Mobile devices are becoming increasingly ubiquitous for everyone—including students. So, it’s no surprise that bring your own device (BYOD) programs are also becoming much more widespread among schools and districts. These programs offer an excellent solution for schools to better leverage technology and online learning in the classroom without the often unrealistic financial commitment of a 1:1 mobile program, but they also come with a number of challenges. For teachers and administrators, there can be a Wild West feel of having handed over all control once students are allowed to have their own devices in the classroom. However, with thoughtful planning and a clear BYOD policy, these challenges can easily be overcome. We’ve compiled these nine tips to help you develop an effective policy to implement a successful BYOD program.
1. Get buy-in from teachers, students, and parents
Before moving forward with a BYOD implementation, it’s important to consult with all stakeholders who will be impacted by the program—which includes students, teachers, parents, and administrative and support staff. It’s essential to have an understanding of each party’s current use of technology, what they envision for a BYOD program, and what their concerns are. Having a clear understanding of these issues is key to determining the overreaching goals of your BYOD program and will ensure that it’s designed in a manner that best fits your school’s or districts’ 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 increasing ease of access to technology and information. 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, and from that, 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.
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 well as 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.
4. Ensure equity and device access
More and more students have a mobile device (or several), but for some students, access to those devices is simply out of reach. When developing your BYOD policy, these students must be kept in mind. Consider implementing a loaner-device program to ensure that 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 will work on a day-to-day basis and to facilitating effective classroom management of different devices. These 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 of managing this challenge is to determine which devices will and won’t be supported (see tip #2), but 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. 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. 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.
9. Incorporate digital citizenship
One of the most exciting aspects of a BYOD program is that it offers opportunities for students to learn real-world 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.