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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

We've been in BYOD mode for half a year, and I've already shared some best practices for the classroom with you. Putting on my IT hat, here are some of the things I've learned that you should consider as you work through your own BYOD plans and implementation.

1. What Platform Works Best with Your Network Configuration?

If you know what the majority of your students and faculty are using, it is helpful to disclose what your BYOD network is optimized for. Apple Devices? Windows? Chrome/Google Apps? Clearly communicate this with parents so that they can make an educated decision.

Why? You may have noticed that most manufacturers have their natural focus just because of who they are. Microsoft Apps will be more robust on Windows and Surface, Apple on iOS and Mac, Google on Chromebooks. But interoperability is essential. For example, if you pick OneNote for your school-wide notebook service, you'll want to say that you're optimized for Microsoft hardware. Or if you select Evernote, you might want to let students know that the Evernote Touch App is not as robust on Surface RT devices. (Read my previous post for more on apps.)

2. Is Your SIS Mobile-Ready and Multiplatform?

Your student information system (SIS) should have apps on iOS and Droid devices, plus Windows RT access. Test and make it happen so that all students can have access to their grades.

3. Is Your LMS Mobile-Ready and Multiplatform?

By this point, a learning management system (LMS) is almost essential for any successful BYOD environment. While teachers can make QR codes to share links, putting them into an online classroom is easier. Whether it's there for checking homework or turning in assignments, an LMS will make your school run better -- if you make sure that it works on all platforms.

4. Can Students Print Wirelessly from Multiple Platforms?

Students should be able to print wirelessly from phones, tablets or any device, but they'll need some training. You may have to set up a private network just for students (separate from guests), giving them access to student printers. You may want to hide admin or teacher printers from student access to avoid confusion. Consider renaming printers based on location, as that's the only thing that shows on mobile devices.

If you think too much printing will become a problem, you may want to consider print management software that establishes limits or counts pages. Also, organize the trays by shared printers for later picking, as students can be anywhere when they print.

5. Are Classroom Projectors Ready for Wireless Audio and Video Sharing from Mobile Devices?

I love Apple TV because Airplay is so easy. If students find something, they can "throw it" to the board with full video and sound. There are other ways you can share as well. I have a wireless projector so that PCs and Surface can easily send their content to the projector (although it isn't as easy as Airplay and requires installing a piece of software.) Consistency between classrooms would be helpful. This is one big reason for stating what you "optimize" your network to do, because making it easy for every device to share with the board and the class can be challenging.

6. Can You Sync Files Between Devices and Teachers' Computers?

You could group this decision with whatever you decide about note taking, because certainly Evernote and OneNote have some syncing features. However, keep in mind that Skydrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, and the sharing that these tools enable will allow you to go as paperless as possible. Your LMS can help with much of this, but there is a constant flow of multimedia in schools where the students create. The pipeline for sharing this multimedia and other creations should be set up for everyone to make it simple. I require Dropbox to be installed on all devices that will be used in my classroom and linked with the student account so that we can get our work done, but other apps and server configurations can also manage this sharing pipeline.

A Great Advantage of BYOD: Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting is higher-order thinking. When teachers and schools want everything to work perfectly all of the time, troubleshooting is part of life. The expectation is that the IT staff will take care of it all, but what they should really do is help people find resources. Be very clear that everyone is a troubleshooter in a BYOD environment. A skilled user of a unique device can mentor others with that device.

BYOD has been a great addition to what we're doing at my school. Yes, we've got a ways to go, but we're on the path to a real-world personalized learning environment. What questions or suggestions do you have about the BYOD program at your school? Please share in the comments section below.

Comments (9)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Alister Loxton's picture
Alister Loxton
Technology Coordinator

I think, one more thing schools need to check: What will be the disaster recovery plan or the security plan for the devices?. We are using some cloud computing software like Deep Freeze cloud to secure the system as well as data. As number of different devices are access the school network, it is imporant to have security software with strong disaster recovery plan.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger 2014

That is a tough one Alister as BYOD is "Bring Your Own Device" - there are issues with students taking another device, I would think. But in our case, students are responsible for their own devices so Deep Freeze wouldn't be appropriate for the student devices if they own them. I'm guessing maybe that you're a 1:1 device system where the school owns it?

Rebecca's picture
Communications Specialist

It's clear that the BYOD movement is revolutionizing education and that mobile devices and mobile apps definitely work as educational tools when used correctly. My simple suggestion is for teachers and schools to just keep moving forward with technology and its implementation as much as possible so they don't get left behind. I recently posted an article about how classroom tech has evolved over the years: http://vingapp.com/ving-edtech-blog/classroom-technology-still-evolving-...

Kitty's picture
IT Consultant

Just to chime in on your question, it's difficult to talk about BYOD without other forces such as Cloud, Mobile, Data and Social which are somewhat inter-related to your concern of security and disaster recovery. I believe to accurately answer your question, your security strategy team will need to define on the data recovery strategy around the five forces and how those forces get executed in your school.

PrincipalCross's picture
Principal at Legacy Academy iSchool

I am less optimistic about BYOD. I see some specific issues that are very difficult to overcome. Is it even possible to move a technology program to the redefinition phase while dealing with the distractions of outside purchased software, incompatibilities, broken devices and privacy issues? I am not totally sold on this idea. I think it works for higher ed, and maybe even on a high school level, but in elementary I don't know that it is a strong solution.

With that said, thank you for the article it is great food for thought.


T. Brown's picture
T. Brown
Middle School Librarian

There is so much to BYOD. It can be very intimidating at first. I think it is very important for the school to have rules and guidelines decided and in place before implementation.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger 2014

Thanks for sharing, Kitty. It it is a tough one since in BYOD the students own the devices and you're trying to influence their behavior. I think one thing that most BYOD schools do is have extra devices for those who forget, damage, or have a problem with their devices. That is another area deserving conversation.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger 2014

Very good point, T Brown. You can certainly learn best practices from others, but of course, things change so rapidly that you do need to consider updating policies quite frequently.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger 2014

Principal Cross - I think many aren't sold on it - eXCEPT when you look at people like Eric Sheninger at New Milford High School and the many others who are making it work - saving money - and improving education. AT this point, BYOD is reaching the maturity that we're past conceptualization into actual implementation and beyond - so I'd challenge you to find schools doing it (there are many) and see what it looks like in practice.

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