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BYOD to School?

Protecting your network has become an issue in the era of bring-your-own-technology.

This fall, more schools than ever are allowing students to use their own laptops, iPads, and cell phones in the classroom. Administrators hope these bring-your-own-technology initiatives, recommended in the U.S. Department of Education's 2010 National Education Technology Plan (NETP), will help cut costs and increase student engagement. But BYOT brings with it a host of security concerns, including data protection and compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

Georgia's Forsyth County Schools is a pioneer in BYOT. The district's Bring Your Own Technology Initiative began in spring 2010, with seven schools participating in a pilot program. Now, more than 20 of the district's schools allow students to bring their own devices. To avoid data security conflicts, the district maintains a student wireless network that is separate from the one used by teachers and administrators. Students must also agree to the district's acceptable use policy, and take responsibility for maintenance of their own computers and tablets.

Two other districts were cited in the NETP report for their innovative approach to security and personal devices. New Jersey's Middletown Public Schools encourages students to take the lead, inviting them to make videos that demonstrate acceptable and unacceptable use of personal phones and computers. And Florida's Escambia County Schools emphasizes CIPA compliance through its carefully worded acceptable use policy. The district has also established a "guest path" on its network to avoid students encountering sensitive data.

As BYOT becomes more popular, technology companies will bring more security solutions to market. In the end, though, BYOT security will be a mixture of technical solutions and establishing respect and common sense among its users. 7 Steps to BYOT
Here's what Georgia's Forsyth County Schools recommends when thinking about implementing BYOT. (Find more at www.forsyth.k12.ga.us/byot.)

1. Think carefully about your goals.
2. Survey students about what gadgets they own.
3. Get buy-in from parents and the community.
4. Determine rules for personal devices, and make sure everyone is clear on them.
5. Test connectivity by inviting students to bring in their devices.
6. Ask students about their experiences with their own gadgets.
7. Plan how you can use BYOT to develop fun, challenging activities for students.

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