Monday, February 27, 2012

5 Areas of Consideration for Developing a BYOD Policy for Your School or District

While there is some debate about whether a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Policy perpetuates inequities and the technology gap, school districts in times of tightening budgets and limited resources are looking for cost-effective ways to increase student access to technology. While BYOD should not be a substitution for adequately funding access to technology for all students, it is a means by which we do not have to ask students to unplug when their walk through our school building doors. But in providing this increased level of access, there are areas of consideration before opening the WiFi to student use, and here’s a short list of 5 considerations for implementing a BYOD policy for your school district.

1. Be aware of the technical requirements needed for providing BYOD in your school or district.  For example, make sure your hardware and software is prepared to handle things like the sudden increase of IP addresses with all the new devices logged on to your network. Also, how will the sudden increase in devices affect bandwidth? Taking stock of your network to see if BYOD is going to enhance access not degrade access is important.

2. Set up general guidelines for BYOD access.  These guidelines are important. They let students know that using their own devices is welcome, but instruction and educational use is the primary reason for that access. Here are some key things to consider when setting up these guidelines for a BYOD policy:
  • Clear statement in policy that use of a device during the school day is clearly at the discretion of teachers and staff. They are to put the devices away when asked to do so.
  • Clear instructions to students that using devices during the instructional day is in support of their educational activities. Personal access for personal reasons is secondary.
  • Make clear to students that their use of a device must not disrupt the learning of others.
  • Clear statement in policy that use of a device on the school WiFi might mean their device could be subject to search and/or seizure under certain circumstances.
  • Clear statement that use of a device under the school or district’s BYOD policy requires the student's adherence to the school or district’s acceptable use policy.
  • Clear statement regarding what kinds of resources students will have access to using their own devices under the BYOD policy.
3. Provide statements of clear consequences for student failure to follow the school or district’s acceptable use policy and BYOD guidelines. Consequences could be the loss of access for a period of time.

4. Clear description of the procedures students must follow in order to optain access under the BYOD policy. This tells students clearly what they need to do in order to obtain their access.

5. Clear disclaimers regarding what the school is responsible for and not responsible for. For example:
  • Access to the WiFi is for Internet access only. No access to other network resources is provided.
  • School district IT department is not responsible for the maintenance and repair to personal devices used under the BYOD policy.
  • The school district is not responsible to damaged, lost, or stolen devices used under the BYOD policy.
It is vital that schools and school  districts seeking to implement a BYOD solution make sure they maintain the integrity of the computer networks and provide some level of safety as specified under CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act). A BYOD properly and effectively implemented can create an environment where students can remain plugged in and engage in using their own devices as 21st century learning tools.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Stardock Fences: Free or Inexpensive Way to Organize Your Computer’s Desktop

On occasion, I’ll walk into another school administrator’s office and while we sit and talk, I look at their computer monitor, and it looks like this:

Disorganized Desktop

Perhaps that is just a bit exaggerated, but it does have the same effect. There are any number of ways for Windows 7 users to organize desktops. Stardock offers a solution to Windows users in its product called Fences.

In the past I have purchased various Stardock products that work to make the Windows environment customizable. Fences is a product that allows Windows users to create areas on the desktop called “fences” to place desktop icons for programs and files. These fences are customizable, allowing users to give them their own titles.

Fences Desktop

My own desktop is customized with “fences” entitled 1)Programs Used Most, 2)Working Docs, 3) Important Docs (Forms), and 4)Docs to Read. Users can create their own fences to organize their own desktop icons.

Stardoc Fences is currently available a “Free Version” for personal use and a “Fences Pro” version is available for a small fee. The free version allows users to completely organize their desktop in fences. Fences Pro allows users to customize and automate desktop icon placement.

Stardock Fences is an easy, effective way for administrators and other educators to organize a desktop so that programs and most commonly used files are easily accessible. To download the Free Version of Stardock Fences or to see more information about Stardock Fences Pro, check out their website at

3 Favorite Evernote Extensions and Apps

I have posted on Evernote several times. It is undoubtedly the most versatile application I use. It is the perfect note taking, resource collecting tool available to users. And, I would add that it is one of the few apps that is entirely worth the premium price. (I say that not as a paid advertiser, but as a highly pleased user.)

Here are my favorite Evernote extensions and apps.

Evernote Web Clipper
This extension allows users to save items found on the web with the click of a button. It is available for all major web browsers. Easily clip web items, choose which notebook to place them, and add tags to help with later access. It is a very easy to use web extension. For more information about Evernote Web Clipper check here.

Evernote Web Clipper Extension

Evernote Clearly
Evernote Clearly is one of those extensions that makes reading the web easier. With just one click of the Clearly browser button, users can enjoy reading web pages distraction-free. There are user options available for how the article is viewed. Users can even save distraction-free copies of the articles into their Evernote account notebooks. For more information about Evernote Clearly check here.

Evernote Clearly for Distraction-Free Web Reading

Sticky Notes
There are sticky note programs everywhere on the web. Some have lots of features that make them quite functional. Evernote’s Stick Notes app allows users to create desktop sticky notes that are linked to their Evernote account. Users can post a reminder on a sticky note on the desktop, and it will automatically be synced to an Evernote notebook. It is just another way that Evernote helps users get things done. For more information about Evernote Sticky Notes, check Evernote Sticky Notes Here.

Evernote Sticky Notes App Links to Evernote Account
Evernote’s versatility only improves as more and extensions and apps are created. It is the most versatile application in my school administrator arsenal.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

10 Signs You Are a 21st Century E-reader Reader

The news is clear: the conversion to widespread use of e-readers and e-books continues apace. Textbook publishers and publishers of all types better have plans to offer e-book versions of their products or they will find their audiences limited.

Today, I personally discovered a phenomenon about this e-book transition while using a physical book. I actually caught myself trying to change the page in a book using the finger-slide method I use with my e-reader devices. That leads me to offer up this list of signs you are a converted E-reader Reader.

1) You try to turn the pages by sliding your fingers across the paper page or turn pages the way you would with your e-reader.
2) You try to highlight text by sliding your finger across the physical text in a book, and you actually wait for the pop-up selection box to appear that allows you to copy or highlight text.
3) You know you purchased a book, though you can't remember whether it was in e-book or physical form, but you look first in your e-reader device.
4) You do number 3, and you become disappointed to discover that it was a physical book which means you have to read it the old-fashioned way.
5) Someone suggests a book you need to read, and you become greatly disappointed when you go to the web site to order for you Kindle only to discover it isn't available as a e-text.
6) You buy a e-book version of titles you already have physical versions located on your bookshelves.
7) Months pass before you set foot in an actual bookstore.
8) When you do go to a bookstore, the purpose is to look for books to purchase for your e-reader.
9) You won't purchase a book until it is available as an e-book.
10) You fall asleep with your e-reader lying on your chest in the same place that once was occupied by your favorite, latest paperback novel.

The truth is I was like many out there, slow to adopt the e-reader. I had this fixation about the smell of pages, the touch of book paper between my fingers, and weight of a book on my chest when I would fall asleep. It hasn't taken long for me to get over all of that with all of the added functionality of an e-reader device.