How to tackle the challenges of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in schools

Lucinda Starr

Writer for Atomi


min read

Today’s students are living in a world dominated by technology. No matter what career they pursue after school, one thing is certain: digital literacy is the key to their success. 

For many schools, introducing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is the preferred way of incorporating technology into the classroom. Recent research shows that BYOD programs are currently rolled out at 70% of high schools and 32% of primary schools, with laptops being the preferred device of choice (96%) for older students. 

While BYOD programs allow students to digest course content in new tailored ways, there are undeniable challenges for educators (including preventing distractions and navigating digital equity). 

In this blog, we’ll dive into the common roadblocks holding schools back from effectively implementing BYOD policies, along with practical tips for how to overcome these challenges. 

Breaking down the challenges of BYOD in schools  

BYOD policies allow students to bring and use their own tech devices (such as laptops, tablets and smartphones) into the classroom. The goal is simple: to offer a new way for students to engage with course content and incorporate technology into the learning experience. 

But BYOD programs can present a number of challenges for educators, particularly when it comes to classroom management and ensuring a fair, equitable experience for all. 

Some of the key concerns voiced by educators include:

  • Digital equity: Not all students have access to the same device due to a range of factors that are often out of a student’s control, such as their socioeconomic status.
  • Avoidance: Some students intentionally leave their devices at home to avoid engaging with learning material, particularly when they encounter challenging topic areas.
  • Distractions: Students can be tempted to use devices for the wrong reasons in the classroom, particularly if clear school-wide rules aren’t in place around the appropriate use of tech in the classroom.
  • Lack of support: Without a school-wide approach to BYOD or support from parents, educators can see varying levels of engagement and uptake. 

Why BYOD should be a priority policy for schools

Despite these challenges, BYOD offers huge potential benefits to students and educators. The key to its success is ensuring that boundaries are set around how devices are used in the classroom and that these expectations are standardised at—ideally—a whole school level. 

So, why should educators embrace BYOD in classrooms? Some of the key benefits include:

  • Equipping students for life after school: Technology is now commonplace across all professions and industries, meaning students need to build confidence and skills around how to leverage digital tools effectively—particularly emerging technologies like AI. 
We all know that the economy these students step into isn’t going to be based on textbooks and paper. BYOD policies allow educators to use modern learning tools, like Atomi, to set students up for the future.
- Thomas O’Donahoo, Co-Founder and CEO at Atomi
  • Enabling differentiation at scale: With BYOD, students can access resources tailored to their learning ability with educators able to effectively leverage online learning platforms (like Atomi) to deliver course content in dynamic ways, from videos to quizzes.

78% of teachers believe that technology plays a crucial role in supporting differentiation. Source: Atomi’s 2024 Tech In Schools Report.

How to implement effective BYOD policies in schools

Ready to harness tech in the classroom? We chatted with Sarah-Eleni Zaferis (Atomi’s resident teacher and Product Enablement Specialist) to gather her top tips for how to effectively implement BYOD policies in schools. 

Tip 1. Establish clear expectations and routines for students 

Navigating avoidance and distractions are two key challenges that can be tackled by implementing school-wide BYOD policies. By ensuring student expectations are clear, schools can remove any confusion for students about how they should and shouldn’t use devices in the classroom. 

But even if school-wide policies aren’t a reality, teachers can create an ecosystem within their own classroom with clear tech rules and expectations that are implemented from day one. 

In practical terms, Sarah encourages educators to:

  • Use easy-to-remember cues (such as verbal phrases) that help students use their devices appropriately, such as keeping laptops closed or half-open whenever the teacher is speaking.
  • Be clear and consistent with what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour with devices in the classroom, removing any grey area that could lead to a poorly managed classroom.
  • Establish actionable consequences for not bringing devices or using devices inappropriately, ensuring these corrections are given immediately in every instance. 

Atomi Tip: We don’t want you to give up your lunchtime to enforce these consequences. Instead, try introducing a three-strike policy that means a student’s parents will be called for unacceptable BYOD behaviour. Even better, try flipping this approach to focus on positive reinforcement—such as rewarding students who BYOD consistently with a fun activity.  

Students love repeatability and get a sense of comfort from classroom routines. Set up a clear structure around devices in the classroom so students can establish a good working rhythm that you’re not righting every step of the way.
- Sarah-Eleni Zaferis, Product Enablement Specialist at Atomi

Tip 2. Be flexible and adaptable when leveraging tech in the classroom

When it comes to BYOD, it’s very common for some students not to have access to their own devices—whether due to accessibility challenges or intentionally leaving devices at home. 

Educators need to be ready to adapt their existing class plans and prepare for the scenario where not every student brings their own laptop or tablet. 

For example, teachers can leverage Atomi’s online resources as a whole-class instruction (rather than a 1:1 activity) or get students to share one device between two. This is a perfect backup plan when students forget to bring chargers or headphones, too. 

It’s inevitable that students will forget to bring or charge their devices, and it can take time for educators to adjust to incorporating tech into lesson plans. That’s why it can be helpful to start small with activities that can easily move on and offline, such as webquests that can be printed as worksheets and used alongside a textbook instead. 

The key is to avoid coming up with a second lesson plan and increasing your workload. Instead, look for ways to easily pivot your existing lesson plan and use the same teaching materials by switching from 1:1 devices to a whole class instruction that covers the same course content.
- Sarah-Eleni Zaferis, Product Enablement Specialist at Atomi

💡 Atomi Tip: Be selective with how tech is used in lesson plans rather than taking an ‘all or nothing’ approach. There is a learning curve with BYOD, so rather than using tech for everything, consider where it really adds value in certain lessons or topic areas. 

Tip 3. Bring everyone on the journey of harnessing tech in classrooms

One of the key barriers to BYOD is a lack of support from parents and even the school’s wider community. 

That’s why it’s so important for parents and carers to be involved in implementing BYOD programs. This allows families to voice concerns and provide valuable input into these policies. 

Every school community varies greatly in socioeconomic status, so having parents onboard is extremely important. Schools need to make sure parents and carers have as many options as possible to purchase to make BYOD accessible for each child.
- Sarah-Eleni Zaferis, Product Enablement Specialist at Atomi

In practical terms, here’s how to bring families on the journey—while still being mindful of differing home environments where accessible internet might not be available: 

  • Present proposal policies at P&C meetings to pick the brains of family members, gather their input and adapt your program to meet the needs of parents and students.
  • Run surveys and focus groups to gather feedback from parents and workshop practical ways these policies can be implemented across a range of scenarios.
  • Keep feedback loops open between families, teachers and schools, ensuring that policies evolve over time based on what is and isn’t working.

A final note on BYOD in schools

Setting clear boundaries and school-wide policies is essential to ensuring the success of BYOD in schools. Educators also need to be ready to adapt class plans by leveraging flexible online learning platforms that can be used for individual learning or class-wide collaboration. 

Looking to incorporate technology into the classroom? Dive into our 2024 Tech In Schools Report, packed with case studies, tips, and templates that you can download and embed into your teaching instruction with ease. ‍


Published on

May 9, 2024

What's Atomi?

Short sharp videos and lessons

Engaging, curriculum-specific videos and interactive lessons backed by research, so you can study smarter, not harder.

Interactive quizzes and revision

With tens of thousands of practice questions and custom revision sessions, you won’t just think you’re ready. You’ll know you are!

Super smart features

Study skills strategies and tips, AI-powered revision recommendations and progress insights help you stay on track.

What's Atomi?

Engaging curriculum-specific videos

Short, curriculum-specific videos and interactive content that’s easy to understand and backed by the latest research.

Continuous assessment tools

Active recall quizzes, topic-based tests and exam practice enable students to build their skills and get immediate feedback.

Powerful intelligence

Our AI understands each student's progress and makes intelligent recommendations based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Try the ultimate study resource for high school

Start empowering your classroom today