Friday, February 8, 2013

Ideas for Establishing & Revising Your School or District's BYOD Policies

A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is a necessity in a 21st century school. I am not sure deciding whether or not to provide wireless Internet access to students is even optional anymore. With more and more of our students getting technological devices with WiFi capabilities, they come to our schools with the expectation that they are going to be connected. Add the fact that municipalities like our own hometown of Newton, North Carolina are working to set up city-wide WiFi, and lower costs of cellular hotspots, educational leaders are quickly finding it difficult keeping schools a "WiFi dead-zone."

Our school district recently updated our Bring Your Own Device Policy and Procedures (Newton-Conover City Schools BYOD Policy). This year, our BYOD policy expanded to include all our schools, but it is primarily just middle and high schools that are actually utilizing it. It also covers guests who come to our school buildings who want to get connected as well.

Some of the most pronounced changes in our BYOD update included the following:
  • Change in the definition of devices. Two years ago, so few of our students had tablets, we had not included that in our policy. We now include any device capable of connecting to our wireless network under our BYOD. While we haven't had many students bring  Xbox 360 or Ninetendo game systems into our school buildings, we need to make sure all devices using our wireless Internet connection are included.
  • Clearer definition of user. This was a key revision since our original focus covered mostly students. Our new policy covers anyone who connects and uses our wireless network.
  • Clearer expectations about the devices. In our revision discussions, we wanted language to make sure all of our users understand that our wireless Internet's purpose was to support instructional use. We also wanted language that covered when those devices become a disruption. In addition we added a clear connection back to our district acceptable use policy.
  • Revised consequences for violations. Under our old policy, the consequences were clear enough, but the new policy more clearly explains those consequences, and there is some flexibility. In addition, we clearly spell out the offenses for which immediate and permanent loss of wireless Internet privileges could result. Those are: accessing web sites of a clearly pornographic nature and web sites with illegal content. We also include cyberbullying and harassment as an offense that could result in loss of privileges and any activity of a malicious or illegal nature.
  • Finally, we updated our disclaimers section to make it very clear that users would not have access to network hardware and resources. Also, our district does not provide tech support for personal devices, nor is our district responsible for any damage, theft or loss of these devices.
Now that we are in our third year of BYOD implementation, there are some more lessons we have learned. Those include:

  • Review and update your BYOD policies and procedures at least once a year. You may also have to update sooner should tech trends demand it.
  • Clear definitions are a must. This is a no-brainer for those who write policy, but it is vital that definitions of devices, users, and violations as well as conseuqences be written with clarity. Revising these definitions regularly is important too.
  • Make sure your policy includes disclaimers. Our district technology department does not have the resources to support personal devices, and as I understand it, our state does not permit state employees to provide that support. Disclaimers regarding theft, loss or damage is important as well, otherwise, more resources may be consumed when these things happen.
Having a Bring Your Own Device policy and procedure has moved to the mainstream. As more and more of our students get personal devices, and come to our schools with the expectation that they can be connected, we must make sure we provide that access or they will get it elsewhere. Having a current BYOD policy in a 21st century school is a must.


  1. In the old days you could ban kids from Internet access if they broke the rules to a certain extent. In many schools today, you can't complete course requirements or even participate in some classes if you don't have access. This will certainly complicate things for the policy makers. If kids do stumble on to a "bad" site, they should be required to report the fact that the school didn't block it. As for cyber bullying, your policy on bulling should cover that without modification. Any good definition of bullying should cover the cyber and non cyber versions. Thanks for a great post.

    1. And we don't ban them from Internet access, we might take away the privilege to access using their own device though. Then they have to use our school devices.

  2. I think my district may well be one of the few left in the nation that does not allow students to bring their devices to school--no mobile phones, no tablets, no laptops, nothing. All are considered contraband according to the Student Code of Conduct. I don't know where the hold-up is, but I do find it troubling. How can staff and students encourage central administration, a security department and a technology department that won't budge? They all wonder why our students are disengaged...

    1. There are lots of reasons administrators continue to fight to keep technology out. Fear, lack of understanding, knowledge, and in some cases, a total reluctance to even deal with the issues that allowing students to use their own devices brings. Most probably do believe that is in the best interest of kids to keep these devices out. Still, not allowing students to engage in the use of these devices is a missed opportunity as you point out for engaging students.

  3. Ina few years we will laugh at these conversations. However, between now and then is challenging!