Matching mobile platforms to authentic school needs is the BYOD bottom line for developers, writes Ian Bryan

BYOD policies (Bring Your Own Device) are influencing more than 40 per cent of all school districts in the USA, and that’s predicted by some analysts to double in 18 months. Meanwhile, in countless classrooms, investments sit quietly, waiting to be used. Just down the halls, many other teachers are formulating their own approaches. And some are creating extraordinary results.

We’ve come a long way in managing, securing and moving digital content and devices. Yet at the heart of the matter, in the dynamic between teacher and student, most educators struggle with BYOD.

The year ahead provides us with all of the ideas, models, policies and, most importantly, collaborative technologies to make sense out of the opportunity. Let’s call for a global, open frontier conversation on how to make device-integrated classroom teaching really work.

Few companies live and breathe the classroom experience

handFunding for BYOD initiatives is scarce, and few educators can manage a classroom of devices, while teaching 25-30 students at the same time. Education technology providers have made great advances in their efforts to solve this problem, but few companies live and breathe the actual classroom experience necessary to understand the most ideal solutions for day-to-day instruction with BYOD. The reality is that BYOD solutions can cause more problems and burn through more cash than their worth. In many cases these programs rely on one or two people in a district for success and when those people move on the entire program can become adrift… and even fail.
Without a defined policy, devices, applications and other internet-connected education solutions can open unseen and unwanted doors to 3rd parties; which may in turn open the door for infiltration and manipulation of student data. One can assume that in most classrooms today, there are apps and other solutions brought in by educators and students that are unknown to administrators and haven’t been district-vetted by those responsible for technology, curriculum and the safety of everyone in the school community.
Despite these and other problems with BYOD in the classroom, it is important to put the technology and tools of this decade in the hands of every student and teacher. How do you do that? It’s much more than simply digitising instructional resources and providing access. It’s about listening close and peering into the authentic, day-to-day classroom teaching experience.

Liberation doesn’t come from bringing in a single 1:1 solution, either. While that (in the form of tablets, laptops, Chromebooks, smartphones or other gadgets) can be part of a planned strategy, it doesn’t always work.

How will BYOD work?

How will BYOD work? It will work when teachers and students know more about how to use, adapt and integrate BYOD into instruction. There usually isn’t a corporate marketplace liaison to share how to teach better with the technology, to share how students can interact better, or to share how to remodel the learning space to get the most out of the technology. In many ways, that missing part can be why good ideas and initiatives fail. Even when districts are able to provide solutions, it doesn’t mean that all teachers and students targeted need them. The customers (students and educators) must have a reason, a need, for a BYOD solution. Knowing what you need from your technology, as well as learning the possibilities, best arises through facilitated discovery.

Technology solution providers need to go further in supporting deep adoption and adaptation to their tools. They need to listen, watch, and focus on the conditions which produce enthusiastic learning and discovery.

I’ve worked with several dozen major educational technology companies. Some have been bold enough to set me loose with teachers, and for a decade I’ve sat in the back and observed hundreds of classrooms, often for entire days, simply studying and appreciating the real conditions that lead to learning by discovery. I’ve always thought that if the many educators I encountered ever got together, they could change the world.

I joined a new company last year because I saw an opportunity to be part of this change. It’s packed with kind, enthusiastic, creative engineers, all aligned to one mission: to make device-integrated classroom teaching easy. We are launching a beautifully simple platform that does just that. Its called ORMI, and you’ll likely hear more about it. But the real work doesn’t happen in company labs. And that problem is exciting because it forces the marketplace to listen in. Companies in this space will show leadership by interpreting, improving and amplifying the best ideas that come up, independent of their impact on our specific platform.

Join us in trying to solve BYOD in 2016

Educators: lets kick up an open-frontier discussion on device-integrated classroom learning. We’ll go through the questions, one by one, and take a global pulse on what’s working, and what’s not.

  • Can we pin down BYOD?
  • What are the issues?
  • What are the opportunities?
  • Who’s got ideas?
  • And where do we go from here?

Drop in on me (digitally) over the coming weeks and speak your mind. Visit and, beginning today (Wednesday) at BETT 2016, participate in the live discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #BYODedu.

From there, we’ll move the digital conversation into live streamed dialogues from some of the voices that emerge. Piece by piece, we’ll form a global pulse on BYOD, and we’ll share and integrate the best ideas and solutions that educators vote up.

Marketplace: let’s invest in solving problems, and take it far beyond bundling solutions. Let’s bring educators into the heart of making our products, systems and tools work together. Join us in the discussion at and on Twitter with the hashtag #BYODedu.

Ian BryanIan Bryan is vice president of marketing for EXO U, a company that 'develops beautifully simple, advanced mobile device platforms'
@iiamianbryan on Twitter
@exo_U on Twitter