BYOD in school not as easy as ABC

Schools have lots to think about before letting students BYOD

I have two daughters, one in 5th grade and one in 7th. Unfortunately, due to my poor self control (and occasionally my wife’s) they already know far too many four-letter words. The older one, though, recently learned another one, and she learned it at school: BYOD. When she first said it, I didn’t even wash her mouth out with soap.

In 2010 the U.S. Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan officially recommended that educators consider implementing BYOD policies:

Only with 24/7 access to the Internet via devices and technology-based software and resources can we achieve the kind of engagement, student-centered learning, and assessments that can improve learning in the ways this plan proposes. In addition, these devices may be owned by the student or family, owned by the school, or some combination of the two.

Starting this school year our school district has officially adopted a BYOD policy for grades 7 through 12, after a successful pilot program last year. Having written about BYOD in the workplace recently, this got me to thinking about BYOD in schools. What special issues or concerns are involved?

BYOD in an educational environment (or, as you’ll also see it referred to, BYOT - Bring Your Own Technology) has some of the same issues for schools and students as it does in the workplace for companies and workers. Things like who bears the cost of replacing stolen or damaged devices, network and data security, support questions, enforcement of usage policies etc.

But BYOD in schools also introduces some new questions, such as:

What about students who cannot afford a laptop, smartphone or tablet?

Who supports the devices should technical problems occurs in the classroom?

How do you ensure compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)?

How do you deal with cyber-bullying that may occur via these devices?

These are big issues to consider when implementing a BYOD policy in school. Given all these questions I decided to review how (or if) the new policy in our district addresses them. Here’s what I found:

* The school district is not responsible for replacing or repairing lost, stolen or damaged devices.

* The devices are not required, and when they are to be used to enhance learning, students without one will be provided a district-owned device when available.

* Teachers and school staff are not required to troubleshoot technical problems in the classroom.

* When using the device in school, students must use the school wireless Internet access (meaning they cannot use their own 3G or 4G service, if they have it) so that the school can implement filtering to meet CIPA requirements.

* Students bringing their own devices must sign an Acceptable Use Policy, which forbids things like cyberbullying and posting or transmitting photos or videos of other people on campus.

* Students bringing their own devices must also sign a Student User Agreement which, among other things, gives the school the right to inspect the students personal device if there’s reason to believe he or she violated the Acceptable Use Policy or other rules or restrictions.

All in all, I think our district’s policy is pretty well thought out and addresses a lot of the key issues. A few things caused me to raise my eyebrows (Are there enough district-owned devices for kids that have one? If a device malfunctions in class, is a kid then SOL? etc.) but, all in all, it makes sense.

My main concern, however, has to do with cost: I can easily envision a device being lost or damaged (see the time my 12 year-old accidentally doused her non-smart cell phone in hairspray, almost ruining it). Also, currently my daughter only has an old iPhone 3GS hand-me-down; she’s already pushing hard for a tablet for her upcoming birthday and this will give her arguments good leverage. My wallet thanks you, Mr. Superintendent.

Despite all this, I’m still in favor of BYOD for my kids, so I guess it’s time to go tablet shopping with the 12 year-old - during which she’s likely to learn a new four-letter word (or two).

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