Mobile learning lets pupils move toward personalised, anytime/anywhere learning, with access to the wealth of information and resources on the web at their fingertips. But budget concerns often leave schools without the ability to provide every student with their own device. And research increasingly shows that students already own those devices anyway.
More and more schools are implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programmes, which allow students to bring their own SmartPhone, iPod touch, iPad, tablet or other device into school.
An obvious benefit is the lower cost of implementing a mobile learning programme when compared to a traditional school-supplied device roll-out. Giving pupils the ability to choose and use the device they are most comfortable with also promotes personalised learning and problem-solving; it can create a multi-device classroom where students work collaboratively to choose the best device for a given task, often switching between devices.
As BYOD has grown in popularity, it has also brought some challenges: equity, compatibility, security, management – to name a few. But there is also such promise in the approach that it might just be the most realistic way to get powerful computers into the hands of every student. Here are some tips to help set-up a successful BYOD programme in your school.
Cover the whys
What makes BYOD a good fit for your school? You will need to think through the options and outline the benefits and goals. What educational goals are being met by BYOD? Once you understand your goals, you will be in a better position to determine how technology can help you meet them – and to measure progress.
You will need a solid, written plan to get approval from your leadership and buy-in from parents and teachers. Especially with a BYOD programme (where teachers need to support multiple devices in their classrooms and parents often need to provide the device), support from key stakeholders is critical. Sharing information, statistics and benefits – and addressing concerns – is a good start.
What will be allowed?
Determine what you will allow on campus, including whether you will only allow devices with wi-fi connectivity or also those with 3G/4G connectivity. Will those requirements change depending on the age of the students? Many schools opt for a list of their preferred devices and those that are not appropriate for learning.
Update Acceptable Use Policies
Set and share policies for what, when and how students can use their own devices on-site and determine how you will enforce them. One school that implemented a BYOD programme changed the name of its Acceptable Use Policy to Responsible Use Policy, reflecting the new responsibility that the students were trusted with. Among the things to cover in any policy is whether or not students will be required to connect through the filtered school internet. Some schools make it a requirement that in order to bring a device in, a student must have a mobile filter or mobile device management solution allowed on it, so the school can control and manage access during school hours.
IT support protocols
Determine what IT will and will not do on personal devices, and what hours IT support will be available. Many schools leave maintenance of the student-owned devices to the students/parents. But what happens when something goes wrong during school hours and the device is needed? Often, student-run help desks provide an easy way to provide basic device support without additional staff or budget (this also gives pupils a valuable experience).
Give them basic advice to support lessons across multiple platforms. This professional development can include outlining the different devices pupils might be expected to bring and their abilities and limitations, basic troubleshooting information, and ideas for integrating devices into lessons.
What will you do about students who do not have a device? Many schools keep a stock of additional devices that students without one can use – still a fraction of the cost of a true one-to-one. One particularly innovative idea: a school allowed students to purchase their own device through a work programme, earning money toward the purchase by working at the school, sports events and other jobs.
Prepare your network
Get your wireless infrastructure ready for BYOD demands, determine how you will secure your primary network, force personally owned devices onto a separate LAN (local area network), and provide filtered access through that LAN. BYOD can put strain on the network and the bandwidth, so it is essential to have an infrastructure that supports it. Personal devices can also pose a security risk to assets on the school network, so a separate guest network is a smart idea.
Provide a platform
BYOD encourages anytime, anywhere, any device learning – so make sure you have a safe, mobile, collaborative platform compatible with any device that students and teachers can access for school work, discussions, resources, assignments, and more. Without a mobile learning platform, you run the risk of devices simply being “toys” that are suddenly allowed inside the classroom. A learning platform gives the devices an educational purpose.
Be prepared, but flexible
BYOD is a big change for many schools. Prepare yourself by reading and listening to schools which have done it – but also be flexible and ready to adapt to unexpected surprises (good and bad). Technology staff, teachers, administrators and students are bound to discover things during a BYOD roll-out that they never anticipated; but then, is not learning what it’s all about?
Earnie Kramer is a director of Lightspeed Systems.