I felt that Instagram inhibited my creativity, not enhanced it.

The answers were what I was expecting: it is innovative, everyone is using it, you have just got to be on it, there are workarounds, the filters make your photos look great.

I must admit, their enthusiasm got me wondering what I was missing out on. Maybe I was misinformed or too quick to judge. So I reached for my phone and resurrected my account.

After some brief training from the other people at the table on the best way to post photos (including wide images – yes it can be done), build engagement, and follow people, I was keen to join the masses.

Fast forward one week later, my enthusiasm dwindled and I was just as frustrated as I was when I deleted Instagram that night in the hotel.

I still feel like Instagram inhibits my creativity. I can post images, provided I do so within the confines of their ecosystem. I have to use another app that allows me to post widescreen images. If I want to include a screen capture of something I am working on, I need to upload the image into another account like Drive, make sure it is in the right format, and then upload the photo.

Everything is possible, but I have to use other tools and workarounds to enable me to do what I think should be fundamentally possible inside the native app.

I still feel pressured to use this tool, after all, everyone tells me it is great, and if I just get my head around the hacks, add-ons and workarounds, I will love it.

Yet, I cannot help but think that this is making my life more complicated, not easier. After all, isn’t technology supposed to be designed to make my life less complicated?

What Has This Got To Do With BYOD?

Most schools BYOD experience is like my Instagram experience.

You feel pressured to have a BYOD plan. After all, every school has one. Everyone is talking about BYOD and how revolutionary their BYOD deployment has been. Yet when you look at your own experience, it just seems like a lot of work for very little gain.

You do not want to be left behind. Parents want to know what you are doing with technology, students demand access to 21st Century tools (what does that term even mean?), and, after all, if everyone else is doing it, it must be good … right?

To make BYOD work in your school you need to find a way to augment your current ecosystem or workflow. You already have existing infrastructure, hardware, software and teaching workflows. Often you find yourself looking for patches, hacks, and workarounds to get your students devices working within your current system.

In addition to this, your teachers need to augment their lessons and resources to include this new workflow.

You can make it work, but just like me, you wonder why the fundamentals (teaching and learning) cannot just happen inside the native environment.

What once used to be straightforward, now seems to be multi-stepped and complex. When I first started teaching, getting content into the hands of my students and receiving their work was easy. I would make a photocopy or write on an overhead, or they would hand in their books for marking. Simple.

Now I have to manage content in blogs, resource sites, YouTube channels, apps, Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive … the list goes on.

Throw into this mix a plethora of devices and BYOD quickly becomes ‘Bring Your Own Disaster’.

The result? Teachers are frustrated, parents are confused, and the students are just happy they have technology, so long as YouTube is unblocked.

Is It All Doom And Gloom?

No. Not at all.

The purpose of this article is not to whinge and complain. There is nothing worse than someone harping on how bad things are and how ‘in the good old days’ … you know how that story goes.

The Purpose Of This Article Is To:

  1. Give you permission to admit that things are not what they could or should be.

Too few Principals and E-Learning Co-ordinators ever tell you the truth when you first ask how their BYOD plans are going.

The first step to avoiding ‘Bring Your Own Disaster’ is to honestly evaluate where your school is in terms of infrastructure, staffing and pedagogy.

  1. Give you some guidance as to how to avoid ‘Bring Your Own Disaster’ at your school.

I have seen some amazing, well-planned and executed BYOD initiatives. I have seen school cultures invigorated, parents engaged, resistance to change diminished, teachers supportive, and student achievement increase as a result.

What Do These Schools Have In Common?

All of these schools have a well thought out plan that incorporates the following three fundamentals:

  1. An understanding of how their students learn.
  2. They know who to listen to and what research to pay attention to.
  3. An understanding that not all devices are equal when it comes to teaching and learning.

If you can master these three basic fundamentals, then there is not reason why your BYOD program needs to be a disaster.


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Mike Reading

Mike Reading

Founder and Leader Trainer at Using Technology Better
Mike Reading is a former teacher who now consults with schools on designing and delivering sustainable ICT strategies. Mike is well known for delivering professional development for teachers in a way that is enjoyed, not endured. As Australia and New Zealand’s only Google Certified Teacher and Trainer, and Microsoft Master Educator, Mike brings a unique perspective to his work with educators. He can be contacted at

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