George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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.

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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

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

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

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.

Jason Yeoman's picture

Hi Vicki, My question about BYOD is what about students who can't afford their own device? Our board includes many schools that have students that can barely afford lunch never mind their down device. What happens to devices that get damaged or stolen?

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

Hi Jason. There are many ways that you have to work this out. Some schools have loaner carts and usually those devices don't go home. Additionally you should have a percentage of devices that you plan to be unavailable (not charged, left at home, broken) and plan to have those devices in reserve. I've heard numbers from 10-20% but I would check with current best practices.

With as many schools are doing BYOD, I would find one similar to your school and how they are handling it. Some schools purchase the devices for their students and don't let them take it home -- others do. Every circumstance is different, however one thing remains the same. To have an excellent 21st century education, students should have available the tools. They should be able to mashup, mix up, app smash, and use a variety of digital tools.

They should also have creativity and be able to use the tools that have been around for the last fifty years. This is not an either or but a this... and proposition.

I appreciate, Jason that you're struggling with this. It is a hard one and certainly there are those who have made mistakes in this area. The nice thing is that so many have done it now, you can find many examples online with a variety of viewpoints.

I would assemble a team and find an approach that works for you, your students, your teachers, and your budget situation. But the biggest thing is forward progress.

Thank you for reaching out - I hope this helps some. I interviewed an amazing man on my Every Classroom Matters show recently and they have ipad carts and the kids leave them at school and have great test results, so you can do it multiple ways and have excellent results.

LindseyLipsky's picture
Learning/Behavior Specialist, Special Educator


Wonderful post! thank you so much for writing.

This is a great stepping stone list for questions/discussions in schools that are thinking of going BYOD. I think this is a big mindshift in thinking---classrooms need to mirror the everyday realities of our students, and in this day and age, many students have their own personal devices. I applaud you for writing about your experiences in your school!

I wonder if people experienced these issues when introducing the idea of computers in the classroom? I really feel that BYOD, though not the end all be all in edTech, is a wonderful augmentation and engagement tool in the classroom. If implemented correctly, and w/ proper behavior interventions can be an extremely effective tool.

Just one question: Have you had any issues with device inequity among students, and if so, how has your school dealt w/ it?

CarolynNicole's picture

I have a BYOD classroom and I find what is most important is the network/wifi. I can find apps like Evernote, Adobe, Pocket, etc which work across platforms but I can't accomplish anything if the wifi isn't working.

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