BYOT, Student Privacy and US Supreme Court Decision on Cellphones

The Washington Post today (25/6/14) reports on a decision by the US Supreme Court that I’d suggest strongly underscores the point that Martin Levins and I made in our book on Bring Your Own Technology on privacy – namely that the information on a child’s phone used in school as part of a BYOT program is private and such can not under most nation’s Privacy Laws be accessed by another individual, teachers and principal’s included.

The US decision says that law enforcement officers have to basically secure a search warrant to access the information on a phone –

The point made is that accessing the information on a personal phone is no different to accessing the information in a person’s home.

I’d be suggesting that any teachers who opts to confiscate and access the information on another’s digital technology are opening themselves to serious litigation

Now I’m the first to admit I’m not a lawyer but the legal advice we were given back in 2012 is triply reinforced by this US Supreme Court and it would to my mind be a brave or foolish teacher who tests the Privacy Laws


Example of an astute education authority BYOD/BYOT policy

The New South Wales department of education in Australia has just released a BYOD/BYOT policy for its 2,200 schools that provides a very good guide for education authorities globally.

It can be accessed at -

Traditionally NSW has been a highly centralised education authority that has until recent years mandated every facet of ICT usage.
The policy takes the system in a very new direction, and is very much in harmony with the state’s new local schools, local decisions policy – paving the way for each school in NSW when ready to shift to an apposite form of BYOD or BYOT.

BYOT, Birthdays and Xmas

Mal Lee

It is now very apparent from the schools that are well along the BYOT route, and indeed the BYOD if the school allows the children to chose their own kit, that birthdays and Xmas are very important times for families to acquire the children’s technology.

It should come as no surprise, but invariably is not factored into the planning by school’s slowly leaving behind the scene where they controlled every facet of the technology use.

It is part of the home-school collaboration.

Conscious that Xmas will be soon upon us if you are planning any BYOT moves for next year now is the time to get the word out.

1:1 Computing, BYOD and BYOT


Phases in the school evolutionary journey

Mal Lee

The research undertaken in the preparation of the forthcoming publications on The Taxonomy of School Evolutionary Stages and Digital Normalisation and School Transformation reveals that 1:1 computing, BYOD and BYOT are but phases, albeit important phases, in schooling’s evolutionary journey to the normalised use of the digital in every facet of the school’s operations, teaching and administrative, in and outside the school walls.

Now that the first of the pathfinder schools globally have succeeded in normalising BYOT, in having the children use the technology of their choice and move to the digital normalisation evolutionary stage ( we are in the position to affirm the reading of the trend line that Martin Levins and I made in Bring Your Own Technology several years ago that suggested

BYOT requires sophisticated thinking and astute leaders, willing to lead….

Think carefully about the kind of base you need in order to prepare for BYOT to quickly disappear from the school’s vernacular and for it to become as normal, invisible and all-pervasive as the use of the pen and paper (Lee and Levins, 2012, p3).

That is what has transpired in the pathfinders.  In normalising the use of the children’s choice of digital technology, in trusting and respecting their choice, in according them operational responsibility for the care and maintenance of their own kit and vitally placing the onus on them to understand the workings of that hardware, the software and apps they choose BYOT as a term has quickly slipped from the vernacular and the approach is seen for what it is elsewhere in society the natural thing to do.

Pause for a second and ask if in time all schools will normalise the use of the digital in all their operations – and I suspect none today will disagree with that largely inevitable development.

The pathfinder’s normalisation of BYOT helps place the work occurring in the later adopter schools in perspective, and vitally to kill the notion apparent in some schools that its current approach is a magic technological solution that will remain in place for years to come.  As stressed in my writing on school evolution once organisations, be they schools, banks or newspapers move to a digital operational base they will evolve naturally as the technology evolves, as the user’s expectations rise and as the understanding of what is possible with the technology grows.  They will constantly move from low to more sophisticated higher order solutions

1:1 computing and all the controls placed by the school on the students is as apparent in the school evolutionary continuum a relatively lower order approach, typically found in schools that have yet to get all the teachers using the digital technology in their teaching.

BYOD, where the school still strongly controls the children’s use of their own technology is a higher order solution in that its is prepared to begin recognising the reality of the networked world.  However looked at in the total scheme of things it is only a slight advance.

That said let’s be clear, both the 1:1 computing and BYOD can in some schools, particularly high schools be an important and appropriate strategy in the school’s evolution and move to digital normalisation.

But both are solutions that do not need to be used by all schools.

Schools where all the teachers are using the digital technology everyday in their teaching can move directly to BYOT.  This is particularly evident in primary/elementary schools but is also evident in some secondary schools.

The strong signs are that basically all schools wanting to move to the digital normalisation evolutionary stage and beyond will inevitably need to move through the BYOT phase.

The vital aspect of the BYOT phase is that the school has to be willing to trust the children to choose their own kit and to experience the cultural shift associated with moving from the position where the school unilaterally controls the teaching to where is it prepared to distribute that control and genuinely collaborate with the homes and students from this stage in the 24/7/365 schooling of the young.

BYOT is in retrospect a key indicator of the school’s readiness to leave behind the teaching mode of the Industrial Age with its insular stand-alone thinking and to move to a teaching mode befitting an ever more networked and collaborative society.



BYOT – From the Technical Support Perspective

Graeme Shea

It has become obvious to me over the last few years that “things were not as they were” in the classroom. The ability of IT to maintain a fully functioning  computer network is becoming less labor intensive but the demands for openness was growing in contrast. I found out very early in my career that IT is a tool and while I love it most people that use it do not,  frustration builds but communication does not. I have seen IT change from an intrusion in the classroom through various stages to being an essential part of every school. I have seen kids seek to cause as much havoc as they can, repeated attempts to circumvent security to play games or worse. I have tried as much as I can to give people who should be trusted as much flexibility as possible and reassure those that are scared of IT that if they break it I will fix it. The trust I have shown in teachers has paid for itself many times over in their empowerment to choose the course that best suits them and in my working relationships.

When the BYOD moment began I along with most of my technical colleagues saw it as a way for vendors to sell a solution to a problem that did not exist. Slowly the momentum of the change gathered pace but it did not make sense. In commercial environments it seemed cheaper to give everyone a laptop and in schools something else was missing but I did not know what.  I was introduced to Mal Lee and Martin Levins book “Bring Your Own Technology: The BYOT guide for schools and families” and suddenly it made sense. I knew what they were trying to achieve and  reading between the lines I could feel their frustration of trying to deal with a very large, enterprise focused IT department. Such was the birth of this presentation aimed at technical staff.

Do not underestimate how scary and foreign the idea of applying trust to students is for an IT department that prides itself in running a tight shop. I hope this presentation will go some way to easing those tensions.


Graeme’s background

Graeme has worked in ITC for over 20 years with a career that has seen him working in Germany and the US. He has been engaged in all levels of school from Primary schools to universities, from private industry to the military.  For the past 13 years he has been engaged by DEECD to support Victorian government (Australia) schools under the TSSP program. Graeme is certified as a professional by the Australian Computer Society, holds ITIL and project management certifications. He holds a graduate diploma in computing, various Microsoft certifications and a VITTA award for technical tools.  He believes that just because something is impossible is no reason not to get a close as you can.

The BYOT – BYOD Difference

Mal Lee

This is one of the most commonly asked questions, and one that many have trouble getting their minds around.

The difficulty lies in many respects with the mindset of those of those approaching the question and links to an earlier post that mentioned the very different outlook displayed by teachers and indeed school administrators in schools operating at the lower end of the school evolutionary scale compared to those at the upper end.

In 2013 the vast majority of schools across the developed world are still bunched at the lower end of the evolutionary continuum with most still to succeed in getting all the teachers in the school to use the digital everyday in their teaching.

Just to remind everyone this is the definition of BYOT that Martin and I created – conscious when we were doing our research for the book in 2011 no definition for BYOT or BYOD existed.

Bring your own technology (BYOT) is an educational development and a supplementary school technology resourcing model where the home and the school collaborate in arranging for the young’s 24/7/365 use of their own digital technology/ies to be extended into the classroom to assist their teaching and learning and the organisation of their schooling and where relevant the complementary education outside the classroom (Lee and Levins, 2012, p11).

I should also stress at the time of writing the terms BYOT, BYOD and indeed BYOC – bring your own computer – were used interchangeably.  The latter with ist limited use has all but died.

In retrospect we went out on limb and differentiated between BYOT and BYOD

Since the writing of that definition the differentiation has become ever more evident.

The main difference lies in the underlying educational philosophy

BYOT is based on a philosophy of distributed control of the teaching and learning process – a model that sees the teachers working in collaboration with the students and the parents in the 24/7/365 teaching of the young.  It recognises the parents, increasingly the young and the school all play a vital part in that education and that the best way forward in a digital and networked world is for all parties to genuinely collaborate, both with the teaching and the provision of the technology.

BYOD is based on the belief that the professional educators should unilaterally control the teaching and learning. Only the professional educators know what is required.  The students and parents should do as the school bids.  It builds on the insular, stand alone model of schooling that schools have employed for generations where there is but token collaboration with the home.  It assumes that the only real learning occurs within the school walls.

BYOD also assumes teaching has to be based on a distrust of the students and the need to control their every action.

BYOT is based on trust in and respect for the learner, and the educational belief that the job of schools is to assist every young person gradually take control of their own learning.

BYOT also recognises the current reality in society that outside the school walls the young from an ever younger age choose, learn to use, care for, maintain and update their own suite of digital technologies when they prefer and use that technology everywhere but the classroom.  Vitally their parents trust them to use that technology responsibly unfettered.

In essence all of us in our general lives use a ‘BYOT’ operational mode.

As indicated in Bring Your Own Technology we consciously opted for the term ‘technology’ rather than ‘device’ because we could see the trend was away from the single ‘device’ as seen in the 1:1 situations to a suite of multiple digital technologies that included both the hardware and all manner of software and apps.

Indeed we recommended schools judge their likely bandwidth needs on at least three devices per student.

Think about how many items you have in your own kit.

A significant part of the BYOT – BYOD challenge is that the international technology industry – fast loosing its profit making from PCs – is seeking a new source of income from the schools’ market by heavily marketing solutions that maintain the school’s control of the student’s every move in the school.  The promotional literature is adorned by offerings from many of the major information technology corporations promising to reinforce the control over the children’s technology.  Many of those solutions, such as that for virtual desktops, are expensive.

The firms full well recognise there is not the same kind of profit to made with BYOT – which largely removes the need for that control.

Rather BYOT operates on that inexpensive solution called trust.

The developments need to be viewed within the wider evolution of schooling I’ve mentioned.

The BYOD – control over model – is evidenced in the early evolutionary stages where schools are still working within the traditional insular mindset.  In this stage schools typically focus on the technology – not the education sought.

The BYOT is evidenced in schools that have reached the stage where they have adopted a networked mindset, are working with their homes and are pursuing an educational vision that seeks to best educate the kids for digital and networked world where learning and teaching can occur anywhere, anytime.

As you’ll appreciate this is a big difference between BYOD and BYOT.


BYOT and Choice

Attached is an article in the publication pipeline on BYOT and Choice.

It postulates, based on recent research with those schools that have or nearly normalised the use of BYOT – and I stress BYOT – that until schools reach the stage in their evolution where they have as their shaping educational vision the provision of a holistic 24/7/365 education, are genuinely collaborating with their parents in the realisation of that vision and are of a mind to trust their students to choose the kit they wish to use in class will schools be able to move to the digital normalisation stage and beyond.

The readiness of a school and its parent community to recognise the operational control the young already have over their own suite of digital technologies and the fundamental part it already plays in their lives and learning and extend a variant of that scenario into the classroom is a key indicator of where schools sit on the evolutionary continuum referred to in the earlier post.

BYOT and Choice

BYOT and the Evolutionary Stages of Schooling


Mal Lee

I’ve posted on my blog at two research documents vital for consideration by any planning the move to BYOD and most assuredly to BYOT and full school digital normalisation.

They identify

  1. the near 50 interrelated variables schools that have or nearly have normalised the use of the digital throughout the school’s everyday operations have addressed in their journey to their present position on the evolutionary continuum.
  2. The evolutionary stages all those that have achieved digital normalisation have moved through, and key indicators of each of those stages.

The findings flow from the research I’ve been doing with the pathfinders in the UK, US, NZ and Australia, that seeks to identify the lessons later adopter schools need to bear in mind in their quest to normalise the whole school community use of the digital.

Vitally this research reveals

  1. all schools are constantly moving along an evolutionary continuum
  2. every school, yours included, is at a point along that continuum
  3. the continuum is ever evolving and lengthening
  4. the gap between those at each end of the continuum is as a consequence widening daily.

It is appreciated that many will already be of this view but sadly many in schools, education authorities, teacher training and government don’t and continue to view schooling as constant and largely immutable.

A related key issue which has profound implications for all schools, education authorities and governments – and in particular those of you on the BYOT path – is whether all later adopter schools need to move through each of the development stages before being ready to move to the next?

All consulted suggest that in general terms they do.

Bear in mind virtually all the pathfinders have taken 15/20 years of concerted effort to achieve total or near total digital normalisation.

You not need to take that long but as you’ll see in examining the indicators within each of the stages certain key developments have to occur before the school is ready to move to the next stage.

For example schools can’t contemplate a move to BYOT until the teachers are of a mind to respect and genuinely collaborate with the parents, to trust the children to choose their own suite of personal instructional technology and the school has the apposite whole of campus Wi-fi coverage.

Review of Bring Your Own Technology


Today’s School a new series on Channel 31 in Melbourne Australia has done the below review of Bring Your Own Technology by Martin Levin’s and myself.

It is well worth checking out not only because it is highly laudatory, but also because it is a very different way of doing a book review.

The review also strongly differentiates between BYOT and BYOD>