21 Nov 2013
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Communication, device, security, GO!

Bring your own device (BYOD) is arguably one of the biggest pedagogical changes that has come to the classroom since the invention of the blackboard.

However, although BYOD in schools is becoming popular, a one size fits all approach is definitely not appropriate.

A school must be prepared to go all-in with BYOD before it is deployed – for example, teachers need to understand how the use of laptop or tablet devices will change the classroom dynamic and then agree to suitable usage scenarios.

Once a school has committed to BYOD, it is important to consider whether you want 1:1 or 1:many. Although it’s often the case that each student may have a personal device, there may be different policies across the school.

For example, your school may decide on one tablet for every two kids aged seven and under, with students over seven having their own laptop.

It is also important to decide who will buy the devices – will it be the school or the student? How will the device work after the student leaves the school?

Unless you operate a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) type of environment for each BYOD user, you will have to carefully consider what hardware you recommend for your students for the following reasons:

  • The cost of the device.
  • Some form factors may be appropriate for the educational and software needs of junior school children, but not for more senior children (for example, tablets may be fine for younger students). This depends upon the applications and the teaching environment.
  • Software compatibility (the same titles which are available for Microsoft Windows are not necessarily available for Microsoft Windows RT, Android, Apple iOS or Apple Mac OS X).
Another important consideration is picking the right software. For the above reason alone, be sure of your software choices for potential cross-platform compatibility. Not all software is created equal and unless you are using monthly cloud provisioned software, it’s not easy to give it back after you purchase it.

Schools should also establish a clear BYOD policy. Communicate with staff, parents and students throughout the consultative phase so that everyone understands how the decisions around the policy were made, but don’t overdo control – allow choice wherever you can.

Because BYOD is all about flexibility, empowerment and enhanced learning, it also has quite an impact on security. Consider an application-aware firewall device and work with the school’s ICT staff to ensure that risks are mitigated

Either work with schools ICT integrators to help work out your ICT needs for BYOD, or spend the time working through all of the above points to ensure a successful BYOD deployment for your school.

By Alistair J. Ross, national services manager for Cyclone NZ. Cyclone provide experienced BYOD integration services for schools.

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