Don’t let disruptive technology disrupt school-parent relationships

2/14/17 1:51 PM

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Computer rooms with outdated PCs are no longer relevant or practical for today’s generation. Bring Your Own Devices (BYODs) for learning in high schools, and more recently, primary schools, is a necessity for education to remain relevant with our technologically advancing society. Schools are adopting this new, ‘disruptive’ approach to learning by merging traditionally separate ICT lessons with the core curriculum. This exciting opportunity to incorporate more digital learning into the curriculum is not an endeavour that the school should take lightly.

Laptops, tablets and smart phones are far more expensive than classic paper notebooks and pencils for parents to supply for their children.  So, unfortunately compulsory BYODs in classrooms can also lead to worries about expense and questions about student and device safety. This has the potential to cause tension between parents and schools.

For BYOD programmes to work, schools need to ensure that all stakeholders involved are invested and on board with the change. Schools need to prepare diligently to meet parents’ expectations before BYOD initiatives are rolled out.

What do parents expect from a school operating a BYOD programme?

Schools need to give parents the confidence that device usage will be well-managed, learning-focused and that access to inappropriate content will be prevented. Parents should be made aware of BYOD policies by way of a permission slip that students get signed.

These four parent expectations need to be met when implementing a BYOD programme at school:

1. The device will regularly be used for learning-related activities

Don’t ask parents to supply devices that are hardly going to be used in the classroom. Ensure that strategies to incorporate BYODs into the curriculum have been established before launching any BYOD initiatives.  This can include:

  • Having fast, reliable WiFi and network infrastructure in place
  • Setting up an access management solution to monitor students’ account activity
  • Training teachers on how to utilise BYODs when teaching
  • Creating a BYOD school policy, holding information sessions and parent / student documentation on the responsibilities of all parties involved

2. Students will be deterred and protected from using devices inappropriately

The school can protect its students from inappropriate online material by:

  • ‘Parental blocking’ from inappropriate websites
  • Live visibility for teachers over student network use
  • Educating students on digital citizenship, accountability and responsibility

3. Parents will be kept informed

Communicating with parents on their child’s digital learning developments is important to keep your parental stakeholders on board with BYOD programmes. Parents want to see a return on their investment. Keep parents involved by:

  • Email or text message progress reports
  • Giving them access to the school learning management system
  • Assigning digital-related homework
  • Parent-teacher interviews

4. Responsibilities of students, parents and the school will be clearly defined and agreed upon

School leaders need to find a balance between empowering the learners and protecting the school, staff, parents and the students themselves. One mutually benefitting approach is ‘All Care, No Responsibility’. This policy involves:

  • The student being responsible for keeping the device charged and in a sound working state.
  • The school’s role is to provide ‘All Care’ - a secure and safe environment. The school must be confident that inappropriate content is properly filtered and if people do something they shouldn’t, that this is acted on in a proactive and positive manner. The school’s role also extends to that of educating the students to become safe, ethical and responsible digital citizens. This requires ongoing programs for the staff, students and parent community.
  • Parents and caregivers (in the ideal world) will also be involved in their child’s online world, instilling their values of how to behave and how to share and connect in a safe and responsible manner.

A successfully integrated BYOD program that is fully utilised by teachers, supported and understood by parents and trusted by management will empower the learners to confidently and independently navigate the network and internet, as they would in the ‘real world’. The visibility and transparency made possible by the right network management system and associated cultural shift will set learners up to be the digital citizens required for careers of the future.

To learn more about this topic, read the Linewize  white paper, ‘BYOD Responsibility in Schools’ which discusses the ‘All Care, No Responsibility’ approach in further detail. To download the white paper, click here.

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