Saturday, November 17, 2012

4 BYOD Considerations for Elementary Schools

Elementary school students with technology

Among the top trends in commercial IT these days is the issue of how to handle Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) which occurs when personally owned smartphones and tablets are used within the organization’s commercial applications and systems. This creates many substantial security and data management issues that are keeping IT staffs awake at night.

For an elementary school, the problem is no less daunting. Many sixth-graders have their own phones, and the smartphone is basically ubiquitous in high school. Couple that with an increasing number of tablets — primarily in more affluent districts at this time — and you have the same BYOD issue in primary education, but with many different twists.

A good place to start is looking at the issue of whether or not BYOD exists in your school. And the answer is easy, it’s yes. Your school may try to stop it, but face it, students are already using personal smartphones and even tablets no matter how strict the rules. So the questions become, when do you admit it, and how do you take advantage of it?

The answers aren’t easy.

First, there needs to be allowance for personal use during the day. At lunch or study halls makes the most sense. Prohibition doesn’t work, and ends up taking staff resources away from more valuable supervision or other activities. Striking a balance between personal use and educational use is essential.

The second aspect of the BYOD problem is what happens when some students have the devices, and some don’t. How does a school plan a curriculum with that level of uncertainty? There is also the problem of status and some students feeling inferior. For these and other reasons, I think we now have to look at BYOD as an extension of traditional infrastructure, not a replacement for it. For example, BYOD might eliminate shared use, or allow individual work on a project versus working only as a group. This however will change going forward as the devices do become more common.

Number three is network access. This is one of the most interesting ways to get some control over BYOD, but without a lot of resources. The school’s WiFi network should be opened up like a Starbucks hotspot, but with a simple log on that provides the same filtered internet capability found in wired networks. Of course a student could use the cellular solution, but with better service levels, the school based network can win out.

The final aspect I want to blog about today is opening up the classroom software and curriculum to BYOD devices. If BYOD devices are to be truly useful, they need to exist inside the software infrastructure of the school, and can’t be walled off. This does create software license issues that need to be examined, and teachers need to increase the creativity around how to add in the BYOD devices to their teaching style and curriculum. However, having truly virtual classrooms or 24/7 access to class applications is a huge gain. This is also an element that needs strong and documented policies to prevent any inappropriate communication or interaction.

BYOD is already here in the K-12 space. The option of ignoring BYOD is not just short sighted, but it misses the opportunity to move the EdTech solutions forward.

View the original article here

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