School IT budgets will come under pressure, as the DER programme reaches it’s zenith, and overall spending on education continues to be in flux. Although we’ve now reached the point of every Year 9-12 student having a laptop, there’s still plenty of schools where the teachers and students don’t have access to IT whenever they want.
And yet students and teachers now have better and cheaper technology at home than ever before. A spot check of the average 15 year-old’s school bag is likely to reveal a heady mix of smartphones, laptops, games consoles, iPods, cameras, and more power packs and cables than your average branch of Harvey Norman.
It’s therefore not surprising that schools are wondering whether these two trends can be combined. Is it really possible to allow students and staff to be productive in school, using technology they’ve brought in themselves? Can the school save money buying or replacing hardware, by utilising the devices which have often been banned from the network? Will staff and students actually work harder and be more engaged in their learning and teaching, if it’s all happening on a device which they enjoy using? Or is the idea of “Bring Your Own Device” nothing more than a headache for school IT staff, a massive security risk, and a fad based largely on the principal being in love with their new iPad?
Two of my UK-colleagues Mark Reynolds and Tim Bush have recently been talking about the issues/opportunities created when students have their own IT devices – and how one English school – saltash.net – accommodates them through their school network. I’ll let them pick up the story from their original blog post:
saltash.net is a fantastic school down in Cornwall where head teacher Isobel Bryce has built a strong platform for her staff and students to succeed. Their most famous son is Dan Roberts, whose Recharge the Battery project won a Microsoft Innovative Teacher award in 2009. We spoke with Adam Ledger, the schools Network Manager. Adam explains their approach to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD):
The 1,000+ “unmanaged” devices are a huge range of laptops, netbooks, smartphones, iPads, iPods, Kindles, Nintendos and anything else which staff or students want to bring in. To be honest, I nearly fell of my chair at this point, because although I’d been to many schools who allowed guest wireless access of some kind, I’d never come across anything on this scale. Adam explains that Saltash.net has always had this approach, ever since students started asking:
So from a technical point of view, how do they keep it secure and manage the process?
And that, really, is that. They give wireless access to devices they know about and they block anything they don’t. It is then down to the teaching staff to manage the way students use those devices when they are in school. That is one for Dan Roberts to explain, which we’ll do in another blog post. Just walking round the school though, that feeling of trust and mutual respect is noticeable. I can only assume that the same respect students have for their teachers, they have for the freedom they are allowed when it comes to technology. They’re enjoying their learning, and feel able to use the technology that suits them.
Microsoft is planning to make the management of BYOD networks much easier, with the launch of System Centre 2012. Not only will System Centre offer the best possible management of your existing Windows network, but it will also offer support for management of iOS and Android devices too. There is a public beta available already, which you can read about and download here.