Bring Your
Own Device (BYOD)
Survey Report

A snapshot of K–12 BYOD program implementationin
14 publicly funded school districts across Canada.


Research Findings


The first section of the survey outlined the purpose of the online survey and referenced the permission that was granted by the Government of Alberta to reproduce sections of its BYOD Guide (2012). The Purpose section informed participants of the approximate amount of time required to complete the questionnaire and invited them to consider entering the draw for the iPad. Pearson’s privacy statement was also referenced in the Purpose section of the survey.

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The Context section intended to gather data regarding the size and nature of the context for each respondent. Survey respondents comprised 17 educational decision makers with district-level instructional technology responsibilities from 14 publically funded school boards in 5 provinces across Canada (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. In which province or territory is your school district located? (multiple choice)

When asked to characterize their districts, 10 participants identified their districts as urban, one identified his or her district as rural, and six referred to their districts as both urban and rural. The distance between schools was a challenge in four districts, whereas school-to-school proximity was not identified as problematic in the other districts. Data related to the full-time student enrolment within the districts where respondents worked are presented in Figure 2.

Figure 2. What is your current full-time student enrolment? (multiple choice)

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Rationale, Models, and Participants

The questions in the next section of the survey pertained to factors that led to and informed the development and implementation of BYOD in each district. The top pedagogical goals of K–12 BYOD are depicted in Figure 3.

Figure 3. What pedagogical goal or need does your district hope to meet with its BYOD model? (open ended)

Displayed as a word cloud, these open-ended responses from Figure 3 reveal a rationale and focus on increased use and access to familiar digital devices and resources, student learning and engagement, and differentiation.

In addition to pedagogical goals, participants reported that districts look to BYOD programs to increase teacher access and change teacher practice to involve more critical thinking and inquiry-based approaches (Figure 4).

Figure 4. What other goals does your district hope to achieve with your BYOD program? (open-ended)

Data from the survey suggest there are a wide range of BYOD implementation models and policies in place across participating districts in Canada, ranging from controlled use to moderate control toward full open-access.

Controlled Use: In some cases, BYOD is only permitted with “approval of IT Director” or is only available for teacher use. In several other contexts, students can only use their devices in designated areas of the school as determined by the school Principal.

Moderate Control: Further along the continuum, BYOD use in schools where “it's possible and technologically feasible” is encouraged by the central board office, but the decision is left up to the individual school. In other words, schools are left “on their own” to develop, support, enable, and carefully approach/monitor BYOD. Students are allowed to bring devices, but some schools make the choice of which types and how the devices are permitted/used. More often than not, this translates to students using “their own devices with a teacher’s permission in the context of a lesson. At all other times the devices need to be put away and safely secured.”

Open-access: At the other end of the spectrum, some districts allow for “instructional and non-instructional use of personal electronic devices in schools”; in fact, guest wireless is available in all locations and students are encouraged to bring their own devices at all grade levels. As one participant mentioned, his or her district abides by the “Bring it all!” approach.

Figure 5 depicts the range of specific BYOD models currently in use in the 14 participating school districts.

Figure 5. What BYOD models are being adopting in the school district? (list adapted from Alberta Government) (multiple choice)

Prior to implementing BYOD, respondents identified that surveys were typically used to pre-determine the number of students with access to personal devices at each school (see Figure 6). In some cases, this information was not gathered prior to moving towards BYOD.

Figure 6. How did you determine the number of students with access to personal devices at each school? (multiple choice)

As one might expect, a lower percentage of elementary schools participate in BYOD programs compared with secondary schools (Figure 7).

Figure 7. What percentage of elementary and secondary schools participate in BYOD programs across your district? (open ended)

Findings suggested that the vast majority (95%) of the students engaging in BYOD programs are 8 years of age or older. Right now, most BYOD students are in high school (ages 14—18).

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BYOD Policy and Procedures

More than three quarters (76%) of participants reported that their district had to develop new Appropriate Use Policies to support new BYOD programs, whereas new policies were only somewhat required in 12 percent of respondents’ boards, and not required in 12 percent of participating districts. Additions or changes to Appropriate Use Policies that were required centred on making specific reference to and allowing access to personal devices during classroom instruction, including digital citizenship and norms of using social media, and developing new Appropriate Use Policies for teachers’ personal devices.

Districts reported that the monitoring of the appropriate use of BYOD is handled differently depending on the context. For example, some districts use centrally controlled active directory firewalls, Kace software, and network monitoring tools, while, in other districts, the supervision of BYOD use is the responsibility of the individual school. Internet filters are either controlled at a board level or managed by the school Principal. In other cases, teachers are responsible for monitoring student Internet and device use in the classroom and infractions are dealt with via school codes of conduct.

To ensure equity of access to an online network and electronic devices in BYOD classroom or school settings, some districts have made turn-key solutions for wireless access a priority, but many still have a distance to go to achieve ubiquitous access. Still other districts make extra mobile devices (e.g., iPods, netbooks) available through classroom, school, or board lending libraries to ensure every learner has access to a device.

In line with the findings of the Alberta Government’s BYOD Guide (2012), participants confirmed that bandwidth, networks and wireless connections, security and Internet filtering, and cloud computing were the top priorities for technological infrastructure to set up the BYOD program for success (Figure 8).

Figure 8. To set up the BYOD program for success, technological infrastructure needs to be top priority. Which of the following policies and procedures did your district consider or put into place to support the BYOD program? (list adapted with permission from Alberta Government) (multiple choice)

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Digital Content

This section of the survey focused on how districts purchase and students access digital content on their personal devices.

Gaining access to applications (apps) for use on personal devices occurs in a variety of ways (Figure 9). As one respondent noted, “In my definition, BYOD refers to technology that students bring. The school does not control this at all.” To allow for complete personalization, in 36 percent of participating districts, students pay for, download, and monitor their own apps of choice. By contrast, 29 percent of districts have established school-based budgets and allow the Principal to manage the purchase and monitoring of apps for personal devices. District-level budgets for purchasing and monitoring apps have been established in 14 percent of districts. Only 7 percent of districts have gone with classroom budgets for teachers to purchase and manage apps procurement on students’ personal devices. To account for a variety of needs across the system, 14 percent of districts use a combination of all of these strategies for purchasing apps for BYOD programs.

Figure 9. How are apps for the BYOD program purchased currently? (multiple choice)

The next two survey questions gauged the types of apps being purchased as well as participants’ tolerance for app pricing.

The most popular apps that have been downloaded/purchased for BYOD programs include

  • DropBox
  • Evernote
  • FirstClass
  • Google Docs
  • Google Drive
  • GoodReader
  • Keynote
  • MarkBook
  • MS Office Web Apps
  • OneNote
  • Numbers
  • Pages
  • Science apps
  • Suite programs (e.g., word processing, spreadsheet, and some specialty apps)

With the exception of Science apps, most apps that are being downloaded classify as productivity apps as opposed to content apps.

Insight can be gleaned from participants’ suggested app pricing. Just under one third of respondents (29%) expressed that apps for BYOD programs should be free, whereas over half (57%) of respondents agreed that apps should cost no more than $1—$2 each. Outlier data indicated that districts would consider it acceptable to pay $5 or $20.  

In terms of content gaps, participants expressed the greatest need for apps related to teaching the 4Cs (Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication) on mobile devices. Given the predominance of BYOD programs at the secondary level, it is not surprising that participants identified other curriculum gaps for grades 9–12 content (e.g., Secondary—Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English, Business/Accounting). At the elementary level, districts perceived the greatest need for BYOD content related to English Language Learners (ELL); Language; First, Nations, Inuit and Métis; Mathematics; and The Arts. A visual summary of the content priorities to support BYOD is provided below (Figure 10).

Figure 10. Please rank what content (apps) are still needed to support the BYOD program in your district? (The lower the number, the lower the priority or need in your district.) *Score is a weighted calculation. Items ranked first are valued higher than the following ranks; the score is the sum of all weighted rank counts (multiple choice, ranking order)

Additional teaching and learning resources that are required to support BYOD include

  • Assessment support for teachers
  • Digital citizenship and anti-bullying
  • Interactive modules to support text materials, useable on all platforms
  • Real world problem-solving tools

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Professional Learning

The final section of the survey asked how districts are ensuring that teachers have the skills they need to purposefully integrate BYOD into their practice. Data showed that 76 percent of districts offer after-school teacher professional learning workshops at off-site locations, while 71 percent make technology mentors or coaches available in the classroom to co-learn with teachers. Many districts are creating opportunities for teachers to collaborate with other teachers involved in the BYOD program (71%). Opportunities for BYOD teachers to attend two types of job-embedded professional learning during the work day were referenced by participants: on-site (65%) and off-site (59%).

The specific focus of BYOD professional learning programs varies. In most cases, the professional development focus is pre-determined by the district, however 47 percent of districts allow teachers to inform and choose the focus of their personal BYOD professional learning. Site-based technical support is offered in 41 percent of participating districts. Technology inquiry learning centre classrooms that model the use of personal devices that teachers can visit are available in 35 percent of districts. Finally, 29 percent of districts conduct teacher readiness surveys to ensure that teachers have the skills they need to purposefully integrate BYOD into their practice.

This report concludes with a review of the research questions that guided this inquiry and a discussion of the implication of these findings on digital sales, marketing, services, and publishing activities for Pearson Canada School Division.

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