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Tech Talk Live Blog

Determining the Responsibilities of IT in a BYOD Academic Setting

Jay Geater


Given the rise of the smartphone and tablet, it is unsurprising that technology has been getting into the hands of younger and younger children. There are myriad arguments for why the use of technology in education is a good idea, and many have already found effective ways to introduce parents and administrators to a BYOD educational system.

But the advent of the technologically savvy school system brings with it the problem of increased need for IT. After all, a laptop or tablet will be rendered ineffective in the classroom if it is slow or infected with malware.

Security

The first thing that a company is concerned about with the implementation of a network is obviously how secure it is. With corporate espionage becoming more of a concern as the tech industry continues on a path to globalization, it is no wonder that companies get jumpy when a new device is added to their network.

Schools, by contrast, are obviously less concerned with the idea of corporate espionage. If a school is being run well, one would rather hope that other schools would “steal” their plans. However, schools should still be concerned with inbound security.

A school system should be held accountable for prescribing minimum security measures and overseeing their implementation. IT should therefore be responsible for the design, proposal, and implementation of a firewall and password protection system for the school’s network.

Training

Over the past fifty years, most forms of technology have moved from being inscrutable to laymen to being focused on being intuitively navigable by toddlers. In short, we do not need IT professionals to be the gatekeepers of technological knowledge anymore.

However, if a school is to implement a program of integrated technological use, it needs to be prepared to introduce the software and interfaces to the teachers and students. This should be achieved by designing a lesson plan for teachers to use in guiding students to efficient use of devices in the classroom.

The superlative candidate for the position of IT director, however, will have some form of experience in education. If this is the case, it should be considered that the director should hold a training seminar for the faculty and perhaps even teach a series of classes to the students, directly. The curriculum of these seminars and classes would consist of program walk-throughs, troubleshooting, and general skill building such as typing.

Counsel

Coordinating with the school administrators would also be a top priority for a system IT director and any of his or her direct subordinates. In this capacity, an IT director could also be expected to provide counsel on what devices, software, and maintenance should be acquired and enacted. The IT director would therefore be charged with determining the overall health of the BYOD system and bringing problems to the attention of the school’s technology focus group, along with a plan to remedy them. (Please see Mark McWhinnie’s post for more information on the kind of focus group an IT director would be responsible for coordinating.)

Maintenance

Of course, the main purpose of having an IT system for a school is to assist when technology malfunctions. Ideally, teachers will be able to handle small issues on their own, but system-wide problems are common. If a school engages in a BYOD situation, the question that will arise first is: how will an IT worker know what is within their purview to manage on a private device? In a professional BYOD setting, adults are responsible for their own devices. Children, however, even those in high school, cannot be expected to be held to the same standards.

It will be up to a school’s administrators to ascertain whether an IT professional is responsible for the efficacy of students’ devices. Especially in the case of younger children, IT will need to meet with parents, perhaps once a year, to ensure that everyone understands the role that IT will take when it comes to their devices. An agreement will likely need to be signed, laying out what IT is allowed to do on a personal device as well as what is required. Such agreements will likely differ from school to school, depending on the wishes of parents and administrators.

Setting up an effective BYOD structure in an educational system is a daunting task, especially for IT workers. However, it is a step towards an integrated and modern school system. If schools invest in well-trained IT professionals and provide them with a clear agenda, a BYOD educational system could become a great asset in the progress of education.

Jay Geater is the founder and CEO of Solvusoft, a software company that provides programs designed to maximize computational efficiency of PCs.

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