Embracing BYOD Policy is key for ICT Integration in Uganda Schools

Many teachers have always fronted the lack of computer labs/ICTs at school, as main reason for failing to Integrate ICT even when ministry of Education has already adopted ICT Integration across all subjects in the curriculum. A BYOD policy can be developed and applied as a timely solution in this POST-COVID19 era, where many learners are digital natives, thereby embracing 21st Century Education trends!

In line with global 21st Century Education Trends, Government of Uganda through Ministry of Education and Sports is making strides towards Integrating ICT in various Educational process. As an example, in the new lower secondary curriculum, ICT has been integrated across all subjects as a teaching / learning aid, and also the Education Digital Agenda Strategy 2021 – 2025 was published to further support this integration. Lots of digital teaching / learning content is published by National Curriculum Development Center for teachers to use through ICT. The main challenge, however, that has been fronted by teachers is that schools do not have the devices needed for ICT integration in school. This is where the BYOD Policy comes in as a timely solution, especially in the post COVID-19 lockdown era, after lots of learners were exposed to ICTs during the lockdown.

Also read: NEW Curriculum: ICT Integrated in all subjects, teacher retooling on-going

What is BYOD?

BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device and means that students are able to bring their own devices such as phones, tablets and laptops into class to use them for their studies. BYOD can be used within education to complement existing IT systems, enabling students to access educational apps and resources, and complete coursework and studies through their own devices, away from the classroom. Globally, the BYOD is also applied for ICT Integration in other sectors like health and business as an approach to end-user computing that involves the support — and encouragement — of an organization’s end-users accessing key managed IT resources on their own personal devices.

During our recent ITAU ICT Integration Training of Trainers at Makerere College, we explored the various benefits and considerations for embracing BYOD as part of a school’s ICT Policy and some are listed below:.

Rogers Mukalele leading a session on School ICT policy and BYOD during ICT Integration Trainining of Trainers Workshop at Makerere College School Kampala on 8th March, 2022
During the workshop, BYOD was at work: Teachers were requested to bring their own devices which were used to supplement the few desktops at the workshop venue.

Download “[PDF] School ICT Policy and BYOD Presentation by Mukalele Rogers”

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Advantages of BYOD

BYOD allows for there to be a one-to-one ratio of students with many different types of technological devices.  There are several advantages for students to bring their own devices to class such as:

  • Cost savings for schools, even schools without computer labs can teach ICT/ teach with ICT using devices availed by learners
  • Increasing student engagement and motivation
  • Increasing the ability for collaboration and cooperative work
  • Fostering problem-solving, creativity, and other 21st Century skills
  • Access to information anytime and anywhere
  • Creating life-long learners
  • Allowing for a variety of ways for students to produce and present their work
  • Digitized classrooms, which brings back instant results in points systems and other apps
  • Provides a big teaching arsenal for teachers, allowing students to view e-textbooks, videos, educational apps, online research, digital learning apps, etc. This type of provision allows reinforced ideas and teachings, and blends the learning. Thus, it has been named as Blended Learning.

Drawbacks of BYOD

Although there are many advantages for a school to implement BYOD, there are also a reasons why many schools are hesitant to do so. They may include the following:

  • Teachers need a guiding policy and professional development / training to incorporate BYOD in their classes
  • The device could to lead to students being distracted and not being on task
  • Harder for IT department to ensure appropriate protection and filtering of Internet content
  • A possibility of increased cyberbullying
  • Parents may not be able to afford mobile devices or unwilling for their child to bring devices to school
  • Students may forget their device at home or their charger
  • Equipment inequity – the brand or configuration of each device will vary and this leads to varying degree of functionality and speeds of output and performance
  • Teachers now have to provide tech support and troubleshoot technical problems instead of teaching
  • Increased possibility of damage or theft of a device

Early Adopters

There are some schools that have already taken a decision to allow students bring in devices. Nakasero Senior School is one of just a few in Kampala that has allowed senior one and two students to use smartphones during some of the lessons to facilitate the implementation of the new lower secondary school curriculum. Mr. Lawrence Kadu Kasibante, the headteacher of the school says that they came up with a comprehensive policy in which all students are checked upon arrival and asked to register and deposit the devices brought to the school administration, and then the devices are only given to the students during supervised and guided sessions in class. The phones are only used during group discussions for research on classwork.

Nakasero SS Case Study [NTV News Luganda Story]
Nakasero SS Case Study [NTV News English Story]

Ministry of Education drafting a guiding framework

Addressing a press conference at the Ministry of Education and Sports offices in Kampala on March 16th 2022, the State Minister for Higher Education, Mr John Chrysostom Muyingo, said the use of smart phones by learners within the school environment will be effected after government develops a policy that would guide the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) gadgets by learners.

Mr Muyingo said the Ministry of Education is working on a policy that will soon be presented to Cabinet for approval to guide the use of ICT in institutions of learning and also promote equity in access to quality education.

“As a ministry, we’re still studying this matter of utilizing the use of mobile phones by learners in the school setting. We want to holistically address this challenge within the context of a larger framework of how leverage ICT can facilitate learning in a learning system. Once this framework is in place, we shall have a basis for developing regulation supporting the use of mobile phones among other ICT settings of education institutions of learning. We want to ensure that when we fully adopt the use of ICT in the entire education system, we do so in a manner that is age-appropriate, beneficial and safe for the learner, the teacher and school environment. And until such a time, the status quo of not allowing the use of personal mobile phones by learners in the school setting remains,” said Muyingo. 

According to Muyingo, using smartphones without a policy could expose learners to content that might not be age-appropriate. He also says that if allowed, smartphones would be a source of destruction for the learners who could easily be tempted to use their phones during lessons.

“There has been debate for some time now as to whether government should permit the use of smartphones in schools. We do understand that these gadgets can be used as tools to facilitate in and outside the classroom. Nonetheless, we’re also mindful of the fact that phones can be a distractor in the learning environment – particularly during instruction times whether in classroom or outside classrooms. These phones become distractive when they hinder our ability to concentrate on what we’re supposed to do at a given time. As you well know phones can become a distractor – adults too even in the classroom and places of work. You can imagine what the situation would be for our young people. Adults become distracted and interrupted in attention with phones by engaging in text messaging, checking their emails, social media but also searching for information on the internet that is relevant for a particular occasion or situation,” added the minister. 

The ministry’s stand comes a few days after some schools decided to resort to smartphones and other electronic gadgets to facilitate the implementation of the learner-centred lower secondary school curriculum.

Officials at the National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC) are however of the view that smartphones could be used to help schools implement the lower secondary curriculum. John Okumu, the manager of the secondary department at NCDC says that smartphones would help solve challenges that the institution has had in distributing textbooks. Okumu says instead of printing textbooks, soft copies can easily be accessed by both learners and teachers, which will help with the implementation of the new curriculum.

Successful BYOD Practices and Policies for Schools

A clearly articulated and easily understood BYOD policy is essential to a successful BYOD program. Download sample BYOD policies on this web page: https://www.teachthought.com/technology/byot/

1.Clear Communication (with Teachers, Administrators, Students, and Parents) – Communication with students in the classroom is of the utmost importance when it comes to BYOD. This is where the teacher needs to clearly explain the rules regarding the use of the students devices. The rules may be set by the school, but if the teacher isn’t aware of them, and reinforcing them, they quickly become meaningless. Teachers and administrations need to be able to carefully explain what the ramifications are for breaking or bypassing the rules.

2.Supplemental Devices – Its almost a certainty that students will at some point forget their devices at home. It happens to the best of us. Other cases may exist where students devices break or they simply cant afford to get one. In any of these cases, schools should have an inventory of supplementary devices on hand so students without their own devices wont be left out of the learning process.

3.Put Those Devices to use Having Students Create Content! When it comes to using mobile devices, many students know plenty about how to consume content, but may not have much experience with creating it. If consumption is all they’re doing in the classroom, they are only achieving a fraction of their potential. A successful BYOD classroom program should place more of an emphasis on creation rather than consumption. There are plenty of great apps out there for this purpose, even for studying. Some examples of these apps include Flashcard Deluxe or Quizlet, where students take the tools available and create their own materials to study the topics and assignments teachers give to them. By giving student the chance to create on their own, they will get much more out of the learning process, and your BYOD program will be more successful.

4.Specify What Devices Are Permitted. – It’s important to decide exactly what you mean when you say “bring your own device.” Should you really be saying, bring your own iPhone but not your own Android phone? Bring your own iPad but no other phones or tablets? Make it clear to students who are interested in BYOD which devices you will support.

5. Define a Clear Service Policy for Devices Under BYOD Criteria. It’s important for students and parents to understand the boundaries when questions or problems creep up with personal devices. To set these boundaries, you’ll have to answer the following questions. What level of support will be available for initial connections to your network from personally-owned devices? What kind of support will IT representatives provide for broken devices? What about support for applications installed on personal devices?

6. Set Up an Exit Strategy. – Don’t forget about what will happen when students with devices on your BYOD platform leave the school. How do you enforce the removal of access tokens, e-mail access, data and other proprietary applications and information?

7.            Establish a Stringent Security Policy for all Devices.

8.            Decide which Apps, downloads etc. will Be Allowed or Banned.

9. Integrate Your BYOD Plan With Your general Acceptable Use Policy / school ICT Policy

What’s your view on this? Let us know in the comments!

Article by Rogers Mukalele

National Coordinator – ITAU

0776960740 / 0706060740