Mal Lee

The trend line is very much suggesting that in time every school in the developed world will use some form of ‘bring your own technology’ (BYOT) school resourcing.

It is not a question of if but when your school will make the move.

The BYOT ‘tsunami’ is rapidly coming over the horizon.

You can be proactive, note the trend and seek to shape the largely inevitable development to the best advantage or try to surpass the deeds of King Canute and prevent the wave from swamping your school.

Don’t make the mistake of viewing BYOT simply as a technical development for attention by your ICT staff.

Perhaps not surprisingly at this very early stage many of the early BYOT moves are making this making this mistake, are naïve, simplistic and preoccupied with the relatively mundane, showing little appreciation of what BYOT ought entail.

BYOT is shaping as a profound educational development with immense potential that will in time assist fundamentally change the nature of schooling, teaching, school resourcing and school’s educational relationship with their homes.

However to realise that potential the school leadership has to take charge, understand the possibilities and appreciate what is required for sustained success and development.

This brief article is intended as a ‘tsunami alert’, to open your eyes to the potential and the very real challenge of realising that potential.

To assist Martin Levins and I have joined with ACER Press in publishing in the coming months an in-depth BYOT rationale and a guide on how to approach this development and integrate it into your wider school development strategy.

By being proactive, understanding the forces impelling schools to some form of BYOT, of appreciating the myriad of potential educational, social, economic, technical, administrative and political opportunities opened by the development and recognising what the school ought do to ready itself for the move you can construct a BYOT implementation strategy apposite for your particular situation that has a chance of achieving in time normalised 100% student usage.

The naïve assumption is that every student will rush, with their parent’s blessing to use their own technology in class, even when offered no voice in its use and obliged to agree to a plethora of constraints imposed from on high.

The case studies already make it clear schools will have to move astutely over a concerted period to realise and sustain the 100% student usage, and that some schools might never achieve that outcome, even 20- 30 years on.

These are still very early days with BYOT.  The literature is mostly very light in the form of personal blogs or websites of the pathfinding schools and education authorities.  The focus of most is technical with little thought given the wider educational or financial implications.

Bernard Ryall, the CFO of the Parramatta CEO and I begun a discussion of those wider implications in Developing a Networked School Community (2010) but by building on a series of US, UK, NZ and Australian case studies Martin Levins and I have significantly expanded that thinking in the new work.

BYOT – A Definition

In BYOT (in press) we have suggested the following:

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 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.

Fundamental to BYOT is:

–       Personal choice of the technology by the student or family.  While schools might and probably should provide advice the final choice ought rest with the home.

–       The enhanced facility for the personalisation of teaching and learning in and outside the school walls.

–       The recognition that the in school use of the student’s digital technology is an extension, a flow on development from the young’s existing use of that technology to assist their self-teaching and learning

–       The home and students having their ownership of the technology and the information thereon respected.

The research is already strongly highlighting the importance of authentic home-school collaboration to the 100% uptake.

One can opt for a model of BYOT where there is minimal collaboration where the school or authority largely unilaterally informs the parents what they are obliged to do with their personal technology but the signs are the likelihood of that approach realising the 100% uptake and many of the desired outcomes are small.

There are a number of so called BYOT initiatives that pay scant or no regard to student personal choice, don’t recognise the young will want to work with the technology they are using everyday, don’t respect the parent’s or student’s ownership of the technology and which are not seeking to personalise the teaching and learning.

They are using, under the banner of BYOT, an imposed, compulsory buying scheme.

In doing your homework you’ll also see the terms BYO, BYOC, BYOD and personal digital devices used to refer to the same development. Fear not they are the same thing.


There are least six global megatrends coming together that will on present indications ultimately impel all schools to some form of BYOT, megatrends that relate to the normalised use of personal digital devices in every facet of life, the burgeoning digital and educative capacity of the student’s homes, cloud computing, parent digital empowerment, government’s increasing inability to fund state of the art personal technology for all students and the inexorable evolution of schooling from its insular paper-based mode to one that is more digital and networked.

Related is the emerging recognition that the market is a far better judge of the appropriate personal digital technology than any group of ‘ICT experts’ (Lee, 2012)

Atop these forces is a growing understanding, even at this early stage of the plethora of educational, social development, economic, technical, organisational and political opportunities opened with the school’s adoption and normalised whole school use of of BYOT.

In 2012 BYOT will, as the SMH noted, increasingly become one of the ‘bandwagons’ for both schools and business.  Already plans are underway for the mass media to feature the successes of the pathfinding schools and unwittingly pressure other schools to follow suite.

We’re not for a moment suggesting you ready yourself for the ‘bandwagon’ but rather be aware of the many benefits that can come from your astute shaping of the development.


Readying your school for BYOT will be crucial for your sustained success.

The current literature makes no mention of readiness or of developing an approach apposite for your context.

The assumption is that any school or education authority can whenever they decide, with no or minimal preparation, introduce a model of BYOT.

They can, but the likelihood of failure or very limited success is very considerable.

The plan ought be to ready your particular school’s base for a successful implementation and transitioning, a sustained development and a relatively speedy movement to a phase where the model is normalised and becomes near invisible.

While it is appreciated that one cannot always make the move in ideal conditions the analysis of the global case studies within BYOT (In press) points very strongly to a set of preconditions and implementation principles that ought be addressed in shaping your BYOT implementation strategy.

A key premise of BYOT ought be that every student in your school has at least home ‘Net access and in time every one their own digital mobile device.  While the market has lowered prices to the point where most schools can cover those without if your school is not in that position it ought hang fire until it can.

All of the case study schools that have effortlessly introduced BYOT into their everyday operations are those that have normalised the use of the digital in their everyday teaching and as such are ready attitudinally and competence wise to genuinely collaborate with their students and their homes.

Indeed BYOT is a natural flow on of that holistic normalisation of the digital.

They are ready to network and collaborate.

The research is evermore affirming (Lee and Ward, in press), that aside from a few special situations until schools reach that point their collaboration with the homes will be minimal, often tokenistic and invariably ‘one-way’ (Grant, 2010).

Authentic home-school collaboration where digitally empowered parents and students believe their voice will be heard and use of their technology in the school will be apposite is crucial to realising the full potential of BYOT.

While space limits the analysis in brief ideal readiness entails having a head ready to lead, a total teaching staff, and parent and student community ready to collaborate and the school having every teaching room and key areas of the campus with the infrastructure required to normalise the use of the student’s suite of digital technologies.


As indicated in real life one cannot always work with the ideal but in shaping the BYOT implementation strategy and plan for your school, the transition from the old to new and vitally the integration with the school’s total development strategy you ought factor in how you are going to address each of key readiness variables.

In shaping your own implementation strategy look to genuinely collaborating with the students and in turn the parents in identifying the BYOT operational arrangements.

Sadly a significant number of the ‘poorer’ prepared schools and education authorities have chosen to employ a ‘one-way mode of collaboration’ that mandates the condition under which BYOT will be allowed and what the parents and students must waiver.

In contrast the better prepared case study schools have adopted the KISS principle, collaborated with the students in identifying the operational arrangements and are well on track to eventually integrate BYOT’s into the school’s everyday operations.


The greatest challenge with BYOT will be human. The technical aspect is easy.

One is looking at least a year or two, even three even three in ideal circumstances to achieve 100% BYOT uptake.

The key is to understand up front the historic significance of this development and to recognise in all you do you are moving to a model of schooling, teaching and school resourcing where government – through the agency of it’s schools – more fully collaborates with the student’s homes in the 24/7/365 education of the young.




About Mal Lee

Mal Lee is an educational consultant and author specializing in the evolution of teaching and schooling from the traditional paper based mode to one that is digital, and in turn networked, and the impact of the technology on that evolution. Mal’s is a macro focus examining all the elements associated with the development, leadership and operation of schools operating within a digital, and increasingly as networked school communities. Most importantly his is a positive approach that envisions how educators and school communities might best use the ever-evolving, ever more pervasive technology in the home, on the move and in the classroom to provide an ever better schooling for the full range of students. Mal is a former director of schools, secondary college principal, technology company director and a member of the Mayer Committee that identified the Key Competencies for Australia’s schools. A Fellow of the Australian Council for Educational Administration (FACEA) Mal has been closely associated with the use of digital technology in schooling, particularly by the school leadership for the last two decades. A historian by training Mal has written extensively, particularly in the Practising Administrator, the Australian Educational Leaders and Access, Educational Technology Guide on the astute use of technology in the development of schoolings. Mal has released four publications with ACER Press. In 2008 Mal and Professor Michael Gaffney edited and had published Leading a Digital School. In 2009 he co-authored with Dr Arthur Winzenried The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools – Lessons to be Learned, and with Chris Betcher, The Interactive Whiteboard Revolution – Teaching with IWBs. In 2010 Mal joined with Associate Professor Glenn Finger (Griffith University) in the writing of his most significant work yet for ACER Press on Developing Networked School Communities: a guide to realizing the vision – on the next phase of schooling. Copies of the books can be obtained from the ACER Press website at -
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