There has been much debate of late surrounding the advantages of schools embracing the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) concept. The discussions have been fuelled by the difficult financial climate and the need to ensure staff and students have access to engaging educational content.
Apart from a few pioneering souls, BYOD in the education sector has very much remained in its infancy. But recent changes have meant BYOD has suddenly become a real possibility for schools.
Fired by an explosion in the availability of affordable tablets, smart phones and ‘apps’, the ability to piggy back on students’ and staff’s own technology is a viable way to increase access to technology in school. Easier and more affordable BYOD management systems are also making it a realistic solution along with increasing expectations from students and staff who want to use the same technology in school that they do at home.
However, to date, some real barriers to BYOD in school have existed – not least network security and device management. How do you ensure access to material is appropriately controlled, that your data cannot be breached and you are at no greater risk from viruses? And how can your IT staff manage the variety of technology platforms appearing in the tablet market now, and how can teachers cope with their students viewing content on a variety of different devices with different screen sizes and interfaces?
Recent developments mean that schools can now confidently and affordably implement BYOD. One solution, for instance, is software that allows all classroom resources to be accessed via a web browser which manages access rights, converts content to be relevant to the device used and ensures security is controlled centrally and not on the device. This takes the headache out of the process and ensures your school is free to take advantage of BYOD without your IT manager turning into a quivering wreck at the mere mention of an untrusted device being used on the network.
The implications for the school mean greater access to the latest technology and where money is spent on ICT, it can be on more specialist technologies for music, science or design or provided to pupils unable to access their own devices, helping close the digital divide.
This is why BYOD will soon be a consideration for all schools. Access will no longer be confined to anytime and anywhere. It is now anytime, anywhere, any device and any source.
Steve Smith is director of learning at Capita IT Services which offers services and advice to schools considering cloud and BYOD implementations. www.capita-its.co.uk Capita IT services will be on stand B250 at Bett 2013.