The growth in consumer devices such as mobile phones and tablets looks set to continue, and with an international survey finding that 65% of children have a mobile phone handset, more and more students are turning up to class with their devices in pockets or backpacks.
However, technology that can inspire and enable a generation also becomes a real challenge for a school when students and staff expect to be able to connect their own devices to the network.
Today, educational technology is migrating from simply enhancing traditional teaching to transforming it. PCs and tablets not only provide the interface to the Internet, but are also the platforms for digital learning tools, online assessment, and student collaboration. Studies have shown that the schools that embrace these technology changes see strong positive impact on student grades and learning outcomes.
‘Bring your own Device’ (BYOD), is already an issue for businesses worldwide, as they struggle to balance the benefits with the challenges. So, how can schools across the globe embrace the opportunity by developing a BYOD policy and what is involved in policing it?
Embracing BYOD can bring benefits to a school if done right. For instance it can reduce security risks, increase productivity in the classroom and provide cost savings through a reduction in school-owned devices.
Where to start?
Guidelines are important and let students know that using their own devices are welcome, but instruction and education use is the primary reason for that access. They should also include clear statements of consequences for student failure to follow the school’s acceptable use policy.
Here are four tips to help managers of IT systems within schools stay sane when faced with multiple devices on the IT network.
1. Ask yourself: Is your wireless network prepared?
While your wireless network may be experiencing more demand now than ever before, the truth is that this just the beginning. Projections indicate that we can expect these figures to continue to skyrocket, with more devices, applications and traffic demands on the way. Unfortunately most school networks are nowhere near prepared enough to keep up with these increasing demands. Therefore, the first important tip is to review the capabilities of the existing school IT infrastructure and ensure it is fit for purpose.
2. A Unified, proactive approach to BYOD
Without a unified network management approach – one that extends to the pupil – the costs and resources necessary to manage a BYOD initiative become overwhelming, taxing the school beyond its limits. A unified approach to BYOD adoption policy needs to cast a wide net, covering issues such as:
- Approval of mobile devices
- Registration and on-boarding
- Usage policies
- Budget constraints
- Infrastructure restrictions
3. Document and communicate BYOD best practices
Through the communication of a strong mobile device acceptable use and security policy, schools and colleges can define user conduct, support policies, IT support responsibilities, and security controls and features with very little room for confusion. These documents provide general use guidelines for users accessing the school/college network and deliver a framework for conduct for staff, students and guests alike.
4. Appoint a leader, plan ahead and constantly review
A BYOD solution should not be a responsibility that goes hand in hand with the many other day-to-day IT management tasks. Appoint a member of staff to be a cross-functional leader who will oversee the BYOD strategy as a whole. Ensure adequate time is taken to plan appropriately, make sure you know which devices you will and won’t support. Finally, review policy compliance regularly – there’s no point in setting policies if they’re being violated and content isn’t secure.
 Research carried out by in 2012 by mobile operators in conjunction with GSMA and the Mobil Society Research Institute
Mark Pearce is a strategic alliance director at Enterasys Networks