One-to-One vs. BYOD

The official proposal under consideration by the Board is a one-to-one initiative, which would place an iPad in the hands of every student in grades 6 through 12 beginning in 2013-2014. This is an increasingly common strategy in K12 education, and one that’s heavily promoted by Apple, which dominates the educational technology market.

Another model that I’ve explored (see some resources at the end of the post) is BYOD (bring your own device), which is being increasingly embraced in the business world as part of the trend toward “consumerization of IT.” I’ve looked at BYOD briefly in a previous post. Here’s a brief comparison of the two models. Both models have been adopted in Minnesota school districts (for example, BYOD in Edina Public Schools, one-to-one in Farmington, Lakeville, and Minnetonka) and can be made to work in K12 education.


1:1. The projected cost to the district for the proposed one-to-one initiative in the Northfield Public Schools is $550,000 a year for an initial three-year lease ($1.65 million total), with no guaranteed savings in other areas of the budget (e.g., copying, textbooks), at least in the short term.

BYOD. The cost would be to the individual students, who would provide their own devices. The district would also need to lease or purchase devices to check out to students who don’t have their own devices, and for some classroom uses. This cost to the school for the devices themselves would be significantly less, but there would still be costs for apps and digital textbooks. There may be added network costs (see Security).


1:1. Each student in grades 6 through 12 would have a school owned iPad2. Teachers could be assured that, if they prepared materials for their students for use on an iPad, all of their students would have access to that material. The danger would be that the district could get locked into a specific technology (iPads), or that teachers could prepare iPad-specific materials (e.g., using iBook Author) that could not be transferred to a different platform. Uniformity is a key advantage of the iPad.

BYOD. Students will be using a variety of different devices, with different (and unequal) technical capabilities. This may cause tech envy and embarrassment. It might also encourage sharing and collaboration, and mutual exploration of the capabilities and features of different devices. It would encourage teachers to concentrate on “device agnostic” materials that would be accessible on a variety of devices. Some students would not be able to afford a device of any kind, and the district would need devices that could be signed out to students, and it might also consider a grant or purchasing program to put the technology in reach of all students.

In both scenarios, there is a built-in inequity in terms of off-campus internet access. Some students will not have internet access at home, and any device optimized by wireless access to the internet will be less effective for those students.


1:1. With school-owned devices, the district can use a mobile device management (MDM) system that takes advantage of the district’s existing internet filters (required by the Federal government under CIPA, the Children’s Internet Protection Act).

BYOD. It would be a challenge to use an MDM system with a plethora of different student devices. Forsyth County Schools in Georgia, a BYOD pioneer, addressed this challenge by creating a second, filtered wireless network on campus for student devices (in addition to the unfiltered network for staff). There would still be an issue of unacceptable material (e.g., photos) being brought into school on a personal device.

In both scenarios, strong acceptable use and a strong commitment to student citizenship and responsibility would be an important component.


1:1. The school district would own all the approved devices (iPads), and would see to foster a sense of “ownership” though a $25 insurance fee.

BYOD. The student would own the device, and thus feel an authentic sense of ownership.


1:1. The district would send in damaged devices for repair, and would have replacement devices. The goal is to have a “rapid response” system that would result in no interruption of use.

BYOD. Students would be responsible for arranging their own repairs. The school might be able to loan a device while the student’s device is being repaired. More class time might be spent on technical issues, and there may be more disruptions of learning.

Summary. In short, a one-to-one iPad initiative would involve significantly greater expense to the school, but would ensure uniformity, greater ease of security, and an easier management of repairs without disruption of learning. A BYOD initiative would cost the district significantly less, but would raise issues of security and repair, and would create a less uniform experience. Given that the goal is to customize and personalize student learning, and to make students feel ownership of their own education (and make it more student-centered), I don’t think uniformity need be a serious issue.

Resources on BYOD

BYOD to School? |

The Contraband of Some Schools is The Disruptive Innovation of Others with BYOT (Bring Your Own Tech) | The Innovative Educator

Some Schools Actually Want Students To Play With Their Smartphones In Class | NPR

BYOT | Forsyth County Schools (Georgia)

10 Reasons to Consider BYOD in Education | TeachThought

School iPad and Tablet Deployments, Fall 2012 | Google Maps

Student Devices Save Districts Money | Center for Digital Education

BYOD is Here to Stay, So Get Used to It | EdTech

Why BYOD Is a Disaster Waiting to Happen | Cult of Mac*

One-to-One or BYOD?  | EdTech

*Note that this website, which promotes Apple products, is the only source that is alarmist about a BYOD that would see devices other than iPads in students’ hands.

2 thoughts on “One-to-One vs. BYOD

  1. It’s very helpful to see two different proposals compared so carefully. Thanks for that. However, both of these options are premised on the idea of every secondary student having a personal device. Again, the case for this hasn’t been made. There are various “hopes” that such a move would be “transformative”–but really, how many teachers have signed on to make substantive use of tablets in their teaching next year? For how much of their teaching? How many are ready to replace textbooks–in September?

    Even if the district has the money (as apparently we do)–it seems to me that spending 1.5 Mill on something we only “hope” will work….is bad policy. It plays right into the idea that the only way school districts can think to improve is to throw bushels of money at a problem.

    I think there’s a lot we could do to improve the secondary schools in particular that are completely unrelated to ipads, and that would, in fact, not come anywhere close to needing this level of budget.

  2. Just a shout out, Rob. Thanks for listening to community feedback and standing up for what you believe in. It bothers me that not one semicolon of the original proposal presented on Jan 28 was changed in response to feedback. Sadly, it does NOT surprise me.

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