Questions to Ask Before Jumping Into BYOD

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 -- Scott Sterling

Between the generational shift accepting technology in the classroom and ever-shrinking school and district budgets, Bring Your Own Device strategies are becoming increasingly popular as an option to make sure every student has the technology skills they need.

There are some important issues to consider before flipping the switch on BYOD, however. Here are just a few of those questions. Your trusted personnel, including teachers and legal counsel, will probably have many more.

How do we protect students from inappropriate material?

Filtering the Internet was complicated enough when you owned all the devices and could install any monitoring software you wanted. In BYOD, you no longer own the devices and can’t control what software and data is brought into your ecosystem. The best thing you can do is make sure your outside data is as filtered as possible. Also think about limiting peer-to-peer connections so students can’t share harmful material amongst themselves.

What do we do about kids who can’t afford smart devices?

Statistics are showing that, even in middle school, the majority of students own a smart phone or tablet. That prevalence is what makes BYOD possible, but it does not eliminate the possibility that some students will not have access to a device. Consider whether to purchase a limited number of devices to loan out, including the insurance requirements for those devices.

Can our infrastructure handle the load?

Before BYOD, you might have had somewhere around 100 wireless devices operating on your schoolwide Wi-Fi at any one time (if you had Wi-Fi in the first place), made up of laptop labs and iPad carts. You now might have more than a thousand devices online at any one time. Teachers and students will quickly become disillusioned with BYOD if they have connection issues while they’re trying to work.

What is “acceptable use”?

The cornerstone of a BYOD program is the Acceptable Use Policy. There are plenty of examples online or your legal counsel would be more than happy to provide one. In it, appropriate device usage needs to be spelled out as clearly as possible. If a teacher is not using devices on a certain day, they shouldn’t be out. Staff and students should not be recorded without consent. What are the consequences for breaking the policy? Those need to be considered as well.

How do we standardize the experience?

Some kids will come with phones, others with tablets or laptops. Many will bring iOS devices. A lot will use Android. Unless there is a way to standardize the learning experience for every child, teachers and technology staff will go insane trying to translate between all the devices. Make sure all the apps your school uses are available for both iOS and Android, or they are web-based to where you don’t have to worry about ecosystem. Perhaps you even define a standard app for word processing, presentations, and other common tasks so everyone is on the same page.