Managing 'Bring Your Own Device' (BYOD) in schools

Vicki Cole

Vicki Cole is an Innovate My School expert and writes regular articles on laptop security and charging solutions for charging mobile ICT en masse.

Vicki works at mobile ICT security, charging and storage expert LapSafe® Products, the company behind the UK’s first ever laptop trolley. LapSafe® Products has been a trusted brand within the education sector for more than a decade, providing superior solutions to track, manage, store and charge laptops, netbooks and tablets since 2000. LapSafe® Products pioneered the industry it now leads and manufactures the most comprehensive range of charging products on the market. Recent products include: the UnoCart™ sync and charge for iPads, the ClassBuddy™ quality low-cost laptop trolley and the RFID Diplomat™ laptop locker.

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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:

What happens if pupils forget their devices?

With BYOD, pupils bring their personal laptops and tablets to class before taking their devices back home with them at the end of the school day. Unfortunately, this opens up a possibility that pupils will leave their devices at home by accident.

If you do not want pupils to have to share a laptop or tablet, you will need to have a backup plan in place to account for forgotten devices. You could keep a bank of school owned laptops in a central location, perhaps in a laptop trolley, to ensure that pupils can still access a computer even if they do not have their personal laptops with them.

What about those pupils that can’t afford their own technology?

Although some parents can afford to equip their children’s school bags with cameras, phones, laptops and iPads, others simply cannot. With this in mind, you may need to keep a stock of school ICT ready for pupils who are not equipped with a particular piece of technology.

You could set up a ‘tuck shop’ run by staff to loan out equipment, or you may decide to invest in a self-service laptop locker to manage loans automatically. Students could use their smartcards to access these lockers, enabling you to record which pupil removes a device, determine how long they have taken it for and whether they return it to the cabinet or not.

What about looking after pupil’s personal devices?

Even if your school uses ICT across a range of subjects, it is inevitable that there will be times when pupils do not need to use their laptops or tablets in class. You will need to have a system in place to secure pupils devices when they are not using them, for example when they are in the playground, and to make sure that this equipment is fully charged for when pupils need to use it.

When pupils bring their personal devices to schools, it is vital that you give adequate thought to security issues, especially with regards to child data protection. Simply asking pupils to leave their valuable laptops or tablets in the cloakroom is unlikely to please security conscious parents, or pupils that want to keep their expensive personal equipment safe. Again, offering students the chance to secure and charge their devices in charging lockers may be the answer.

The BYOD debate is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Whether you are pro pupil owned IT, or think BYOD in schools is just another technology fad, one thing is for certain; managing a BYOD scheme in schools requires a carefully created and well executed plan.

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