One of the current ‘buzzwords’ in schools ICT is ‘BYOD’ or ‘bring your own device’. Basically, this is a shift to allow pupils and staff to come into your school with their own devices (be they laptops, phones, ipods etc…) and connect them to your network and use your resources.
I’ve seen many arguments against it, and indeed I have presented some myself. Issues such as liability should these devices be lost, damaged or stolen whilst in school, network security, accountability and cost to implement.
However, since moving into a school with a ‘guest’ wireless system in place, utilising cloud based email and a well designed VLE, it is pretty clear to me that this need not be an issue.
Network security need not be an issue at all - this can be controlled by segmenting the wireless away from your network using a managed wireless system and a router. So, any traffic they generate is limited to that subnet. Some managed wireless systems allow you to even go one step further and provide device isolation, so they can’t even affect each other on that vlan.
Access to network resources need not be complicated. A Moodle installation with a windows share module install means they can access their files and save things back, or you could implement a home access solution such as HomeAccess+.
Printing can be achieved simply through any number of ‘web print’ products, or print management software with that functionality built in.
Another issue that a friend and colleague highlighted was one of support - who supports the devices? Rather than focus on whether support is provided, this should be a question of what level of support is provided. There’s no way the system could work with a blanket ‘no support’ but there’s also no way that a school could provide detailed end user support for each device - the cost would simply be too high. Instead, a level of support should be determined and stuck to. We provide basic ‘get it turned on and connected’ support. If we can’t get that far, any device owner is advised to contact their own supplier etc…
So, the key issues no longer seem to be technological, but organisational and educational. How do you implement these devices in your school without it disrupting your lessons, or without disadvantaging those without access?
I’ve yet to see any form of ‘definitive’ answer to this, and there likely never will be one for a simple reason - every school is different, with a different culture and a different way of interacting with its students.
My advice would be that this should never be approached from a technological POV. It should be a management driven concept, with technology merely being a facilitator.
But then again, that advice goes with pretty much all ‘game changing’ ICT in schools.