BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) can Work Well When Approached Properly.
Since I wrote the controversial post, “5 Reasons Why BYOD is a Bad Idea” over the summer, and received such strong push back on the concerns I noted, I’ve been looking forward to learning about sharing ways in which schools have addressed some of these potential issues. This week, guest writer Caroline Ross introduces us to several schools that have tackled these challenges.
In an effort to bring 21st century technology into the classroom despite continuous budget cuts, some school administrators have adopted district-wide “Bring your Own Device” (BYOD) initiatives and programs. Like the name suggests, BYOD programs allow students to bring their own tablets, smartphones, and laptops from home into the classroom for educational use.
It seems like a lucrative idea, especially for schools that can’t afford to supply each student with a shiny new tablet or e-reader, but that doesn’t mean the concept hasn’t met its fair share of criticism . Some experts have been quick to call out BYOD flaws and even speculate that BYOD programs aren’t a long-term solution. Whether that’s the case is yet to be determined, but there have been some successful BYOD implementations. Below are some school districts that have taken the time to prepare for the challenges that BYOD programs can bring and address them proactively.
Oak Hills Local School District
Similar to Allen Independent School District in Texas, Oak Hills Local School District  in Ohio developed this robust “BYOD framework ” and set up a strict acceptable use policy before it launched its BYOD initiative in 2010. The policy states very clearly that violators will get their device privileges revoked. In addition, the district has made sure to document the initiative’s progress on its blog. To date, the BYOD initiative and its digital desktop system (which can be accessed by any device) has saved the district $1.27 million.
Oak Hill’s BYOD Framework consists of 10 structured implementation and support steps that they have documented and shared on the web, for other schools to leverage:
- Step 1: Community Engagement : For Oak Hills, this consisted of a series of meetings with all constituents: parents, teachers and administrative staff, students, community business leaders, and board members. Key points covered included the creation and nurturing of a culture, “where technology-embedded instruction is an integral part of the everyday learning in ALL classrooms”, and exploring appropriate use of technology in and out of the classroom.
- Step 2: Develop a Team:  A core team of eLearning and technology staff meets and works with administrators, consultants, parents, “eKids”, and others on a regular basis to explore new technologies, plan professional development, and address overall planning and troubleshooting. The “eKids” program is a wonderful opportunity for students and a smart move on the part of the schools – “eKids are students in the district who participate an eLearning educational track. Their responsibilities include learning new technologies (often at a deep level), assisting staff with technology needs, and developing additional eLearning opportunities.”
- Step 3: Developing the Physical Infrastructure : A properly planned and designed wireless and security infrastructure is vital to a successful BYOD program.
- Step 4: Developing the Tools (Software Infrastructure) (KEY!) : This is one of the most important things to address because of the challenge of providing software tools that can be utilized by all students on any device. This required defining a standard set of private and public cloud apps that are device-agnostic.
- Step 5: Developing a Portal: “Once the software tools are determine (both in the public and private clouds), it is important to create a central location that collects those resources. The idea is to have a “one stop shop” place for students, staff, and parents.”
- Step 6: Developing an Acceptable Use Policy:  Another essential element in a successful BYOD initiative. Oak Hills’ Policy, and some related tips for developing and delivering an Acceptable Use Policy, are shared on this web page .
- Step 7: Building your Curriculum:  Click through to the link to explore the use of a “Companion Site for all Courses” and other suggestions regarding this critical element of the program.
- Step 8: Considering Devices:  The goal is to support as many devices as possible, but basic technical requirements must be met. These and other considerations are discussed on this page.
- Step 9: Monitoring Usage:  Monitoring usage of network resources, course and content pages, apps, etc., can provide excellent feedback on the levels of resource usage, bottlenecks that may need to be addressed, and much more.
- Q & A : A small set of Questions and Answers close out these resources. Some schools might like to evolve this into a fuller ‘FAQ’ listing.
This is a powerful framework offering a great overview and important insights into how to be prepared to make BYOD work in your school, and administrators everywhere can be thankful for the effort Oak Hills has taken to share their experiences and lessons learned!
Allen Independent School District
Last year Allen Independent School District in Texas  began allowing its high school students and staff to bring their own devices to school. Although distractions and access to improper material was a huge concern, administrators decided to address the problem by requiring students to sign an Acceptable Use Policy for Technology waiver and requiring students to connect through the school’s wireless network so that browsing can be monitored. In addition, students can only use their devices during approved times set by teachers and students are not allowed to use class time to troubleshoot tech problems. This thorough “BYOD Students, Teachers, and Parent Guide ” explains many aspects of their policy and approach.
Katy Independent School District
In 2009, Texas’ Katy Independent School District  began experimenting with smartphones in the classroom. In this article , we learn how KISD passed out 125 HTC smartphones to fifth graders at a single school that year, but not before making a few changes—calling and texting features were shut off and smartphones were officially referred to as “mobile learning devices.” After seeing an increase in engagement, the district decided to expand its experiment and offer a BYOD program to all grade levels. Because the district understands that not all families can afford devices however, students are encouraged to work in teams so that devices can be shared.
These are just three of the many school districts across that US that have initiated BYOD programs and are figuring out how to iron out the kinks, and how to avoid many of them from the onset. While there are certainly some key issues that can arise, clearly informed planning and proactive measures can curtail the problems and set districts up for successful programs.
Caroline Ross is a regular contributor to AccreditedOnlineUniversities.com , a website that specializes in alternative learning and technology.
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Why Every Student Should Be In a 1:1 Classroom 
School Administrators as Leaders of iPad Implementation Programs 
ThinkWave – Bringing Key Elements of Administrative and Instructional Technologies Together to Facilitate Teaching