As ushering classrooms into the digital age becomes increasingly expensive during a time of severe cuts to public services, Steve Hammond, President of Fiberlink International, explores the security challenges that the education sector needs to overcome in order to turn BYOD (bring your own device) from a pipe dream into a reality.
Over the past two decades, successive governments have used various political platforms to promote the importance of technology in schools. This has culminated in schemes such as the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme, only for the current coalition government to scrap it in a bid to cut costs in this age of austerity.
There has been a lot of discussion in the media recently about Bring Your Own Device (BOYD) or Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). A concept that started out in the business world, it now also refers to students who use their own electronic devices to support their learning whilst at school, from home, or at other remote locations. Connectivity of the school's network with personal devices is therefore an area that requires careful attention.
It is of paramount importance that students who use their own devices are able to do so without putting their school’s network or themselves at risk. The school must invest in a robust, accessible and cost effective security system that encompasses the school’s and student’s needs. This may be a controlled or control-less option - the former being more favourable due to the rise of technology in education and the increase in usage of wireless devices and cloud-hosted systems.
Looking around the stands at the BETT Show in January, it was clear to see that some of the bigger companies - like Apple and Google - are changing the way in which education, in and out of the classroom, is being delivered.
The gradual dissolution of Local Authority support and guidance brings new challenges for schools. With IT budgets constantly shrinking, schools have to figure out new ways to manage their IT network more effectively, for less money, and to keep up with the evolution of new technology in the classroom. There has been a huge increase in the sales of iPads, iPhones, Blackberrys, Androids and other hand-held devices. Many of these devices are being used in schools and educational establishments to support teaching and learning, and administration. These devices are multi-functional, up-to-date, user-friendly and portable. Working on the move is much easier and accessible than on a laptop. Wireless appliances can be utilised across a range of academic subjects and in some schools students are now able to bring their own devices. This means that they are no longer dependent on access to a school-based machine; therefore, improving access to key applications and revision at home. If the appropriate server is in place, wireless appliances enable staff and pupils to access the internet, e-mail and the school’s intranet regardless of location within the school's grounds.
Whether to allow pupils to bring their own technology into the classroom is a subject that divides opinion. Will BYOD, short for bring your own device, help schools to save money by reducing spending on school owned ICT? Or, is permitting pupils to use their own laptops or tablets in lessons a security nightmare waiting to happen?
Although many are yet to be convinced of the benefits of using student owned IT in the classroom, one thing is for certain; managing a BYOD scheme in schools requires careful planning. With this in mind, here are some things to think about when managing BYOD in your school: