Where does a school’s responsibility for student devices begin and end? Talking to INTERFACE, Linewize’s Scott Noakes advocates an ‘All Care, No Responsibility’ approach.
“A student BYOD device is not a school device, so the student will have definite obligations regarding the provision of and the condition of it,” said Scott Noakes, CEO of Linewize. “This rests solely with the student, not with the school, and is why we talk about ‘No Responsibility’.”
As for the ‘All Care’ side of the equation.
“The school ‘cares’ for the environment in which the student will be using the tablet or laptop and ‘cares’ for the education of the student. Critically, this is alongside education provided at home. This should be a partnership. It also puts schools in the powerful position of being able to engage students in proactive ongoing discussion on how to use the internet, rather than resorting to reactive measures on inappropriate internet usage after the event.”
Scott identifies three key points for schools to consider:
- Students are responsible for keeping the device charged and in working condition;
- “The school is accountable for providing a functional, safe and secure online environment and for delivering education that makes the most of the devices; and
- The school and parents have a shared role in supporting students to sensibly navigate the Internet – using tools that provide visibility over Internet use to inform the conversation.
What is the student’s role?
“They’re responsible for keeping the device charged and in a sound working state. This should be made clear from the beginning of the BYOD program, suggesting a well-defined school policy, information sessions, and parent and student documentation. Teachers can then remain focused on teaching and will not be turned into IT technicians by proxy.
What is the school’s role:
“The school’s obligation within the BYOD programme is to ensure that students are safe in the virtual world, just as they do from a physical standpoint. A school must be confident that inappropriate content is properly filtered and if people do something they shouldn’t, that this can be acted on in a proactive and positive manner. Should an incident occur, the school leadership team must have total visibility around which students were involved, what the behaviour was and when it occurred. This information needs to be clear and easily accessible. The school can then address the issues through evidence-based conversations.”
Is there a shared role?
The other part of the ‘care’ equation is educating the students to become safe, ethical and responsible digital citizens.
“I’m passionate about involving parents and caregivers. The school should provide ongoing programmes for the staff, students and the parent community. Parents and caregivers will then hopefully feel empowered to become involved in their child’s online world too. “Together, school and home can instil their values of how to behave and how to share and connect in a safe and responsible manner. Should a school provide leased devices, such as Chromebooks, they should consider providing off-school network filtering for these devices to address parental concerns around their children being exposed to inappropriate content.”
Linewize offers a granular solution, not a one-size-fits-all like other services. We can monitor web usage by class and by individual student. Teachers can reward and report on levels of engagement in a meaningful way with each and every child.
Principal, Pt England School, Auckland
Making it Happen
Scott pinpoints four factors required for a school to achieve ‘All Care, No Responsibility’.
“The first is a given. Teachers and students will be frustrated if teaching and learning is impeded by technical issues and bottlenecks on the network. The school requires a network management system with easy to manage policies and visibility over network use to ensure that the backbone runs smoothly.
“Secondly, to make it possible to have the informed conversations around appropriate and inappropriate internet use, every user of any school or BYOD device must be identified. The technical name for this process is called ‘user authentication’. By identifying the student using the device, personal internet usage can be recorded against their account. In addition, internet access can be filtered according to group membership, for example by year group, home class or collaborative team.
“This is easy to achieve with the right tool. Most networks have existing authentication systems to identify a user when they log into a Windows machine or use a shared Chromebook. The same approach can be applied to a BYOD program. When a student brings any device onto the Wi-Fi network, they are simply asked to authenticate using their existing school account details.”
Transparency and accountability
This type of network management solution also avoids the installation of a client on a student device, which can undermine the ‘No Responsibility’ element of the approach, may meet resistance and possibly incur unwanted compatibility and support issues.
Once the technical requirements are in place, the school can make the cultural shift to transparency and accountability.
“This is the exciting bit of the BYOD journey. Historically the solution to managing internet access has been to restrict access to the handful of websites that the school has deemed to be learning-related. This approach is no longer tenable given the vast number of online resources that can benefit student learning. Today, schools need to open up their networks comfortable in the knowledge that they have the infrastructure in place to protect the students.
“Taking an overly restrictive approach is frustrating for both teachers when lesson plan content is blocked, and for students where self-driven learning and student agency is undermined. Such blind blocking of online content does nothing to teach students to be effective digital citizens or encourage them to make appropriate choices online.”
The schools that Linewize works with favour a more constructive approach, operating a high-trust model in regard to internet use.
By creating a less restrictive, more open environment students can access any potentially learning relevant resource, and student agency and engagement can be fostered.
“In high-trust online environments, inappropriate internet use can be addressed via tools that give teachers live visibility over student network use. Should inappropriate or off-task behaviour occur the teacher can then choose the best response given the individual student and the lesson context.
“This transparency can also allow schools to educate students to the reasoning behind any internet access policies. Should a student be using a torrent site to stream movies, they can be made aware of the issues around liability for this copyright infringing behaviour.”
In Scott’s experience, responding to inappropriate use through visibility and conversation results in students aligning their behaviour with the school’s agreed internet usage policy.
Visibility and control
The final component is ensuring that internet usage does not impede learning-related activities.
“Having potentially 1,000s of devices connected to the network wirelessly can become a real drain on a school’s resources. Difficulty logging in or slow internet access speeds will quickly frustrate students and not only will your helpdesk/IT Leader be swamped, students will soon stop lugging their devices around, and the BYOD programme will ultimately fail.
“Again, it is best to take a proactive approach to managing website and application usage through visibility and control. Having systems in place that enable reporting on network use allows schools to identify which non-education websites and applications are bandwidth hogs. Then they should be able to change network access and filtering policies. Schools should be able to easily self-manage these policies so that changes in network use can be responded to, whether that be blocking an application outright or only permitting access outside of lesson hours.
“Whilst these factors will ensure that a school can achieve ‘All Care, No Responsibility’, they also lead to positive outcomes for other school stakeholders.”
Scott Noakes is CEO of Linewize and was talking to INTERFACE.
Linewize provides student internet management services and products to schools. More at linewize.com