Adopting a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) policy and program is one of the ways school principals are offering comprehensive digital literacy programs that will prepare students for their career ahead, while reducing the financial outlay for schools for new devices.

A survey by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research found that principals are struggling to provide students with the devices they need due to their high cost. Parents acknowledge the importance of digital literacy, with “most believing the use of digital technology in their children’s learning is important”.

A BYOD program is one of the ways principals can navigate tight budgets while still providing best-in-class digital literacy. However, implementing a BYOD policy requires careful planning and implementation to be successful.

Here are some top tips for principals looking to establish a BYOD program:

  • Consult with teachers

The ultimate goal of the BYOD program is to facilitate learning. To this end, teachers need to be consulted to determine how the program can help them meet the needs of the syllabus. For example, the graphics design department may specify that devices have a dedicated graphics card so that they can run Adobe applications smoothly.

This needs to be communicated with parents who may not be aware of the technical requirements for BYOD. For example, Wellington High School provides clear hardware guidelines, with recommendations at varying price points to help parents choose a suitable device. The school cautions against buying tablets, as they are not able to run the appropriate desktop applications that are required by the syllabus. This information helps parents when it comes time to buy a device and saves them from making a costly mistake.

  • IT resources and security

The IT department will have to be on-hand to support students with their devices. Support may be needed for anything from installing software, managing updates and fixing compatibility problems across different operating systems. Having comprehensive onboarding documentation can ease this burden considerably.

Security is another concern, as devices will have varying levels of protection. Some schools have chosen to adopt a ‘Choose Your Own Device’ (CYOD) policy and program with a list of approved devices to minimise potential security flaws. Others recommend an anti-virus solution with instructions on how to keep devices protected.

  • Don’t forget protection

Often overlooked is the all-important aspect of device protection. Devices are an investment, and if taken care of, can last many years without replacement. Many schools recommend physical protection like hard cases and protective backpacks – all of which are essential for protecting devices against everyday bumps and drops.

Schools and parents should also consider aftercare protection for devices such as extended warranty and/or accidental damage protection. Consider this – laptop screen replacement can cost anywhere from $150 to $300. With many devices costing $500, a $300 screen repair is more than half the cost of the device! This is where extended warranty or accidental damage protection can be a life saver.

However, not all warranties are created equal. Some require that the device be sent to the repair location that may be distant or even offshore, potentially leaving the student without a device for weeks or months. Look for a warranty provider that offers local repair services with a quick turnaround to ensure minimal downtime.

  • Implement successfully

Once all parties have been consulted and a detailed policy has been developed, it’s time to implement the BYOD program. Orientation day is a great place to communicate the goals of the program, explain the guidelines and answer any questions and/or concerns.

It is important to allow for an adjustment period as students and teachers get comfortable with the new setup. The school IT department should be on-hand to support with any growing pains and continue to ask for feedback from students, teachers and parents so that the program can be improved.

Students will need to be digitally literate to succeed in their studies and their careers. A BYOD program is one of the ways principals can facilitate learning while balancing budget and resource constraints.

Ross Coutts is National Accounts Manager – New Zealand at The Warranty Group.

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