Wednesday, September 11, 2013

BYOD Begins With Trust and Respect

I have written extensively over the past couple of years about our Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative at New Milford High School at the Huffington Post and on my own blog.  It has been interesting to look back at all my blog posts to see how far we have come with BYOD at NMHS.  My first ever post on the topic just provided a small glimpse at the possibilities inherent when students are empowered to use the technology that they already posses to enhance their learning experience.

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It was our desire and quest to create a school culture and learning environments that were more reminiscent of the real world that our learners would soon be a part of that drove change in this area. When I reflect upon how the program has evolved into it's current state I cannot help but to think about the most important change that was made recently.  It was during the summer that Ron Watson, the NM District IT Director, and I met to discuss the future of BYOD at NMHS. Up until this point we had students sign off on a paper guideline sheet after which I created a username and password for them to access the secure guest network.  This information was then passed on to Ron and each student that filled out the form was granted access.  There is no doubt in my mind that this process limited the amount of students who opted to bring their own mobile learning devices to school. I can't thank Ron enough for putting students first! Speaking of Ron, he just informed me that we had 460 unique devices connect to our guest Internet network yesterday (535 for the week) at my school. This is fairly significant as we only have 650 students and 53 staff members.  Take a look at the traffic at each access point below.

After critically analyzing our process and the culture of NMHS it was decided to change how we went about allowing students to access the Internet.  We decided to trash the old process reliant on paper and emails by replacing it with a seamless alternative that empowered students to want to bring their mobile devices to school.  This week I revealed these changes to our students.  While encouraging them to bring in their tools I explained that they could now access the Internet immediately with their current passwords and usernames that they have used to log onto school computers during their entire NMHS careers.  All they had to do now was bring in their device, select the guest network, enter their username/password, and check the box to agree to the terms of use. Then wallah, they would be connected to the Internet. Below is the terms that each student now has to agree to in order to access the Internet:

NMHS students and parents/guardians fully acknowledge that use of a personal device on the premises of New Milford High School is subject to all guidelines, rules and regulations governing acceptable use as established by the New Milford Public Schools Board of Education, Policy #2361 and Regulation R2361.  It is further understood that use of a personal device is restricted to those activities as required or related to the student's program of study and any use otherwise may be subject to disciplinary action including loss of device use privileges. Students WILL NOT access websites with inappropriate content using a 3G or 4G connection. Students and parents understand/agree that New Milford High School is NOT responsible for any damage or theft that may occur to the laptop while on school property. 
By logging into the New Milford wireless network, they are accepting the terms of the New Milford Student Responsible Use Guidelines. Once on the New Milford wireless network all users will have filtered Internet access just as they would on a district-owned device. 

Our BYOD initiative at NMHS has succeeded and grown up to this point based on the basic premise of trust and respect.  Yes, we have policies in place, the right infrastructure, and support our teachers with professional development and guidance. However, the most important elements stem from the fact that we trust our students to use their devices as tools for learning, enhanced productivity, and to conduct better research.  Time is spent working with them on digital citizenship and the creation of positive digital footprints that they can be proud of.  We also respect them as learners growing up in the digital age where these tools are playing a greater role in the world we are preparing them to succeed in.  When creating a BYOD initiative grounded in these principles the possibilities are endless.

What do you think are the keys to a successful BYOD initiative?


  1. Great Post. Are you using Meraki? What are you using to Prompt the student s to agree to terms? a filter device?

  2. We use a combination of things to make our BYOD work. We started by upgrading to Meraki AP's and cloud management. (We also use Meraki's free MDM solution for the district's tablets.) We have been using LightSpeed Rocket but changed the configuration on it to accommodate the updated BYOD. and last we use AD with LDAP connection for user credentials. What I did was create a open Guest SSID. This will allow anyone to connect to the Guest wireless then Lightspeed has an option to require users to authenticate before accessing the internet only when unknown (The domain devices have the lightspeed agent running so they would be known and not get prompted for login) I have the LightSpeed authentication setup to Active Directory with a LDAP connection. By doing it this way I have the ability to monitor user web traffic even when they are connected to the Guest network and by doing it this way I assign different web rights based on authentication. Thanks Ron

  3. What is the free and reduced lunch percentage at your school? Do you have students unable to bring a device? If so, what is your solution?

  4. Della - Approximately 15% of your students are on free/reduced lunch, but what we have found is that even these students have at the very least mobile phones. This seems to be consistent across the country. We have ample technology here at school for those that do not bring a device. Teachers also employ cooperative learning strategies. I talk more about all of these issues here

  5. Very informative post. Keep up the good work. I would really look forward to your other posts
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