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.