Managing BYOD Effectively: Innovative Tools Provide Low-Cost Internet Access and Help District Leaders Keep Students and Infrastructure Safe

By Williams, Courtney | District Administration, October 2012 | Go to article overview

Managing BYOD Effectively: Innovative Tools Provide Low-Cost Internet Access and Help District Leaders Keep Students and Infrastructure Safe


Williams, Courtney, District Administration


In 2008, long before "bring your own device" was a buzz term, administrators at Marion County (Fla.) Public Schools (MCPS) were looking for an alternative to a one-to-one laptop program. Scott Hansen, chief information officer, says that one-to-one just wasn't feasible for the 42,000-student district, so administrators considered other options. After updating the network infrastructure and installing Wi-Fi technology in multiple high school buildings across nine campuses, Hansen then decided to make Marion County schools like a college campus and allow students to use their own mobile devices in class.

Last year, one middle school started participating in BYOD, and Hansen foresees all eight middle schools participating by the end of the 2012-2013 school year. "From an IT standpoint, BYOD is easy to manage with the right tools," says Greg Tan, chief marketing officer at Stoneware, which manufactures cloud-computing and classroom-management software. "Infrastructure is so important; you must have enough storage, powerful servers and sufficient bandwidth, or BYOD will fail."

MCPS uses several tools to manage BYOD, including Stoneware's webNetwork, network infrastructure from Cisco Systems, and Microsoft Active Directory Domain Services. WebNetwork's virtual layer creates two relays from the data center to a browser. According to Tan, there is no way for anyone to hack into the physical network and cause problems.

All information can be accessed through Stoneware's Web-based Unified Cloud, which delivers all files, applications and reports through a single signon with any device. Students only need a modern browser, such as Safari or Internet Explorer 6, and an Internet connection to access all of their files and grades and to navigate the Internet safely.

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"BYOD is much easier on the IT department because students troubleshoot and manage their own devices," says Hansen. "Students really respect the property of other students. We haven't had any stolen property incidents."

About 500 students bring their own devices into each high school. Hansen says he is often asked about the equity of a BYOD program, and the consequences. "Where was the equity when we provided only 60 mobile devices [that the district could afford and purchase] for 1,600 students? By allowing students to participate in BYOD, we have given students who do not have devices the chance to collaborate in a group or use some of the school-provided devices," says Hansen.

BYOD on a Budget

Mankato (Minn.) Area Public Schools, which serves about 7,500 students, joined the BYOD movement last year to add more technology devices to the classroom without increasing its budget. "We have had Wi-Fi in every building for the last few years, and we just upgraded the capacity over the summer," says Doug Johnson, director of media and technology at Mankato area schools. "Our signal is now stronger, but we still constantly have to monitor whether we have adequate bandwidth."

According to Johnson, it cost about $50,000 to install wireless access points and increase bandwidth, but that is little or nothing compared to what it would cost to implement and sustain a one-to-one laptop program. …

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