Technology has fundamentally changed the face of education as it falls in line with the societal trend towards digitisation. In the classroom, new platforms have been adopted and apps and devices introduced in order to provide the highest level of education for a generation of students native to technology.
However, technology is costly and we are currently witnessing a period where budgets for schools, colleges and universities are being slashed, not raised. In a perfect world, there would be a device for each and every student. But realistically this is not yet possible. Introducing a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) structure could be the answer to this problem.
There are already numerous examples of take-away technology in education. The recent launch of the Micro:bit from the BBC is designed for students to immerse themselves in coding - both in and out of school. As well as this, coursework assignments are more commonly set via an online portal, and students will often remove devices from the classroom to complete their tasks. .
But what happens when these devices leave the classroom and how can schools ensure that they have a robust, holistic storage policy in place to help them manage these devices?
Communication and education
Firstly, organisations have to acknowledge that allowing students to use personal devices for school work will involve a learning curve. Therefore, schools and colleges should lay out expectations immediately. That way, all stakeholders, from staff and students through to families understand how best to use the devices in a safe manner.
While the digital classroom has already made leaps and bounds, it is still a big step. Therefore, communication at an early stage is vital and if everyone involved feels comfortable in the aims, practices and eventual outcomes, then implementing a BYOD policy will run far more successfully.
Physical and cyber security
When contemplating any change in education, a major consideration has to be security. Security comes in a number of forms, and online security is paramount due to the fact that cyber crime is currently so prolific. The sensitive data educational organisations possess often makes them a target, and much like the medical sector, they are prone to attack.
Therefore, organisations should look to enforce a number of application controls. These include whitelisting and blacklisting applications to prevent viruses from entering the network; preventing unapproved files from executing and downloading as well implementing a cloud-based web filtering system. With these security measured in place, students are protected even when using devices outside of the organisation’s secured network. Organisations also have a responsibility to ensure that the content being accessed on devices is suitable, and so content controls and filters should be implemented to ensure this is the case.
Alongside this, physical safety should also be addressed. Within a school, storage solutions should be provided that allow devices to be safely stored and charged and students should be educated on how to safely use their technology away from the classroom.
When different devices are entered into the school network, granting access becomes more difficult. Supervising and remaining in control of desktop computer while providing the necessary resources is easy. But it is entirely different with multiple devices. As the internet becomes the standard method of issuing homework and information to students, organisation must ensure that they able to provide safe access 24/7.
Universal portal logins, such as those already seen on University desktops and the like, can ensure that students have the secure access to the resources they need. Portals provide a secured and online communal area where students can access notification boards and information, and submit homework and assignments from any device, in any location. In order to ensure online portals are being used to their maximum portal, organisations should also consider Appropriate Usage Policies to ensure devices are being used for their intended purposes.
Charging and syncing
BYOD policies can prove difficult if an organisation’s storage solution is not appropriate. Especially when you consider the device mesh that exists. Every student will have a different make and model of device and all will need to be charged and synced in conjunction. If devices can’t be, then personal devices are rendered almost useless. If a student brings in a laptop but it dies, then their leaning suffers. Similarly, if they are unable to access an online portal while at home, then they could be missing vital information to complete an assignment and miss a deadline.
With this in mind, organisations should look to ensure that their storage solutions house, charge and sync multiple devices – to be sure that the device mesh does not prevent students using their personal devices for learning.
Overall, allowing students to use their personal devices for education will strengthen the digital classroom without the huge cost of purchasing dozens, if not hundreds of devices. Of course, it is a process that would take time to fully roll out. Security must be maintained even outside of the school network and students must have 24/7 access to all the resources they need to ensure that learning is not impacted. Once schools have the storage solutions to cope with an influx of devices, and students are fully aware of their responsibilities though, personal devices could revolutionise how education is delivered.
Chris Neath is head of new product development at Lapcabby