Before Adopting BYOD Policies, Schools Need to Do Homework

Bring Your Own Device policies could be a good way for schools to digitalize the teaching environment without breaking the bank. Allowing students to bring gadgets they already own and use them in class allows schools to utilize infrastructure already in place without spending money to buy tablets or smart phones to equip the entire student body.

Yet, before opening up their networks to devices students bring from home, it is important that schools take steps to ensure that it's done safely and effectively. Jonathan P. Costa, Sr. – writing for EDTECH – details what the schools need to do to accomplish that goal.

The first step, says Costa, Sr., is to make sure that a BYOD program is right for the school or the district. To do that, administrators need to understand what digitizing the classrooms actually involves. On the flip side, both parents and teachers will be apprehensive about the changes this new connectivity will bring. Parents in particular will want to know that students' online access will be kept safe from viruses and inappropriate material, while teachers need to be assured that tech in class will not make students less attentive and more liable to miss out on what's being taught.

He recommends that schools follow a simple formula that includes:

Do the Infrastructure Groundwork:
A robust infrastructure that's capable of handling significant wireless traffic is the most important technical ­consideration. After this, the rest is easy.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff:
Charging, distribution, technical ­assistance for devices and the security of the wireless network all can be accomplished with modest effort and expenditure. What's more, I consistently find that concerns about damage and loss of devices are a nonissue. The more responsibility of ownership a student is given for a device, the more likely he or she is to take care of it. It's not that these things don't matter. But they are problems that can be solved and shouldn't distract you from the end goal.

Schools need to also make sure that BYOD means exactly that — and if that means loosening the reigns when it comes to standardization, than that is what should be done. Opening the school only to devices manufactures and sold by Apple or only running Android, for example, is counterproductive.

The point of allowing students to bring their own devices is to allow the school to save money, not to push that expense off on the students who don't have the right kind of tablet or phone.

Once district leaders start the process, they quickly discover that the hardest issues in this transformation center on institutional culture and beliefs. A digital learning environment's real potential lies in the new tools and opportunities that become available once the classroom is freed from its print-only materials and the geographic constraints of its four walls.

Let the learners drive the change. Teach them to make good choices, and then watch as they focus this energy on new ways to engage and learn your content. This is their world to create: The sooner we get out of their way, the sooner our ­investment in digital learning for all will pay its performance dividends.

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