Bringing Your Own Device To School: How To Stay Top Of The Class

BYOD At School

With Government cuts to technology funding for schools over the past few years making it increasingly difficult to raise the standards of IT teaching, many schools in the UK are looking into the possible benefits of introducing bring your own device (BYOD) policies.

With the greater push nowadays towards one-to-one access, schools need even bigger capital budgets and the financial means of sustaining the cost of technology for teaching and learning. Allowing students to bring their own internet-connected devices into the classroom frees up a lot of expenditure in educational costs.

BYOD provides teachers with a greater range of teaching resources – from e-textbooks to educational apps. It also promotes greater participation in the classroom. When new technologies are incorporated into everyday learning, students quickly become more interested in the material, and therefore more likely to succeed.

However, as BYOD has grown in popularity, it has also brought some challenges. One of the biggest concerns with allowing pupils to bring their own device into the classroom is the lack of control teachers have when it comes to inappropriate text, images or video being accessed. Furthermore, although certain sites and applications can be blocked, tech-savvy students are likely to find ways around these restrictions.

The ability to stop pupils gaming is another important consideration. Games are so easy to access and close down that it would be easy for a pupil to play a game, see the teacher and close it down before getting caught.

Teachers also need appropriate training if they are to get the most out of BYOD. That said, they don’t want to spend half their lesson trouble-shooting tech problems, instead of teaching their subject.

What is more, some students live in poor or lower income families that cannot afford such devices. While many families are prepared for the general school fee, they’re not so prepared for this new philosophy of BYOD.

The security risks BYOD brings is another factor as expensive personal devices increase the possibility of theft.

Putting a clear policy in place

These and other pitfalls highlight the importance of a careful and thorough BYOD policy. During the planning stage, it is crucial for schools to have conversations about BYOD with governors, parents, teachers and pupils. That way, the advantages and disadvantages of a BYOD policy can be discussed, and ideas and suggestions can be obtained.

It is also essential for schools to decide how these devices will be funded. Will the onus be solely on the parents to pay for their child’s iPad, or will it be partly-funded by the school? Will BYOD be compulsory? If not, schools may have to consider provision for pupils where parents have opted out.

With the enormous number of devices available in the market place, it is also imperative that schools clearly define which type of devices will be allowed on the network. Defining the minimum specifications for pupil devices will also mean that the devices should have similar capabilities so pupils can access content in the same or at least very similar ways.

An acceptable use policy (AUP) is another key consideration. This should clearly outline what is and isn’t acceptable, as well as the consequences for not adhering to policy.

When it comes to implementation, it is important that only authorised devices are allowed on the school network. A robust and efficient infrastructure is another must, if the increase in the number of devices and traffic is to be supported. Schools may also need to consider increasing their internet bandwidth as more devices are accessing the web at the same time.

Pupils need to be reminded to take special precautions when in public areas and to keep devices such as tablets and smartphones safely stored when not in use. In order to ensure that lessons are not interrupted and teachers are not relied upon to fix technical problems, a member of staff or team who can supply technical support is crucial.

Getting the most out of BYOD

There’s no question that technology is playing a huge role in pupils’ education and will continue to do so long into the future. Budget cuts have also made BYOD increasingly commonplace.

It is possible for schools to adapt to this trend, it is crucial though that they have a clear policy in place from the outset in order to explain the do’s and don’ts of BYOD to pupils. That way, pupils know what is and isn’t acceptable right from the get-go and BYOD can help rather than hinder their education.

Jeff Orr

Jeff Orr is the founder and CEO of Stack Data Solutions and Chairman of the Stack Group of companies, one of the leading IT and Cloud service providers in the North West. Jeff studied at Liverpool University obtaining a B.Eng and an MBA. He is a Chartered Engineer and a member of the Institute of Measurement and Control. Jeff consults widely on data communication analysis and traffic shaping for large enterprise organisations numbering Premier League football clubs and rail companies among his regular clients. He speaks at international events on subjects as diverse as spam mitigation and BYOD. He is married with two sons and a daughter.