How a school manages increasing numbers of tablets

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How a school manages increasing numbers of tablets

You think it's tricky managing the computers in your small office. See how a school copes with 1200 students who are allowed to bring their own tablets and laptops.

[We spotted this article in CRN magazine and thought it might be of interest to our readers working in larger businesses with lots of laptops and tablets.]
 
Redlands College in Queensland has implemented a BYOD policy for its 1,200 kindergarten to Year 12 students, replacing a notebook program. 
 
One problem with the old way was that distributing the computers and getting them connected to the network tended to eat into teaching time. With the BYOD strategy, they wanted to avoid these issues.
 
Robert Richmond, IT manager, operations, Redlands College, says: “From an IT manager’s perspective, a program like this can be very successful as long as long as you give full consideration to the program beforehand.”
 
For Redlands, that meant ensuring they had the wireless infrastructure in place, as well as a way of managing the large number of devices they now have at the college. “The broadband connection obviously has to be fast enough to handle the connection to be able to handle the large number of devices as well,” says Richmond.
 
“You need to consider how your students are going to connect to the network as well. Do you want them to connect via a static IP address or a dynamic IP address? Our staff get a fixed IP address whereas the students connect and get any address that is available.”
 
The other big issue to consider is content filtering, adds Richmond, “It’s quite important in our junior school. We limit access to the internet quite heavily. That is to help reassure parents that the children aren’t accessing things that they shouldn’t.”
 
Mobile printing is another consideration. Redlands opted for Canon’s UniFlow solution to streamline the management of documents and enable mobile printing.
 
Richmond says Redlands settled on the iPad as the preferred the device because it is lightweight, portable, has a long running time, turns on instantly and provides quick access to internet and email and other apps as needed. 
 
According to Dale Lopez, Redlands’ ICT learning coordinator: “Student engagement has improved, independence of learning style and frequency of teacher direction has changed.”
 
For teachers this means they no longer have to spend lessons at the front of the classroom and can act more as a facilitator, “moving around the room and letting student guide where they want to go with their learning”, says Lopez.
 
The experiences of Redlands College is common across Australia’s school system. During the first term of the Rudd government, the Prime Minister introduced the Computers for Schools program.
 
That program was first conceived in 2007, during the early days of the emergence of BYOD. But when the policy was announced, little thought was given to the devices’ end-of-life. As many of the school computers reach their use-by date, BYOD is a natural replacement.
 
According to says Gerry Tucker, Australia and New Zealand country manager of security vendor Websense, the education sector has seen a larger adoption of new devices than commercial enterprise. “It’s not unusual for a student to carry two to four devices, perhaps a school-provisioned laptop, a personal tablet and phone, and perhaps a gaming device.”
 
He says schools have to balance meeting the needs of students with their duty of care. “For example, in the university sector, the increasing requirement for bandwidth on networks is a growing problem, and the challenge is how to enable students with technology while balancing duty of care and ensuring students are not exposed to harmful content.”
 
While much of the current focus is on control and management, the real promise is the improvement to learning. According to Dell’s end user computing solutions director, Jeff Morris: “A major challenge comes down to the impact BYOD will have on the way we teach. If students are using their own devices and applications, they will also want to use their own sources to learn. This means that for many teachers, BYOD will require them to fundamentally change their approach to teaching.”
 
 Schools and universities have to rethink their strategies and take different approaches to allow students to securely connect to their networks via remote access while also eliminating any dangers, says Morris. “These dangers can be anything from students accessing internal applications, databases and other sensitive or confidential data, to the possibility that personal devices carrying viruses may reach the network and potentially infect internal campus resources.”
 
But it will take time, says Brendan Redpath, chief executive of Source Central, a reseller with a strong footprint in education. “We are not yet seeing BYOD feed into how schools teach. There are still a few barriers to jump there to get the comfort levels up across the board with using BYOD. 
 
“Professional development is a big issue. That’s a different ball game altogether,” says Redpath.
 
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