Combine Our Devices: Reshaping BYOD

Combine Our Devices: Reshaping BYOD

I’ve spent a lot of time with the idea of a BYOD learning environment, and I’m influenced greatly by two ideas that seem to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum:

  1. Student feedback that consistently supports a bring your own device because they want to select the device that best meets their needs
  2. Teacher feedback that consistently supports a bring a standard device because they want a consistent learning experience for all students

While both speak to the positives of the other way, their recommendations are fairly consistent: students want choice and teachers want a standard. And that is why I’ve wrestled with an idea of how to reshape both concepts to create an environment that draws upon the strengths of both while limiting the drawbacks.

So this is VERY rough sketch of an idea floating around my head that reshape BYOD into a Combine Our Device (COD) approach.

Essentially, a C.O.D. environment combines our collective devices: a standard device that everyone must have with a personal device that students choose to use based upon their individual needs. And this blended concept also leverages the ideas of a second screen and BYO3, the value of choice, and the importance of equal access to critical learning resources.

Device One:  Digital Learning Resources Device

While consumption is fraught with negative connotations, this device would serve to create a common platform for consumption and interaction with digital learning resources. This isn’t at the expense of production but in conjunction with it.

The following is an in development list of important features of a Digital Learning Resources Device, but an organization’s vision for learning would surely add/change/cut pieces on this list:

  • prosumption potential
  • digital learning resources accessibility
  • access features for customizations and adjustment
  • mobile and agile
  • browser and app centric learning
  • fiscally viable
Tablets, like the Nexus 7, have tremendous potential here especially given a cost that is not much more than the types of calculators mandated by most high schools.

Device Two: Personal Device

This focuses on students leveraging their personal device that best meets their learning needs. In other words, it maintains a BYOD philosophy that encourages students to use the devices they have to maximize what they need for their own learning. For example, if a student felt an assignment would be better created/produced utilizing his or her personal device, the student would have that opportunity to leverage it.

And this would be a purely optional device given each student would have the Digital Learning Resources Device.


“What about students that don’t have a personal device and the learning gap this creates between them and those students with personal devices”. This is a legitimate issue so let’s consider a few things:

  • First, this is the point of Device One. It reduces the access gap  and provides a common experience for all students to use and interact with learning resources.
  • Second, students that have a personal device are going to use these at home if they find it benefits their learning more than Device One. Thus, we can acknowledge this or pretend it isn’t there. I prefer to acknowledge it and promote students bringing their personal devices to school to meet individual learning needs. But this does mean…
  • Third, students that don’t have a personal device could be supported through school resources. This is where a Bundled Device (ex. a Chromebook and a Nexus 7) approach for socio-economically disadvantaged students is important.
Still Sketching Out This Idea

This post has been more of an effort to get these ideas on “paper”, so I can get feedback and begin cleaning up a concept I think has tremendous potential. I fully admit that this is probably more of a discussion at the secondary level, and this could be a moot point with the ever-growing maturity of tablets.

With those things in mind, what are your thoughts? Concerns? Positives? Does a C.O.D. reshape B.Y.O.D. in a valuable way?

Image: Personal Learning Environment, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from adesigna’s photostream


  1. I think this brings up some great points. What scares me a bit about the iPad push is that it isn’t platform/OS neutral. Sure, there are great apps out there for learning, but I think it’s unrealistic to expect every student to have an iOS device or to expect every school to have the budget to provide that for each student. However, providing class sets of a standard device while supplementing with a personal device could potentially bridge that gap.

    I look forward to seeing how this concept is fleshed out. I think we should be open to exploring the best of both worlds, as suggested here, rather than feeling like we must go to one end of the spectrum or the other.

  2. I like this thinking. And I think you can push it farther. I don’t think we need standardization of devices. We need standardization of access.

    I am suspicious of our general reluctance to let go of standardization. I think we might be stuck on an idea that everyone has to do the same thing at the same time, a legacy perhaps of a lock-step approach to curriculum delivery.

    I do think, as I said, students need 24/7 access to the web, but they can do that with a variety of devices. After that, we can pool tools and rotate users profitably. This mirrors the workplace where not everyone does the same task at the same time.

  3. I am an elementary school teacher and have been trying to wrap my head around very similar ideas. I love the benefits and concerns you’ve outlined and how you’ve addressed them. I agree with you on all key points, except this being a secondary discussion. Think about it. If students are comfortable with their devices, preferred learning and the tools that best suit them already in elementary, this can only continue, expand and be easier to address at the secondary level. My inspiration is a dyslexic student in my class. I feel it is so important for him to have access to the necessary tools for his success all day. A half hour of tech access here and there won’t help him be successful. It would be more frustrating. Then I got thinking…If he can benefit from access all day, why couldn’t or why shouldn’t others as well? Thanks for the ideas!

    • Hi Meghan:

      My wife, an elementary teacher, tells me too frequently to stop applying my secondary lens to k-12 🙂

      It is great to hear insights from an elementary lens that sees this as possible and beneficial.



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  2. 3 Ideas That Will Not Transform Schools - [...] - Ryan Bretag shares the idea of “Combine Our Devices”, where students would have the opportunity to bring in devices,…
  3. 3 Ideas That Will Not Transform Education | - [...] - Ryan Bretag shares the idea of “Combine Our Devices”, where students would have the opportunity to bring in devices,…
  4. 3 Ideas That Will Not Transform Schools | Connected Principals - [...] - Ryan Bretag shares the idea of “Combine Our Devices”, where students would have the opportunity to bring in devices,…
  5. Words Matter | Catalyst - [...] bring their own (BYOD) or some other combination, such as a combined device approach (see the work of Ryan Bretag)…
  6. The Culture of a Learning Experience - [...] you combine a device from the school with the devices they own in a combined device environment (see Bretag).…

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