Here are seven considerations that can be overlooked as districts and schools concentrate on readying the infrastructure and making decisions about types of device and ways and means of funding the program.
- Who’s responsible for what?
Clarify the school, teacher, parent and student roles and ready the supporting documentation. What happens in the event of theft, breakages, lost chargers, devices not working? Avoid your teachers becoming IT Techies by proxy and ensure that everyone is clear on what they need to do to make the BYOD programme work.
- What happens to your students’ data?
Your network management system, your learning management system and your student management system will be collating A LOT of data on your students. You will know what websites they look at, you will know who and what they email, you will have records of misdemeanours and more. Not only will you need a policy on data protection but you will need to check exactly what your suppliers are doing with all this data. Look for companies who anonymise the data, don’t share it and certainly don’t sell it.
- And how much do you really want to know, anyway?
A crucial decision with huge implications needs to be made around student privacy. Schools use different models to filter access to the Internet. Some block all but a small number of ‘educational’ sites. Some crawl all student interactions including social media posts with alerts for words that may indicate suicidal or violent thoughts. On the other hand, some filter only those sites considered pornographic or dangerous, establishing a high-trust environment and empowering teacher and student agency. Many of these less draconian schools use a network management system that provides visibility around what site a student is using but does not capture what they are posting/doing. These systems provide enough information to inform teacher-student conversations about online behaviour that impacts on teaching and learning (you spent ten hours on Facebook in my class last week) but retain a student’s right to privacy. Rather issues such as cyberbullying are addressed through Digital Citizenship programs.
- How do we talk about inappropriate online behaviour?
And yes, many schools set up Digital Citizenship programs and educate their students about how to behave online. What happens when it goes wrong? Are your teachers and school leaders comfortable talking about sexting, cyberbullying, online pornography and the other delights of the world wide web with students and possibly parents? Ensure that your teacher’s professional development program focuses on the pastoral care elements of teaching and learning in the digital world.
- Will our school network provide a safe environment?
Inviting student devices onto your network also invites new ICT challenges. Schools are often unaware that students can install VPN software such as Hotspot Shield or Ultrasurf on their devices to bypass existing internet filtering and gain access to any website. It is critical that school internet filtering can identify and block such activity to keep students away from inappropriate content and uphold the school's duty of care.
- Keeping teachers happy
BYOD needs engaged and enthusiastic teachers to make it work. You can make their life easy by ensuring that they have all the classroom management tools required of a digital learning environment. Teachers should be able to minimise distraction by limiting access during their lesson to a few pertinent websites, even differentiating by group or individual student. Teachers should have the ability to see who is on-task and off-task and use the information to reward the focused students, whilst having an informed conversation with the less focused. And most of all this should be easy – BYOD should facilitate teaching and learning, not detract.
- Keeping parents/caregivers happy
Your whole BYOD program needs to be inclusive of parent and caregiver concerns and needs. By using the roll out of BYOD as an opportunity to explain the accompanying shift in teaching and learning approaches, parental buy-in can be fostered to a degree where they can potentially become more involved in their child’s learning and their online world. Include them in the Digital Citizenship program. Share the progress and achievements of the BYOD program. Use your network management systemto support parental reporting. This information is often welcomed by many parents and caregivers to initiate conversations with their own children about learning. Gone are the days when your child can claim to have done “nothing” at school!