Let’s face it—we’re all addicted to our devices, and students are no exception. So, it’s no surprise that bring your own device (BYOD) programs are also becoming ever-more popular among schools and districts. These programs offer an excellent solution for schools to better leverage technology and online learning in the classroom without the financial commitment of a 1:1 mobile program. Besides, students are going to have their devices with them anyway; why not work with that reality instead of fight it?
Of course, BYOD initiatives do come with some challenges. For teachers and administrators, the seemingly untethered freedom once students have been given permission to have their own devices in the classroom can feel a little overwhelming. Are they actually going to use them for learning, or spend every moment chatting with friends on social media and playing games? The key is to start with some thoughtful planning and craft a clear BYOD policy. Here are nine tips to help you get started!
1. Get buy-in from teachers, students, and parents
What plan doesn’t go more smoothly when everyone involved is truly on board? So, the first step for any BYOD initiative should be to consult with everyone who will be impacted—including students, teachers, parents, and administrative and support staff. Schedule a couple of open-forum meetings to solicit feedback, or set up meetings with smaller groups of representatives. No matter how you go about it, it’s essential to gain an understanding of each party’s current use of technology, what they envision for a BYOD program, and what their concerns are. A clear understanding of these issues will help you plan for and overcome any challenges while ensuring your BYOD program’s overreaching goals align to what best fits your school’s or district’s needs. It can also be beneficial to assemble a steering committee of administrators, teachers, students, and parents to act as program advocates and unofficial technology assistants and to provide ongoing feedback to program leaders.
2. Determine which devices will be supported
One of the primary goals behind BYOD is making technology and information more easily accessible for students. With that in mind, the most effective BYOD programs will try to be as device inclusive as possible. However, the simple fact is that not all devices can do all things. Think about what you want devices to be used for, the technology and solutions you’re currently using, and the resources you have available to support these devices. From there, create a list of acceptable devices for students to use. It’s also important to consult with your IT department and technology specialists to determine if your school or district will provide direct troubleshooting and technical support for student-owned devices. Make sure it’s clearly spelled out in your BYOD policy whether students are responsible for their own device support or not.
3. Address network and security concerns
Implementing a BYOD program inevitably means a significant uptick of activity on your network, as well as some inherent security risks. Make sure that your network has the bandwidth to support one or more devices being used per student and staff person. Think about its ability to handle times of heavy traffic, such as at the start of class periods when many students are logging in simultaneously, as during simultaneous use of multimedia applications. Consider building a separate network for BYOD access to ensure security of your school’s stored data and hardware, and make sure that appropriate antivirus applications and firewalls are required on student-owned devices.
4. Ensure equity and device access
A majority of students have a mobile device (or several), but for some students, access to these devices simply remains out of reach. These students must be kept in mind as you’re developing your BYOD policy. Consider implementing a loaner-device program to ensure these students have equal access to the technology they need to be successful in the classroom. If students will be allowed to take these devices home, think about the availability of Internet access. There are several programs (such as Internet Essentials from Comcast and EveryoneOn) which work to provide free or low-cost Internet access to eligible students and their families.
5. Draft an Acceptable Use Policy
An Acceptable Use Policy is fundamental to clearly communicating guidelines for how your BYOD program will work on a day-to-day basis and to facilitating effective classroom management of different devices. These policies kinds of policies set out when and where it is appropriate for devices to be used, what kind of behavior is and is not acceptable when using devices, and what the consequences of inappropriate use will be. Make sure that all students and staff have the chance to review this policy and sign off on it at the beginning of each year.
6. Look for platform-independent solutions
In a BYOD model, it’s a guarantee that students will bring in a wide variety of devices. One strategy for managing this challenge is to determine which devices will and won’t be supported (see tip #2). However, it’s equally important to make sure that the solutions your school or district uses are compatible with as many platforms as possible. Typically, web-based applications will work across all platforms, but some are better optimized for mobile devices than others. Consider cloud-based file storage options as well for easy sharing and collaboration between students and teachers working on diverse devices.
7. Provide ongoing professional development
As with any other schoolwide or districtwide initiative, training and support is vital to success. Make sure that your teachers and staff are given the time they need to learn about and become familiar with the BYOD model. Offer technology training as well as strategies for effective classroom management when students are working on a variety of devices. Often, it’s helpful to leverage the support of teachers within your school or district who are particularly enthusiastic about or comfortable with the BYOD model. Give teachers time to collaborate, problem solve, and share successes with one another on a regular basis in addition to more formal PD sessions. Even short, informal workshops can make a huge difference in successful implementation.
8. Develop a digital portal
A centralized portal for all online and district-licensed software programs is a great tool to streamline the way that your BYOD program works. This kind of one-stop shop for logins will help students and staff use the technology efficiently and effectively, and it can serve as a communication hub for district, school, and technology-specific announcements. While a portal like this can be very simple, it can also include more advanced features like customized views for each user depending on what programs are used. Depending on your needs and IT resources, you can consider either building this type of portal yourself, or leveraging an integration platform like Clever.
9. Incorporate digital citizenship
One of the most exciting aspects of a BYOD program is that it offers opportunities for students to learn applicable, transferable skills about technology use and digital citizenship. Make sure that this learning is intentionally incorporated into your classrooms—not only will it provide students with invaluable knowledge for postsecondary and career success, but it will also ensure a much smoother BYOD implementation.
Searching for more strategies to incorporate technology in the classroom? Check out these 21 Tips, Tricks, and Ideas Every 21st Century Teacher Should Try or take a look at Edmentum’s e-book on Mobile in the Classroom!