How to make BYOD work for your schools

By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor
October 29th, 2012

One of the largest challenges in a BYOD initiative is meeting the needs of students who don’t own a mobile device, or who don’t have internet access at home.

“Bring your own device” (BYOD) initiatives are relatively new in education, cropping up in the last few years as schools—under tight budget constraints—seek ways to leverage student-owned devices for learning.

Supporters of the BYOD movement say students are instantly more attentive and better behaved when they are encouraged to use their own mobile devices in the classroom, but educators face a number of challenges in making BYOD work in their schools.

For instance, what if some students don’t bring a smart phone, laptop, or tablet computer of their own? How can educators make sure that students use their mobile devices only for educational purposes, or that these devices won’t compromise the district’s network security? How can school leaders address the concerns of parents?

We’ve talked with ed-tech leaders in a number of districts with BYOD initiatives, and here’s how they’re meeting these challenges in their schools.

A ‘coalition of the willing’

Jill Hobson, instructional technology director for the Forsyth County Schools in Georgia, said her district’s BYOD initiative is a “coalition of the willing.”

Now in its fourth year, the initiative began with seven schools and 40 teachers who realized they didn’t have all the answers to questions that a BYOD initiative would raise, Hobson said.

See also:

Wireless experts: Time to move beyond the device

With mobile device management, schools can rest easier

“We would share ideas, but we expected that we would be learning from the teachers as they were going to be trying things in the classroom,” she said. “It was messy, and we were prepared for that.”

In the initiative’s second year, the district’s technology team told school principals that the infrastructure to support BYOD existed, but that district leaders did not mandate participation. Still, last year 100 percent of the district’s schools participated.

“I’m under no illusion—that doesn’t mean every classroom was doing it,” Hobson said. “We’re not mandating it. But certainly, the capacity is there to do it.”