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Many schools adopt Bring Your Own Device programs

THURSDAY, MARCH 28, 2013 10:22 AM

These days, children grow up with access to all types of technology, from computers and tablets to smartphones and MP3 players. Unfortunately, students in some parts of the country go to schools where the technology is anything but modern. As schools implement the Common Core State Standards, the lack of adequate technology will only become more of a problem. After all, students will not be very prepared for college and the workforce if the computer skills they acquired are 10 years old.

In a time when many school budgets may not be as high as they need to be, there are ways to provide students with technological instruction, such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs.

What is a BYOD program?
BYOD, or Bring Your Own Technology programs as they are also known, are just what people would assume them to be. Teachers allow students who own electronic devices, such as laptops, smartphones and tablets, to bring them to school and use them for educational purposes.

In an effort to bring classrooms into the 21st century, the U.S. Department of Education recommended schools allow students to bring devices from home to increase access to technology in the 2010 National Education Technology Plan. Since then, BYOD programs have been popping up in school districts nationwide.

What must schools consider?
Unfortunately, asking students to bring in electronic devices from home will not solve schools' learning challenges overnight. In fact, if educators are not careful, a poorly planned BYOD program can lead to a new set of problems.

For example, something teachers need to consider when designing a BYOD program is what types of technology their students have access to. If some kids bring in the latest version of the iPhone, will those who have an older, less-popular smartphone be picked on or ridiculed? Jealousy and resentment will only get in the way of learning.

At the same time, teachers need to consider how secure students' devices are. Crafty hackers could gain entry to all the personal information school districts are in possession of through one student's poorly fortified laptop.

Finally, schools need to know whether or not their technological infrastructure can handle so many electronic devices being used under one roof. For instance, without a wireless network to connect to, students' tablets will be nothing more than sleek paperweights.

To avoid these and other problems, school officials who are considering adopting a BYOD program will want to think about their academic goals, figure out which devices students have access to and create rules for the use of these gadgets.

BYOD programs in action
If parents or educators are skeptical of BYOD programs, they need only look to school districts that have adopted this approach to technological learning. Not only is Georgia's Forsyth County Schools district one of these school systems, but it is also considered to be a BYOD pioneer, according to Scholastic.

In the spring of 2010, seven Forsyth institutions participated in a pilot BYOD program. Today, this number has grown to more than 20. Students who participate are responsible for the maintenance of their devices and must agree to adhere to an acceptable use policy. To avoid security issues, the district established a wireless network that is only used by students.

According to the district's website, students bring in a variety of devices, such as laptops, tablets, cell phones, e-readers and gaming devices. Forsyth also realizes that some educators may be unfamiliar with a few of the devices students use, so the district makes available opportunities for professional development.