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Mobile Education Must Pass the Test

29 Jan 2016 by Heather Breedlove

How do school districts with shrinking budgets meet the technology needs of their students? Many districts have implemented a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy to harness the power of mobility for student learning while staying within budget.

BYOD is not a new concept, but as mobile technologies become an everyday part of our lives with wearable technology, Internet-enabled appliances and smart cars, students and teachers want to increase their mobility by using tablets, smartphones and laptops that they own. According to the Project Tomorrow Speak Up 2014 survey, 72% of students want to use their own personal device at school, where only 55% of students want to use a school-provided device.

As mobility moves into its maturity phase, its impact becomes less self-contained under the banner of mobility, and instead spreads across the computing infrastructure. Security, manageability and productivity are the key themes presented in Gartner’s “Predicts 2016: Mobile and Wireless” report published Oct. 13, 2015.

Make the grade by creating a strategic plan.

Gartner’s predictions support the concept that mobility is becoming more invisible as it pushes its challenges into every traditional area of IT, forcing those areas to become more robust. It is important that IT continually use mobility as the ultimate test of the viability and completeness of all strategies that become part of any IT or vendor's overall plans.

Implementing a BYOD policy for a school district involves careful planning to ensure proper network infrastructure and management for IT professionals. Without a strategic plan in place, the focus becomes on the technology itself rather than starting with the instructional goals. IT must work closely with schools and vendors to provide the solutions.

Similar to building a house, mobility requires a strong foundation. With the need for a strong wireless infrastructure and a segmented network, IT will need to re-evaluate the viability and possibly overhaul the network to meet the demands of mobile learning. Security, manageability and productivity are the key areas to ensure the network is robust enough for a BYOD network.

Here are 4 ways to test your school’s IT plans.

  • Assess your entire IT infrastructure.

Identifying weaknesses in the IT infrastructure provides the groundwork for a BYOD network. Assess your entire IT infrastructure with the help of an educational technology consultant. With their expertise in education and technology, consultants can help reduce costs and simplify the process by creating an efficient framework. Dell offers an IT Simplification Assessmentprocess in which the consultant meets with district stakeholders to ensure the technology is meeting the instructional goals, providing a roadmap to enhanced learning for students that is independent and vendor agnostic.

  • Create a long-term plan.

Remember that providing students and teachers with mobility is not a one-time rollout but a continuous process that builds upon itself. Providing users with mobile access involves a series of actions — taken over time — that bring new wireless capabilities into the school setting, according to eSchool News’ whitepaper, “Going Mobile: Strategic Best Practices for K – 12 IT Leaders.”

  • Manage your BYOD network.

Creating a BYOD policy for students has a positive impact on student learning, increasing collaboration, and allowing access to new resources for both students and teachers. But it can create data security challenges. Cisco BYOD Smart Solution provides hardware and infrastructure necessary to create a BYOD network. Working with a tech company can provide a streamlined solution that works for both students and teachers.

  • Increase productivity.

After BYOD is in place, do the teachers and students know how it works and how to leverage it for learning? No one wants to spend time, energy and money only to support a network that is primarily being used to stream personal content at lunch. Make sure the effort to develop a BYOD policy and network helps teachers and students achieve learning goals by providing professional development to teachers to help them understand how BYOD provides value in meeting their instructional goals. EdTechTeacher is a great place to learn how to teach with technology.

In this new phase of mobility, the world of education opens up advanced digital worlds for students, teachers and IT professionals. The process involves multiple groups working together to meet the needs of the digital native in today’s classroom. A strategic plan with the right partners provides the framework to build a BYOD network that moves learning into a different direction. BYOD allows students the voice and choice in how they learn, preparing them for a digital workplace and world.

Get in touch with Insight at 1.804.0757. Whether you’re implementing 1:1 learning or a BYOD initiative, we can help. To learn more, download Gartner’s “Predicts 2016: Mobile and Wireless” report published Oct. 13, 2015.