BYOD in the school library

BYOD stands for 'Bring Your Own Device'. Devices include smartphones, tablets, laptops and other digital devices that students own and can use at school for educational purposes.


Reasons behind BYOD in schools
Defining goals for BYOD in the library
Planning and consulting collaboratively
Maintaining a teaching and learning focus
Policy on BYOD
Professional development: a pedagogy focus
Digital citizenship and digital literacy
Practical considerations
Related links

Increasing your understanding of the benefits and issues relating to BYOD is important as you set your goals and establish a BYOD policy in your school. Issues to consider include:

  • the leadership role of the library
  • how staff can plan collaboratively
  • the shift in focus from devices to student learning outcomes.

Reasons behind BYOD in schools

There are a number of reasons why BYOD is increasing in popularity. The appeal of having students bring their own devices to school is easy to understand for a number of reasons. BYOD saves the school from purchasing costly hardware, and students have a stong desire to use their own devices.

Students have an expectation that they can utilise devices that are integral to their personal lives, inside the classroom. Allowing this gives them unlimited access to online resources, experts and communities - and schools are beginning to see the value in leveraging such resources (Stavert, 2013).

In addition to financial benefits and increased student satisfaction, research shows that BYOD:

  • is integral to 21st century skill development (DeWitt, 2012)
  • allows more personalised student learning (Alberta Education, 2012)
  • allows schools to support lifelong learning; that is, supporting students to utilise devices effectively in their personal and school lives (DeWitt, 2012)

Implementation in schools

School have been dabbling in BYOD schemes since the early 2000s. Some programmes have been very successful. Other less successful programmes have paid too much attention to technology and not enough to pedagogy.

There are various key stages in designing and implementing a BYOD programme (Stavert, 2013), including:

  • defining goals and identifying the benefits that BYOD will bring to student learning
  • collaborative planning and consultation - involving students, parents, staff and the community
  • professional development for teachers - focussed on pedagogy, not technology
  • policy writing - addressing issues that may arise, such as theft or misuse
  • IT infrastructure upgrades - ensuring the network can cope with BYOD
  • planning for digital citizenship and digital literacy to be explicitly taught.

Models of BYOD

A number of models are proposed and in use for BYOD implementation. Stavert (2013) groups these into three categories:

  1. Tightly controlled models where schools specify what type of hardware and software students must purchase. This model makes lesson planning easier for teachers and may afford bulk buying discounts, however it may decrease compliance arising from limited user choice.
  2. Specific requirements models where schools dictate the software, apps, hard drive space and so on, but device choice is left to the student and their family. This model allows families more choice, but still provides teachers with a guarantee of basic device capability, which assists with lesson planning.
  3. Anything that connects to the internet models allow students to use any device they wish, providing they can connect to the internet. This model has the greatest compliance rate, and contrary to common belief, the lowest rate of technological difficulties. When students are familiar with their devices, their ability to troubleshoot their way through issues increases.

Defining goals for BYOD in the library

You need to address your goals early in the planning phase. The librarian in collaboration with key stakeholders must articulate how BYOD is going to support student achievement, particularly that of priority learners. Goals may aim to:

  • improve student access to curated collections of online information
  • improve student access to the OPAC
  • increase the ability for student and librarian to engage in just-in-time learning
  • provide more frequent opportunities to model and explicitly teach digital literacy skills, eg critically analysing website quality
  • allow students to practice digital citizenship skills in a supportive environment
  • increase student engagement and motivation through provision of more student centred, personalised learning
  • decrease student frustration arising from limited availability of technology in the library.

Planning and consulting collaboratively

The most successful BYOD programmes have input from the whole school community: students, parents, teachers and community groups. When you consider how BYOD might look in your library, it is essential to consult these groups. You may need to give them some information about the potential benefits of BYOD before you ask for their ideas and input. Services to Schools can help by providing educational materials and ideas for stakeholder involvement. Phone 0800 LIBLINE (0800 542 5463)

Maintaining a teaching and learning focus

Devices can support student achievement

A recurring challenge with BYOD programmes is shifting the focus from devices to outcomes (Stavert, 2013). Having devices in schools is only worthwhile if they are well used. The following quotes come from New Zealand school librarians, sharing their experience of using BYOD to increase student achievement in the library. Gillian Ross, Librarian at Bluestone Primary in Timaru says:

In our library, BYOD means the students can put ICT skills to practice as they learn them in a library-related context. For example, learning to make full use of the LMS, accessing e-books from our collection, and using digital resources.

Rose Nisbet, Librarian at Ormiston Senior College:

The school has BYOD, but it is not compulsory, so having devices available for issue in the library gives me an opportunity to model effective use. I model work habits, digital citizenship and smart online behaviour. For example, the students can watch me accessing resources easily because I use bookmarks. I love that I can sit next to a student, wherever they are in the library space, and help them with their next step without having to get up and go somewhere else – this sustains the flow of thoughts and allows for learning momentum to be gained. Instant access is a huge advantage when it comes to personalising learning; it allows the students to access what they need, just in time.

Making BYOD work for your library

Ray (2013) outlines three key ways in which BYOD can enrich the services offered by librarians:

  • “Many teacher librarians have long promoted digital literacy, responsibility, and citizenship” and therefore are ideally placed to continue teaching these 21st century skills in a way that is aligned with the school BYOD programme.
  • BYOD implementation is a chance for the librarian to “... locate and curate best practices, ideas, and resource”, thus providing an invaluable service to the school, and involving themselves as a vital asset.
  • School libraries can be “test beds” where BYOD programmes are trialled and monitored, thus providing an opportunity for librarians to develop their expertise and become leaders in an area where many feel uncertain.

Preparing yourself and your library for BYOD

Johnson (2012) suggests librarians consider these five questions:

  • Do my library rules help students take advantage of their mobile computing devices?
  • Can students and staff get knowledgeable support in my library when they have problems or questions?
  • Am I selecting library resources with mobile computing devices in mind?
  • In my role as instructional leader, am I using best practices that take advantage of a ubiquitous technology environment - and helping my teachers do so as well?
  • Do I exemplify a learner who takes advantage of having continuous access to the Internet?

These questions challenge librarians to think about modifying their practice to accommodate and promote use of devices in the library.

Read Doug Johnson's complete post

Policy on BYOD

Know it

Be familiar with your school’s BYOD policies and procedures. Ask yourself:

  • What types of devices can I expect to see in my library?
  • What software/apps/browser based resources can I expect students to access?
  • What does the student use policy stipulate about gaming and social media use?
  • What is the procedure for dealing with a cyber-safety incident?
  • What guidelines are in place around theft, confiscation or damage of a device?

Also investigate whether current policies adequately cover use of personal devices in the library. If they don’t, take it upon yourself to research how policy can support BYOD in library settings, and make specific suggestions for modification of current documentation.

Display it

The library is an ideal place to display school policies on BYOD, digital citizenship and digital literacy. Students will frequently use their devices in the library to complete research, to socialise, to collaborate - so take advantage of this and display policies in the areas where your students conduct these activities.

Promote it

If your school hasn’t yet developed a ‘brand’ to promote BYOD, consider approaching management with an offer to spearhead this. The library can produce posters, videos and other marketing materials to promote policy, enlisting the help of student librarians and in collaboration with teaching staff. Leading initiatives like this helps to cement the role of the library as an integral part of 21st century learning initiatives in the school.

Professional development: a pedagogy focus

Librarians and teachers all require PD

Stavert (2013) asserts that the literature is clear as to the focus of professional learning: “ should be on pedagogy, not the technology”.

There is certainly an element of digital literacy required, for example, in being familiar with tools and apps available for use, and knowing how to use cloud based storage. However, following investigation of a new digital tool the most important question is: ‘How can students use this to improve learning?’

Librarians can be included in whole staff professional development sessions. Then all new learning can be applied to improve practice in ways that are evident in student learning outcomes and obvious to management staff. Don’t feel you need to know everything there is to know about devices and online resources, because this is an impossible task given the current rate of change.

As librarian Rose Nisbet of Ormiston Senior College says:

The collaborative learning partnership between myself and the students is paramount. The ICT landscape changes so quickly it is hard for any one person to be on top of it all. There are times when students ask me for help with something, there are times when I ask them, and there are times when we are figuring something out together.

The librarian as 'expert' in this area

The librarian may choose to flip the PD scenario and offer to provide it. Many librarians are offering to provide “Appy Hours” at staff meetings, during which they introduce a number of different apps and outline how they can be used to enhance teaching practice. One such programme is being delivered by Saskia Hill, Librarian at Cashmere High School:

I am currently providing a cycle of Information Fluency PD to the staff (intersection of Info Lit, Computer Lit, and Critical Thinking)…It provides a comprehensive overview of what the students are facing when presented with that word 'research' and an idea that it can go beyond JGI (just Google It). It also keeps them abreast of trends, tools and is an opportunity to up-skill. It allows us to let colleagues know what we have and how to use it, using a trickle down strategy rather than only telling the students. It means that the library is utilised to its fullest potential as a living, breathing and vibrant entity. It also means that library staff gain recognition for their expertise… and that breeds confidence in staff and students alike.

Digital citizenship and digital literacy

Explicit teaching of 21st century skills in the library

It is more important than ever to include 21st century skills such as digital literacy and digital citizenship in our teaching. The Future-focused learning in connected communities (2014) report from Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye's 21st Century Learning Reference Group recommended “that the Ministry of Education recognise digital competencies as essential foundation skills for success in 21st century society.”

In addition, the report suggests that teacher training providers should “fully integrate digital technologies into their training programmes”. This suggests that a new wave of pedagogy is coming - one in which teaching students to navigate the online world will be just as important as teaching literacy and numeracy.

Digital Literacy

Digital literacy is the ability to:

  • navigate and evaluate information
  • understand and create meaning with digital languages and in variety of contexts
  • use technology and media to share ideas, tell stories, and provoke thought and emotion.

When students are allowed to bring their own device to the library, there is a high chance that the majority of their library-based activity is going to involve engaging with digital technology. The librarian will be presented with many chances for on-the-spot teaching and modelling of skills. These might include selecting quality information sources online, or synthesising information and presenting it via social media.

Digital Citizenship

It is clear that in order to participate “fully, ethically and safely” (Alberta Education, 2012) in BYOD programmes, students must be responsible digital citizens.

Being digitally literate does not guarantee responsible, smart use of digital technology. The skills of digital citizenship must be explicitly taught.

Read Digital citizenship in schools

Practical considerations

Wireless network capacity

The capacity of your school’s wireless network to cope with personal devices is something IT professionals will likely assess prior to rolling out a BYOD programme. It is a good idea to request information about how many wi-fi devices the library connection can serve. Also find out who to contact if there are connectivity issues. Displaying posters with instructions for connecting to library wi-fi should decrease the amount of time you spend assisting students.

Technical support

Depending on your personal level of IT confidence and know-how, the thought of having a range of devices in your library may be slightly terrifying. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that having one type of device would be easiest to manage. However, if your school adopts the model of allowing a number of different types of debices this may actually be a good thing.

Experts have suggested that “the model wherein students bring in any device that connects to the internet has proven to need the least technical support in practice.” (Stavert, 2013). This is because students are able to troubleshoot and solve their own and their peers' technical problems. Encourage your students to be autonomous in managing their devices - use help files, online help forums - these are all valuable skills they’ll need to develop after leaving school anyway, so why not start them early?

Gillian Ross, in Timaru asserts that:

The key to being able to help students is the being pretty ICT savvy yourself. The students and I learn lots together, but I also do a lot of learning outside of school hours.


Issues of security will generally be addressed at the network administration level. If you’re unsure of what is in place in terms of blocked websites versus open access, or have other concerns, ask your IT person for information. If you feel the security in your library is so rigid that is does not support learning, advocate for change.

Charging stations

One of the most practical ways a library can support BYOD is by providing charging stations. Some schools now have ‘power bars’ or lockers’ where power points and chargers are available for a number of different standard devices. Alternatively, the low-tech option of providing many multi-boards and power sockets is also very effective.

Some libraries even keep a small stock of chargers that are issued to students for short term use - this is handy for when a student accidentally leaves their charger at home. Find out whether someone in your school community can build a custom charging solution for your library.

Related links


Alberta Education (2012). Bring your own device: a guide for schools. Edmonton: Alberta Education.

21st Century Learning Reference Group (2014). Future-focused learning in connected communities. Retrieved August 7, 2014

DeWitt, P. (2012, August 26). Are schools prepared to let students BYOD?. Education Week. Retrieved August 5, 2014

Hague, C & Payton, S (2010). Digital literacy across the curriculum - a FutureLab handbook (PDF). Retrieved August 7, 2014

Johnson, D (2012). BYOD to the library. Retrieved August 6, 2014

Lee, M. (2012). BYOT. Australian educational leader, 34, 45-46.

Ray, M (2013). BYOD: Mobile devices belong in the classroom Pivot Points. Retrieved August 5, 2014.

Stavert, B. (2013). Bring your own device (BYOD) in schools (PDF): 2013 literature review. NSW Department of Education and Communities (PDF). Retrieved April 8, 2014

Image: student and laptop, by Enokson on Flickr