During a “Croke Park” session on “Tablet Devices in Primary Schools” late last year, the topic of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) generated lots of discussion and debate. The arguments for and against this initiative were well reasoned and well thought out and all of the arguments will be familiar to anyone who has followed this topic both online and in the wider media. Initially there was a small bit of confusion about the correct meaning of BYOD! The majority of the teachers were of the opinion that the term meant that pupils could bring their own personal devices, smart phones, tablets or laptops to school to use during the school day; several teachers, however, felt that BYOD was the term used when pupils at Post Primary level used a tablet device in school that their parents had purchased as part of an e-text book only scheme. It then transpired that the term BYOD had been used by one Post Primary School in literature used to communicate details of a Tablet purchase Scheme with parents and this was the source of the confusion!
While the majority of teachers at the session agreed that BYOD had many positives going for it there was general agreement that their school wasn’t in a position to embrace BYOD at that moment in time. The main concern centered on the inability of the school WiFi to cope with the demands of multiple mobile devices and the knock on effect of these demands on their broadband connection. Other concerns related to device security, breakages, different device specifications and OS platforms, pressure on parents to “get” a tablet for their child, peer pressure, device battery life and also App purchase!
At these sessions I always try and stay neutral however in this instance I wasn’t allowed to sit on the fence and so I said that I had huge reservations about BYOD simply because of the pressure it would put on teachers and the Principal to ensure the safety of the pupils in the school. I explained that even with a well thought out, well worded and comprehensive Acceptable Use Policy in place that there was no way a school could monitor the content that could be on each BYOD tablet or phone. I then went on to show the staff how it was possible to hide content on an iPhone or iPad “in plain sight”.
I “Screen Mirrored” my iPhone on the IWB that we were using for the session. I flicked through several screens showing my day-to-day apps until I came to one particular “Calculator” app. I then used this app to successfully perform several simple problems; I then entered a specific code sequence ( 0 – decimal point – a 4 digit secret code, then another decimal point) that unlocked a previously hidden feature of this “calculator app”, a hidden folder feature. This hidden folder could be used to store age-inappropriate images, offensive material or material that could be used to bully other pupils. None of the teachers at the session were aware of this type of app and it raised some serious concern among some teachers who were parents of teenagers!
Everyone agreed that something like this placed too great a “policing” burden on teachers and that the safest option was to continue and expand on the use of Tablets that had been purchased by the school itself. App technology evolves at a fast pace and teachers have enough to do keeping up with ever changing curriculum demands without also having to to be aware of apps like the one shown above!