A “bring your own device” (BYOD) initiative isn’t a panacea. Kari Rhame Murphy, chief technology officer for the Deer Park (Texas) Independent School District, 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 help ensure success, school leaders should consider some of the following best practices.
Seek buy-in. At present, most schools ban personal devices. Therefore, getting stakeholders to reverse course and welcome them into the learning environment can be difficult. It’s incumbent upon BYOD advocates to convince their colleagues that BYOD won’t result in students running amok in the classroom and clogging (or corrupting) the school network.
Explain the network and security safeguards, detail the financial and pedagogical benefits that BYOD-friendly schools have experienced, and show the concept in action by taking stakeholders to visit these early adopters.
Rich Kaestner, a project director for the Consortium for School Networking, advises starting slowly. A pilot program can demonstrate the benefits and help skeptical administrators and teachers overcome their preconceptions (and misconceptions) about BYOD. Rolling out a program in phases or on a voluntary basis (at least initially) also can help schools work out bugs.
Develop a “Responsible Use” policy. Putting the focus on student accountability makes for a more positive approach to what’s essentially a trust-based contract, Murphy says. The document, which needs to be signed by both students and their parents, should spell out the intent of the program, how students are expected to use their devices, what constitutes an infraction and the consequences of such behavior.
Train your teachers. With BYOD, teachers will no longer need “tools” training on specific hardware and software, but schools will still need to provide professional development. In particular, teachers will need guidance on how to manage their BYOD classrooms effectively and how to integrate technology-enabled learning into their curriculum.
Educate parents. According to Project Tomorrow, parents already recognize the value of personal devices in the classroom. But schools should seek their input early in the process of rolling out a BYOD program and provide educational materials about policies and expectations.
Facilitate, but don’t support. IT personnel can help students access the network and offer input on which device might best suit their needs. But they shouldn’t be expected to fix broken devices or troubleshoot malfunctioning ones; leave those responsibilities to students and their parents.
Ensure equity. For BYOD to really bring value to the classroom environment, all students must have access to devices. But the reality is that some students won’t have their own device or home Internet access. Schools with BYOD programs are solving this inequity using a variety of approaches. Some provide loaner devices from their own inventories, while others offer stipends to help families purchase a device or pay for broadband.
And then there are schools that simply give students their own devices. Officials at the Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, for example, will buy devices for all students receiving financial aid when they roll out a mandatory BYOD program in fall 2012 — a gesture that CIO JD Ferries-Rowe says is consistent with the school’s mission to advance social justice.
For more guidance on BYOD programs in K–12 schools, download our white paper.