According to the Horizon Report from the New Media Consortium (NMC), BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is an “important development in educational technology for K-12” that will be adopted in a year or less. It’s a deceptively simple concept, because although you may think, how hard can it be to have students bring their own devices to school, the truth is its far more complex than that.
The philosophy behind BYOD (or BYOT and BYOA) is to engage students on a deeper level. Many educators believe that BYOD can increase student participation, expand communication and collaboration, help to personalize instruction and give students a new way of learning. Administrators see the potential of saving valuable dollars from their already limited budgets. However, to implement a successful BYOD program, you have to create a strategy to make the rollout successful—and there are some steps you can take to ensure that happens.
One: Install wireless access points in the classroom
Nothing will shut down a BYOD rollout faster than students not being able to connect their devices. There’s a straightforward and easy solution—install APs in every classroom. It’s also important to strategically add APs to dense areas where students gather to work, like the cafeteria, gym or theater. To truly understand where to place your AP’s you need data. Tools such as wireless site-surveys or using Wi-Fi management software can provide you with a clear direction on how to optimize your network.
Two: Reformulate your IT support model
Gone are the days of basic IT support. With a sudden influx of devices on campuses, IT support models have to be reevaluated and updated, and made more flexible to manage and respond to a likely increase in requests. It’s important to assess what issues may cross your path, and have your IT team prepare to deal with them. With many schools having limited resources and small IT departments managed services could provide an invaluable answer to providing the right amount of support for your school Wi-Fi network.
Three: Create a cross-functioning team to bolster your BYOD
Community leaders believe that collaboration will be essential to success in the future. Supporting BYOD takes a high-level of collaboration, on a smaller scale, but essential none-the-less. Because there is more to it than “devices”, it’s important to pull together a team that combines technology experts, professional development and educational leaders, as well as communications staff and principals. Together these folks will work to define roles, goals, systems and action plans for a successful BYOD program.
While BYOD is centered around devices, applications and internet access, the team can make sure that technology isn’t the only driving force, and that everyone is onboard for a successful district initiative that promotes an elevated learning environment.
This project team should prepare to stay in place well past the introduction of BYOD—to continue important conversations that will undoubtedly come up, so they can continue to put forth a unified effort in maintaining program success.
Four: Assess your Network Management
Don’t overlook the challenge of creating filtering practices that can apply to elementary, middle and high school environments. The best practices for filtering often include three things: to identify, assign and enforce security policies. In a K-12 setting, if your system isn’t equipped to handle the “who, how, and what”—your wireless network performance will suffer and will also potentially put your students and the networks sensitive data at risk.
Plan for the surge of devices and applications, and make sure that the system is scaled appropriately and has some sort of network access control to deal with it, before you begin your new BYOD program.
Five: Formulate a brand for your BYOD
Prepare a message that everyone can grab hold of. Look at it the same way a business looks at introducing a new product. Get people excited about it, familiar with it and ready adopt the BYOD initiative. It should clearly state the vision, mission, benefits and a “brand” (think slogan) that everyone recognizes/knows when it’s mentioned.
Six: Support teachers in adopting BYOD in their classrooms
Not every instructor will accept BYOD with open arms. It’s a threat, a change in classroom culture and it can lead to questions about roles. Technology can assist and accelerate instruction, but it cannot replace educators. Talk to teachers and answer questions before implementing any new initiative. Your candidness and willingness to share what BYOD can do for a classroom will go a long way in preventing a revolt against its rollout, as will using a non-threatening approach when having the conversation. It’s critical that everyone involved with your new BYOD program is properly trained and supported throughout the transition.
BYOD has the ability to enhance K-12 education. It can assist with managing curriculum and facilitating instruction. It allows for increased collaboration, student engagement and personalization. When introduced with thought and care (and the right wireless infrastructure) it is something that can benefit a school or district for years to come.