The 6 hidden tricks for Bring-Your-Own-Device success

1. Build an online community first. Before deciding on devices and software, Clark says it’s crucial for districts to have a system that can monitor bandwidth use, as well as provide a portal for students, teachers and parents, which Forsyth manages through their online Learning Management System (LMS) provided by It’s Learning.

“By providing an online community, which has been in place since 2000, and for K-12 since 2007, our students were already using our Wi-Fi network to log in to our LMS portal,” explained Clark.

Forsyth’s network runs like a Starbucks, he said, with students able to simply login without authenticating. However, the open network is filtered through the district’s filtering system.

“By monitoring our LMS visits per week, we discovered that most students were using our portal between 4 PM and 10 PM,” he described. “We also found that the peak amount of visits at-home were 750K at 8 PM compared to the at-school peak at 300K at 3 PM. Moving to BYOD would help more students access the portal during school hours and make the most out of our resources. We were also able to estimate bandwidth usage.”

2. The Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) should give students responsibility. Almost at once, Clark and the teachers at Forsyth noticed that students didn’t abuse the policies set forth in BYOD AUP.

“We let every school have a customizable AUP, but most students respected being able to have their device at school. Instead of the AUP as a list of ’46 ways not to use your device,’ it became ‘5 ways to use your device at school,” he explained.

An example of Forsyth’s AUP.

According to Clark, the shift in attitude toward the device AUP also spurred teachers to see digital citizenship as an ongoing learning process, rather than a one-off unit.

“Teachers realized that students want to learn how to use their devices to their full potential in school, and this includes learning how to be responsible. Their good behavior let teachers breathe a bit and realize digital citizenship is less lecture and more just a part of the process of learning to use your device in school.”

3. Equity can happen with the community’s help. Five of Forsyth’s schools are Title 1 schools, with 20 percent of students with free-and-reduced lunch. Outside of financial hardships, many parents simply opt-out of buying their children devices or allowing them to bring those personal devices to school.

“We provide devices to students who don’t have them, but we found that that’s really less of an issue compared to connectivity at home, since some families did not have internet access at home,” said Clark.

With connectivity equity in mind, Forsyth partnered with local businesses in the community to offer free Wi-Fi to students and parents. Any business that became a partner of Forsyth’s in this way would then place a decal on their storefront announcing this partnership.

“What’s interesting is that you’d expect most of these businesses to be restaurants, but many were places like dental offices,” he noted. “Forsyth also created a directory of these businesses so students and parents could know where to go.”

The district also purchased Kajeet’s SmartSpot Mi-Fi devices, which allow one person in the family to have a portable Wi-Fi connection on their device that connects up to five other people. Learn more about SmartSpot here.

(Next page: Mindset, physical space, and assessments)

Meris Stansbury

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