Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) agreements are being developed in many school districts across the province, and although they vary in content from district to district, there are many similarities. I am currently working on developing a draft BYOD agreement for my district and I wanted to take the time to share my learning.
What are BYOD agreements?
Agreements to support the use of student’s own devices in schools, to educate students and staff on the consenting use of devices, and explain the consequences of misuse of the networks which support the devices. There currently exists a wide range of different BYOD agreements; some brief and others extremely lengthy. It appears as though no one BYOD agreement is a best fit for all schools, so make decisions that best fit the unique needs of school or district.
Why Do We Need BYOD?
We are in a time when so much of the research, inquiry, and collaborative learning students complete in a day are enabled by the use of devices such as a smartphones, laptops, or tablets. Schools and school districts do not have large enough technology budgets to accommodate the seer volume of devices required, so a well thought out BOYD agreement would enable students to engage in 21st Century Learning, and at the same time alleviate some of the budgetary concerns facing many schools. In addition, it is important to acknowledge the efficiency benefits of BYOD agreements. Without BYOD, students may need to spend unnecessary time learning unfamiliar software programs pre-installed on school devices before they are able to complete the required learning task. In contrast, students who are permitted to bring their own devices to school are already familiar with them and can attend to the learning task right away.
“By allowing students to bring in their own devices for learning–rather than insisting that they learn both content and device in school–there is an important opportunity to connect with not just their personal lives, but their natural way of doing things.” Terry Heick (teachthought.com)
- Students are familiar their own devices and can concentrate more on creating, responding to, and reflecting on their learning, rather than learning how to use unfamiliar devices and software
- Helps to address the problem of schools trying to provide the necessary hardware for 21st Century learning with limited technology budgets by allowing students to bring their own devices to school
- Excellent learning tool to gain access to information, create content, respond and reflect on own learning
- Potential to widen the student learning networks from traditional classroom based networks to global networks
- BYOD does not address the equality differences between students and schools residing in low socioeconomic areas
- Theft and misuse of devices
- Time and money spent on educating users on device etiquette
- IT and network considerations
It is critically important to clearly communicate the rationale of BYOD with all partners in learning; students, teachers, parents, and guests. Including the BYOD in a general acceptable use policy (AUP) is one option, but a more targeted approach might be more successful. Listing the BYOD agreement on the school district website, emailing it out, or adding it to each students’ school registration process might be more beneficial.
Education and Training
Teachers, support staff, and students may need ongoing training with the decision making process of when and when not to use devices to enhance learning. It is also important to spend time educating students on device etiquette. Students may not be able to establish boundaries between work and play. Educators use a variety of expectations around device usage in their classrooms, some of them include:
- Silent mode unless being used
- Device stays in the backpack unless a member of staff asks you specifically to use it
- Students must not use devices to record, transmit, or post photographic images or video of a person or persons on campus during school hours or during school activities, unless otherwise allowed by a teacher – see more
- Students should only be using the devices to access files, information, images, or video that are directly related to the content of the lesson or assignment
Network Access Requirements
It is important to clearly communicate what type of devices are permitted under your BOYD agreement: smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops, and what the minimum hardware/software requirements are needed to gain access to the network. No teacher wants to spend their morning trying to get an outdated netbook connected to the school wireless.
District/School IT Responsibilities
In my school district when I, or when students in my class, have hardware/software issues we submit an IT helpdesk e-ticket, but what happens when the number of devices in my class increase with BYOD? Will the IT department be overwhelmed with additional requests? Will the IT department be expected to provide students with service level agreements? What will happen when student data is lost, and will more infrastructures be needed in school? I think students will need to charge their devices in the middle of the day, and schools/districts may need to consider charging stations at some point in the future.
Network security is an important feature of BYOD. We asked ourselves questions such as, how will you manage the network with respect to restricting access to certain sites at certain times? Would we continue to use Ministry filters from PLNet, or would consider using our own internal knowledge to program our own filters?
Another questions raised by middle/high teachers were related to bandwidth. In one particular school, the WiFi bandwidth was seriously impacted as soon as buses started to arrive at school. As a 1000+ students started to walk through the doors and their phones started to auto detected the network, the network slowed to a crawl.
In our discussion we decide to limit the number of devices a student can use to connect to the network, block certain sites during recess and lunch, and have several different wireless networks in school to accommodate different users such as staff, students, and guests. We are currently looking into Bradford Networks to assist us with providing the software to manage our networks. They will be able to register IP address, track infractions, block access to network and sites, and manage security threats.
Unanswered Questions of BYOD Agreements
Along the way to developing an agreement, we came across many questions we have yet to decide solutions for. For example, what happens if a device is lost or damaged on school grounds? Who covers the cost of fixing the problem or replacing the device? Schools simply cannot afford to replace the cost of damaged devices, so the sole responsibility needs to lie with students, but will this result in students, who have devices, deciding not to bring them to school in fear of damaging? Perhaps students will need to purchase a type of insurance to cover the costs of damaged devices in schools.
What happens to students who misuse the networks they are accessing?
Will sites be blocked during recess and lunch? If so which ones, and will this decision be made at the district or school level?
Will a BYOD agreement mean unexpected and additional work by IT departments?
Great BYOD Links: