Mar 22 2012

What You Need to Know About BYOD

A roundup of solutions, tips and best practices to help your school or district transition to a “bring your own device” network culture.

Few topics are generating more buzz in K–12 planning meetings this spring than the “bring your own device” movement. Teachers and administrators hunger to unleash the educational potential of mobile computing in their classrooms. But shrinking budgets and hard financial choices have kept schools from making the kinds of wholesale investments needed to put a device in the hands of every student.

That reality, though not ideal, has forced educators to consider another possibility: Why not let students use devices they already own as learning tools? In many ways, it makes sense. Most students today already have a mobile device, whether it’s a smartphone, a notebook computer, a tablet, or even a Nintendo DSi. These devices come equipped with mobile broadband and Wi-Fi capabilities, which allow students to tap into the wealth of information offered by the web and Internet-connected applications.

But there’s a catch: Allowing students to bring their own mobile hardware into classrooms creates a potential nightmare for IT administrators. This includes the risk of opening up a school’s network to potential security threats and the possibility of slower load speeds and download times — two telltale signs of network overload.

Not sure which way to go? You’re not alone. We hope you’ll use the advice and information assembled from K–12 technology leaders below to help you make the decision that’s best for your school.

    • Six Steps to BYOD Success.

      More than 900 middle and high school students in Edina, Minn., bring their own personal devices to school. Although that represents just 20 percent of the student population, it’s the equivalent of more than 30 labs coming to school each day. The district’s “Go Wireless” program started as a less-than-successful one-to-one computing initiative. That was before administrators discovered these six steps to BYOD success.

      For more on how administrators at Edina Public Schools made the move from a struggling one-to-one program to BYOD, check out the results of an independent review of the district’s BYOD program.

    • Why Planning Makes All the Difference.

      Kari Rhame Murphy, chief technology officer for the Deer Park Independent School District in Texas, says her district’s transition to BYOD was surprisingly easy, but only because she and her team spent nearly two years planning for it. To find success, Murphy suggests school leaders consider implementing these best practices.

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  • Prepare for an Influx of Devices.

    Adopting a BYOD approach to student computing means a school’s network must be equipped to handle a range of mobiles devices, some of which will probably not be anticipated. This CDW whitepaper will help you think about what devices to expect, plan for their integration into the network, and create a secure environment upon their installation.

  • Installing Your BYOD Network.

    An adequate number and appropriate placement of wireless access points are crucial to ensure that students can access web resources when needed, says Rich Kaestner, a project director for the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). This is just one example of how to install and prepare a BYOD network.

  • Keep Your Network Safe from Threats.

    The idea of opening the network to well-traveled student devices that could very well be infected with viruses, malware and scareware is a frightening proposition for most school administrators. But it doesn’t have to be. Virtualization, firewalls and other strategically used technologies can protect the school network from the threats student-owned devices might harbor.

  • Generate Buy-In. Make the Case for BYOD Adoption.

    Still struggling to make the case for your school or district to adopt a BYOD initiative? Fulfilling students’ digital expectations and increasing student participation in classroom activities are just two of the benefits that schools are reporting with BYOD.

  • Get Creative. Push the Limits of What’s Possible.

    When it comes to the “bring your own” list of acceptable devices in the Forsyth County (Ga.) School District, Chief Technology and Information Officer Bailey Mitchell has an open-door policy. “We allow the Nintendo DSi,” says Mitchell. “A lot of students have the Nintendo DSi. They work great, they connect to our learning management system.”

Though the thought of using a video game console for learning might seem like a potential distraction in the classroom, the most important thing about BYOD isn’t the devices students use, but how they use the device to learn, Mitchell explains. For more, check out this video from the 2012 CoSN conference in Washington, D.C.

What They’re Saying

Check out these videos of K–12 experts discussing the benefits of BYOD.

“We have 20-year veteran teachers at the high school saying that they've never seen the quality of work like they're seeing with the kids using their own devices.” — Lenny Schad, CIO, Katy (Texas) Independent School District

“It’s definitely the direction education is going. Everybody has got to think about how to work smarter, not harder, how to be more fiscally responsible, and to me, bring your own [device] fits both molds.” — Peter A. Baccile, IT director, Hornell City Schools, New York

“Schools love to control things. So when students bring in their own technology — even when teachers do — they don’t have control over them because they don’t own them. But I think we’re in a place where we all have our own computers, whether they can be controlled or not.” — Tony Vincent, technology and learning consultant to K12 schools