Thursday, July 12, 2012

Streamlining BYOD With ClassLink

After a semester long pilot program with the senior class during the spring of 2011, we rolled out our Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program to the entire student body in September.  Throughout the entire 2011-2012 school year, we worked to refine our approach, implementation, and learning outcomes for the program.  The model that we developed is customized, based on our student body and overall objectives of the program. 

Students are permitted to use their devices for learning during non-instructional time (i.e. lunch) or in class at the discretion of the teacher.  Mobile learning devices (i.e. cell phones) have been successfully integrated as student response systems using free web 2.0 tools such as Poll Everywhere and Celly.  Smartphones and Internet accessible devices have been used by students to conduct web-based research, take notes using Evernote, manage work through Google Docs or Dropbox, organize their assignments on their calendars, and develop projects with a variety of other tools.  Even though our school has more than enough available technology in four computer labs and two mobile carts, some students are more comfortable working on their own devices.

One thing we quickly realized is that our students owned and brought a diversity of devices to school including smartphones, iTouches, iPads, laptops, and other tablet devices (Kindles, Nooks, Playbooks, etc.).  The challenge then became how to deliver a uniform experience across all devices in order to assist with the teaching and learning process.  The solution came in the form of an award winning, web-based application called ClassLink Launchpad

With ClassLink students and teachers can access a customized dashboard that is pre-loaded with a variety of tools that are used on a regular basis.  I was able to establish the specific tools added to each of the respective dashboard (teacher, student).  The best part is that for both groups the dashboard appears the same no matter the device that is used to login and access it. Below is what the dashboard looks like for my teachers.

Setup was a breeze, which was managed by both representatives from ClassLink and my IT department.  Student and staff information was uploaded from our information management system (PowerSchool) in a seamless fashion. Existing usernames and passwords for both teachers and students could be used to access the ClassLink Launchpad application.  An added bonus for my teachers was that Classlink allowed them access for the first time to their school drive, which we call the p drive.  With this feature on their dashboard they could not only access files that have been saved for years at home, but they could also work from these same files now at home and conveniently save.

We began using ClassLink late in the spring, but are extremely excited about the promise that this solution holds to enhance the teaching and learning culture of our school through BYOD.  There are so many more features that my teachers and I will explore in the coming months.  More training and webinars will be provided for my staff so they are comfortable using ClassLink with learning in in mind.  We will also focus on making students aware of ClassLink and the dashboard that has been specifically created for them.

How do you manage your BYOD program if you have one at your school?  If you don't, what are the factors holding you back?


  1. Eric,

    I am in a district that asks students to turn off their cell phones at the beginning of morning announcements each day, so we are a long way from implementing ClassLink. However, for those out there like me who have permission from your administration and are using mobile devices and/or you want an app like experience across devices try SymbalooEdu. I have changed my class website over to it and there is an app for all devices so both students and parents can access and have easy one click "app" icons to check grades, assignments, etc...
    Here is a link to resources and a free webinar by Pam Cranford on using SymbalooEdu.

    Hopefully my district will jump soon!
    Thanks for the information!

  2. Oops, Here is the link I promised above!

  3. I used the Firefox mobile app to set up instant redirection to a class portal that I designed using clickable icons on a Google sites website. An even easier way I discovered recently would be to set up the mobile app Google Chrome with all the selected apps (customized dashboard). Looks a lot like Classlink this way, but the problem is that this only works on the classroom networked computers. My work-around was to set up QR bar codes around the room so students could scan them and get to the portal. This still left students with laptops having to bookmark my portal. I'm going to check out Classlink to see if it removes a few steps and cuts down on the friction of trying to land students in the same place on start-up. I'm also going to follow Kristen's suggestion and check out SymbalooEdu.

    Anyone checked both platforms out and can give more pros and cons?

  4. Thanks for sharing this! From a techy in California

  5. I have a more general question: For those who allow students to use devices during class, does that mean that texting is permitted during class, or is there a way to limit that while allowing them to use their devices?

  6. Rabbi Mintz: Texting (socially) is not allowed in class and is dealt with as a discipline issue. It all comes down to effective classroom management.

  7. My district uses a similar product called Stoneware, which even offers secure access to our network folders, which we could not do remotely previously. I am jealous that your school did a pilot program. My district is simply throwing caution to the wind and starting the BYOD with no pilot group or PD, a mistake I think.


  8. Excellent post! I think BYOD is good, bad and ugly and it has merits and demerits both.