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Planning for BYOD

BYOD is a cost-effective solution, but it takes planning to ensure you have the infrastructure to keep all those devices humming. 

A year ago, the BYOD wave swept over education as schools reversed previous policies and allowed students to bring in their own devices and use them in the classroom. While many districts agreed to the new rules as an experiment, or pilot, it was quickly discovered that this decision was the easy one to make. What comes after allowing devices into schools-from beefing up networks and wireless access to keeping your network safe from viruses to training teachers to handle the influx-is where the real work starts. This month-by-month planner will help you navigate the twisty road to BYOD, whether expanding a pilot or jumping in for the first time. It will highlight key concerns and make sure your planning and training remain on track for a smooth rollout.

This is the month to start assessment. Begin by having meetings to figure out your BYOD goals. Find
the answers to questions such as:
(1) How many students have devices?
(2) How will you handle students who don't have devices?
(3) How can you train teachers to embrace the new technology while still concentrating on teaching and learning?

Start to consider infrastructure, in particular content filtering. Decide on programs, and consider open software. "We use open DNS," says Matt Schnittker, IT manager for Castaic, California-based Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School. "We like it because it works in the cloud and you don't have to install any software or touch any device into the network."

Other network concerns: how students will connect, whether to scan all devices for viruses, and how to have both access and confidentiality.

Remember that BYOD doesn't eliminate the need for district-purchased tablets or computers. Besides providing for students who don't have their own devices, you will need to outfit certain computers for heavy-duty use, such as those used for video editing and engineering programs.

How much control do you want over student devices? If you want students to connect as more than guests, investigate mobile device management (MDM), and compare capabilities in areas such as security and network support.

Take wireless bids. For BYOD, strong Wi-Fi is a must and dead areas may need a boost. Plan for more than one device per student.
This is a good time to consider tech solutions that enable student devices to integrate with an eBoard or a TV display at the front of the classroom. This way, teachers can move around and students can interact with content on-screen, elevating levels of engagement and participation.

It's time to start coming up with numbers for your budget. You need to decide on Wi-Fi upgrades and MDM software. Be sure to have a backup financial number if the budget just isn't there when you go to the powers that be.

Start to involve parents to assess concerns and gain support. Schnittker suggests going further than just having them in for a meeting and instead making them part of the new technology team. "Schools many times have parents whose careers are in technology," he says. "To have them volunteer to help students is a huge advantage, and they might even teach us something!" For parents who are less tech savvy, educate them on how devices in an educational setting differ from those at home. "Parents buy devices to keep kids entertained ... and they see that as isolating. They don't know that when [kids] bring the devices to school they are collaborating, that when they find an app they want to share it with a buddy or a teacher," says Tim Clark, coordinator of instructional technology at Georgia's Forsyth County Schools.

Now's the time to have meetings on how much freedom you'll allow students to have with their devices. Brainstorm two kinds of rules: accepted use and responsible use. Start with questions like: What time limits should we have on device use? Should they be allowed only in certain areas of the school? What's our tolerance for social media? And remember to have different rules for high schoolers and primary students. A one-size-fits-all policy will unnecessarily restrict older students or allow too much freedom to younger students.

Acquire approvals and sign-offs from district leaders, the legal team, and IT. Think well in advance about what these requirements are and how long they will take-and build in even more time. There aren't many things worse than having to stop the momentum because of red tape.

Make final purchase decisions and put in orders for equipment, wireless connectivity, and software.

If you want to start the next school year at full launch, this is the time to educate students on the policies you'll be putting in place. They need to be prepared for a changing campus and what their involvement will be.

Cyberbullying should be brought up as a separate issue. Because it is such a concern, you need to lay down the rules about exactly what constitutes cyberbullying and what the consequences are for engaging in it.

Also, make sure all BYOD-related equipment is coming in on time.

Coordinate faculty training on new equipment and programs. Allow a few weeks for training and break it down into multiple sessions to avoid overwhelming staff. Schnittker believes in allowing teacher opinions early on to possibly change the programs or protocols that are used-"I think pushing them too hard to love everything we put in front of them is a mistake." Also, consider what students may not know. Even though many have handheld devices, they often don't know how to use them in a school setting, Clark says. You likely won't be showing them a new world but will be adjusting their thinking. Show them what use is accepted during class and what isn't.
Provide a system for collecting feedback from teachers, students, and tech coordinators postlaunch. The IT process doesn't end at the BYOD premiere-there will always be areas you won't anticipate and on which you can improve. Create a space online for comments and even offer incentives for feedback. Con­sider your launch a beta, expecting your process two years down the line to be of a much higher caliber.

Schnittker recommends continuing to observe in the classroom to see problems as they happen and to get feedback that users can elaborate on by showing the problems in real time. 

How about some summer reading? Establish a student handbook after drafting an official booklet. List hours of use, which devices are acceptable and which aren't, and penalties for not staying within the rules. Staying on top of social media can be tricky, so be sure to revisit this policy annually and consult both students and parents.
Finally, take a deep breath. This isn't a small undertaking. Aim for perfection, but be prepared for glitches, including student discipline issues and even mild panic among staff. Set goals along the way so you can show parents, students, and teachers that the initiative is working.

For more information about BYOD, visit

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