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BYOD–the lowdown in one article

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In 2010, ‘BYOD’ officially entered the national lexicon with this pronouncement in the National Education Technology Plan:

Only with 24/7 access to the Internet via devices and technology-based software and resources can we achieve the kind of engagement, student-centered learning, and assessment that can improve learning in the ways this plan proposes. In addition, these devices may be owned by the student or family, owned by the school, or some combination of the two.

BYOD–Bring Your Own Device–one of the cutting edge tools available to schools. Rather than investing in schoolwide iPads or laptops or Chromebooks, everyone brings their own digital device. Sure, the school must make available some devices for students who don’t own one, but that’s a fraction of the investment in funds, training, and technology normally required without a BYOD program. With students bringing their own favorite digital device, students get to use the device they’re already comfortable with, one that is easily transferred to home use (which encourages its use for homework and projects). Suddenly, lots of activities that weren’t possible before become a reality. Like:

  • digital note-taking via Evernote
  • sharing and collaborating via GAFE
  • use of backchannel devices like Today’s Meet
  • feedback via Twitter (for age-appropriate students) and/or blogs
  • answer to questions that aren’t in the subject-provided material, something outside the scope of the curriculum but not the student curiosity

If you’re considering a BYOD program, here’s what you should think about:

Your unique infrastructure

Does the school’s physical infrastructure support the addition of hundreds–or thousands–more devices to your network? That’s not only bandwidth, but hot spots for WiFi. Know ahead of time what your network will handle so you can be prepared.

What about personnel infrastructure–faculty and staff? Students will want to use their extra computing power. Do faculty know what to do with this extra computing power? Do they require professional development to make this happen? What about teachers who don’t support this digital expansion–they’re used to traditional books-pen-paper. Be prepared to help them overcome old habits and find the bright future in these changes.

Decide if school resources will be used for printing and saving from student devices or will students save and print to their own device or the cloud.

Finally, will students be allowed to charge devices at school? Doesn’t sound like a problem? What if lots of students come to school expecting to charge devices prior to class and there aren’t enough outlets? You might decide it’s better to allow charging only at home (which can be adjusted in emergencies).

Appropriate use

‘Appropriate use’ in a BYOD program is no different than when the school provided all devices. Establish an Acceptable Use and Electronic Devices Policy for digital devices–whether these are school- or student-owned. Students must adhere to the policy. When students use technology inappropriately while on the school network, the same consequences apply, regardless of who owns the device.

Determine the consequences of violating these policies. Reserve the right to inspect a student’s personal device if there is reason to believe the student violated policies. Examples of inappropriate use include:

  • student bypasses the school Guest network to use a personal network.
  • student records a video without the permission of the teacher or stakeholders.
  • student takes pictures of other students and sends them electronically to friends without approval.
  • student uses device for non-school, non-approved activities.

Student concerns

Are students ready for the leap to all-things-digital? Some students are perfectly happy with pen-and-paper, not at all interested in moving to a digital delivery of education. How are you going to accommodate them as they stretch outside their comfort zone?

What about those that find digital devices distracting? Their own, but also those of classmates? How are you going to be sure these are a tool of learning, not play?

Privacy

To protect privacy among a myriad of devices, require that students use the school’s Guest wireless network. Use of their own service bypasses the security filter. This makes it impossible for the school to enforce both the District Acceptable Use Policy and the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Both of these require all network access be filtered regardless of the device that is used to access it while in a public school. While students own the device, the network they are using belongs to the school, so Internet access must be filtered

Equity

Insuring that all students have access to digital devices–even if they don’t have a personal one–is easily solved by the school having overflow digital devices for use by students who either don’t have one at home or whose personal device isn’t available/working a particular day. To determine what that number is likely to be, survey your student body prior to rolling out the program. Find out what digital devices they use and how many will require school-supplied devices.

Responsibility for Device

Your school cannot be held responsible if a student’s personal digital device is lost, stolen or misplaced. Recommend that students enable the device locator, a password, and/or a thumbprint requirement if possible.

Make a decision about how much help your IT staff will provide students when they have difficulties. Will they assist with connectivity to the school’s network? Will they get programs on student device to work? Or will this be the responsibility of the student, their parents and friends?

Interestingly enough, schools using a BYOD program find that students take better care of the digital devices because they own them.

Parent involvement

The importance of parent support for BYOD programs cannot be over-emphasized. Include parents in planning.

Baseline for Digital Devices

Baseline expectations should include:

  • which operating system is allowed–Windows, Mac, Linux
  • which digital devices are acceptable. Does it include tablet computing (like iPads) or must they be full computers? What about smart phones?
  • device must be capable of wireless access. No Ethernet cable plug-ins!
  • current virus protection required.
  • student is responsible for their own device. If it’s lost or damaged, that is student responsibility, not school
  • each student must sign the acceptable use policy, outlining the correct way to use home digital devices in the educational environment

Pros of BYOD Programs

  • Provides personalization in student education, encourages flexibility & self-directed learning, provides a bridge between formal and informal learning
  • Offers potential for increased learning
  • Encourages parental engagement
  • Benefits staff productivity and efficiency
  • Encourages the initiation of problem solving by students because they are using a tech device they own and understand
  • Extends learning opportunities to wherever and whenever students have the time and inclination
  • Differentiates for student learning style. One student can use text while another uses art–it’s much easier when all the tech is in one place

Cons of BYOD Programs

  • Consider potential security risks via personal, unmanaged devices that connect to a managed network

  • Consider safety issues, theft in or on the way to/from school, breakages and insurance needs

  • Address equity issues–how to support learners without a device

  • Balance pedagogical benefits versus potential classroom distractions.

  • Determine the best way to support educators and encourage responsible learning behaviors (avoiding “bring your own distraction”)

  • Determine how to balance the different options available on different devices

  • Determine school’s LAN and broadband capacity–multiple devices and applications being used simultaneously may place a significant load on institutional networks and broadband connections

  • Understand power management and re-charging considerations

  • Determine how to insure privacy, especially considering that devices with 3G/4G capability can bypass school networks

When you consider the pros and cons, keep in mind that a 1:1 digital environment is the future. Within a short time, all students will use technology to shape their educational future. The only question is, what will that technologic world look like?

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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