Category Archives: BYOD

BYOD @ SRC – our experience this year

It’s certainly been an interesting year, rolling out a BYOD program in a school where an additional 200+ students will be joining us at the same time.

For an overview of the year, visit the College’s blog, which I started and then maintained as a way to collect information about developments as they occurred, and to which parents could be directed. This saved an enormous amount of repetitive email replies, and assisted parents – particularly those joining us in 2015 – in understanding the philosophy as well as the practical requirements of the program.

Our starting point was the lack of recurrent Federal Government funding for 1:1 devices, purchased in 2011 and 2012. As these devices approach end-of-(useful)-life, a replacement strategy was needed. We had three options, at the end of the day:

  1. retire all of the devices and return to labs
  2. purchase College-owned devices and continue to lend them to students
  3. make the provision of a suitable device the responsibility of the family.

Clearly, we’ve opted for the third of these: the first would see learning suffer, and the second would still be funded by parents. Our rationale for the third, in terms of the reasons in its favour (as opposed to against the other two options), included:

  1. recognising that students and families will already have devices they prefer to use and which are compatible with their home networks
  2. breaking the expectation that school-appropriate technology is only that which the College provides – with a wider range of hardware and software in play, students’ perceptions will shift in this regard.

Our rollout is staggered, so that 3 of our 6 year levels will be BYOD in 2015, and the other 3 in 2016. For details, click here.

Some factors that have simplified matters:

  • As we had already removed student network drives, we did not have to plan for their access via BYOD.
  • Much of our teaching materials for students is on browser-based sites such as Sharepoint and Schoolbox, helping us to be more device-agnostic
  • Our use of an e-commerce portal (optional) has streamlined major support issues for us by consolidating support through one log/ helpdesk
  • We have been able to use retired College devices as swaps when BYOD devices require extended offsite support
  • Our infrastructure – particularly wireless – has been tweaked and upgraded to cope fairly well with the number and variety of devices.

On the whole we would count the year a success. There were some teething problems with deliveries and collections, and a relative small number of devices have had chronic problems requiring multiple returns, but these have been managed. Mind you, those families affected by the repeated failure of their device have justifiably not considered the year a major success, but we have been able to issue replacement devices and monitor the fairly slow repairs process, providing feedback where helpful.

We are about to begin the second phase of the rollout, with the remaining 3 year levels requiring BYOD in 2016. We are updating the blog, hosting a device information session supported by most vendors (Apple and Microsoft will not accept our invitation to show off their wares, as opposed to HP, who are sending a representative), and opening up the e-commerce portal for orders in Term 4.

On the whole, our transition from College-owned devices to BYOD has been relatively painless.

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BYOD at SRC- discussion starter

First principle: all IT devices, infrastructure, software are ultimately chosen and deployed for the benefit of students’ education.

Second principle: all IT should encourage efficiency and innovation

Third principle: all IT should be cost-effective in longevity, including maintenance costs

BYOD for staff

Probably not. mixing personal and professional can raise interestingly thorny issues about privacy (for example, we have tools that can examine devices on the network).

However, we may give staff a choice to use one of two or three different devices, based on the role they have and the area in which they work. For example:

  • admin staff have desktops because they primarily work in the one location – but they could have the choice of a dockable laptop if they frequently work in other spaces (including home).
  • some teaching staff will never see themselves wandering around the room, passing the slate device from one student to another, handwriting, etc. – but others might choose this sort of device over a traditional laptop

There are pros and cons involved in each choice – staff must accept this. While some staff may be given access to multiple devices based on curriculum need,

BYOD for students

Ultimately this is where financial constraints are leading. Preparation essential now for 2015 when the first BYOD devices will be on campus. Three main issues to plan ahead for:

  1. connectivity
  2. maintenance/ support on campus (including short-term replacement devices) and after hours
  3. compatibility
  1. Connectivity is the core element of successful IT provision for the imaginable future. It is the highest priority for capital expenditure to extend and beef up the existing network, to build in redundancy, and to provide proactive maintenance. With the existing DLink wireless network due for upgrade or replacement to begin in 2014/2015, we have the opportunity to move to the latest technology.
  2. Support staff currently spend most time supporting college-owned devices. While this will remain a priority for staff, the vast majority of support for students will be reduced to connectivity issues and simple troubleshooting. We would not see our staff providing detailed technical support for the BYO devices. This means that the current resource allocation – where most is assigned to helpdesk – should be shifted to the network and systems administration roles.
  3. Rather than allow open season, the College will provide a list of devices that will meet the educational IT requirements of the curriculum. The range should be cognisant of price / capacity to pay. We then need to choose one of the following options:
    1. parents source and buy devices (on the list) totally independently.
    2. parents buy devices (on the list) from a central (external) provider/ consortium engaged by the College.

Again, there are pros and cons of each. The first has the advantage of parents being able to source their own supplier and arrange maintenance/ warranty to their liking. However, the benefits of a collective approach to purchasing and maintenance, such as the second option allows, are lost.