10 worst-case BYOD scenarios (and how to prevent them)

One of my favourite reads when it comes to technology is TechRepublic.  Consistently, it provides great insights on topics that I’m interested in.  This morning was no different.  An article, with the title of this blog post, appeared today and takes on the topic of BYOD.  The focus of the article is the business world.  However, once again, I think that it’s important reading to education as well.  BYOD remains the elephant in the room for so many.

So, in the article, they take on 10 scenarios.  I’d like to take the opportunity to comment on them in the context of education.  In many ways, I think that education may be a bigger challenge since it has clients in administration, teaching, and of course, students.  All have similar and differing needs.

As I write this post, I’m also thinking once again that education, common sense, and just knowing what you’re doing and its implications can go a long way towards success.

Exposed Data
The concept of losing one’s device or having it stolen is a real possibility for all of us.  What can you do to protect the data on your device?  Certainly the ability to securely wipe the contents of the device as suggested in the original article is important.  After all, you might have student marks and records recorded there.  In the short term, make sure that you have a passcode protecting the device and require that it be entered each time you access the device.

Passwords in the Wild
How are your passwords protected?  It really is convenient to have your browser save and remember them.  But, if your device ever falls into the hands of someone else, your device doesn’t know who is at the keyboard.  Instead, consider a utility like LastPass to remember them for you and ensure that you have a master password set on the utility.  BTW, you’re not using the same password on every service, are you? And, BTW2, you’re not using a simple password are you?  During my reads today, I found that TweetSmarter had sent this image showing the most-used English language passwords.

Declining Productivity
I like the recommendation that all devices must attach to the local network.  There, you can filter and block the type of site that isn’t desirable.  Using one’s data plan to connect is a quick way around it.  Of course, the best approach is to ensure that everyone is engaged doing educational things while at the school. 

Compatibility Issues
The key to managing a plethora of devices, it seems to me, is to not even try.  The onus should be on the owner of the device to understand how things work.  I would look at a number of approaches for support – whether it’s a school conference, user groups, workshops, or ask a kid.  The powerful place for BYOD in education is the web which should serve as the great equalizer. Right from the outset, people need to understand that their portable device might have some limitations.  Make sure that if you’re going to plan BYOD activities, that you’re not expecting everyone to be able to access a web resource that requires Adobe Flash, for example.  Can universal HTML5 and CSS3 get here soon enough?

Bandwidth Overuse
I had to smile at the comment in the article that standard DLS won’t do.  If it won’t do for a business, it sure isn’t going to work at any reasonable sized school.  There are ways to measure your usage and your system should already be monitoring throughput as a matter of course.  A rule of thumb, I learned from a CIO friend is that you can’t have enough bandwidth.  Budget should be increasing annually in this area no matter what.  Last week, I did a workshop to a great bunch of educators in Thunder Bay.  The day was cut into quarters and I dealt with four topics: Developing a Digital Footprint, Twitter in Education, Social Reading, and Web That Works.  From the titles, you can guess that I was heavily depending upon the web.  Even with 40 people in a room in a convention centre and whoever else was in the building, we managed to bring the network to its knees.  Fortunately, I’ve run into the same scenario in the past and had so much of what I wanted to use cached so I was able to get through it.  Despite the assurances from the centre that they had great internet, they didn’t.  It might have been at one time but that pipe just needs to get bigger.

As an aside, I envied the folks in the middle table who set up their telephone as a local access point and didn’t have to rely on the conference centre network!

Device Management
You might be able to get away with just user authentication on this one.  You don’t want anyone sitting in the parking lot outside the school onto your network but a decent sized school district would have a huge management problem if you wanted to keep track of MAC addresses.

Wireless Bottlenecks
The message here is important.  Buy good equipment.  Spend the time to map out the coverage of the school and work on load balancing.  Purchasing and installing the bare minimum amount of equipment will only ensure that you’re pushing a problem to solve down the timeline a bit.  You’re going to want to do it right.

Autonomy Overuse
I see this as related to declining productivity.  The message has to be delivered and understood just what the goals are for accessing the wireless network. Use of the BYOD should address the goals.  It may be difficult but this needs to be established early before your classroom becomes an online arcade playhouse.

Virus Infections
It’s scarey to think that someone could bring a virus into your network and then turn it loose to infect others.  A universal understanding of the web as a dangerous place needs to be understood by all.  Perhaps a local computer vendor could hold an information session for parents about just how to ensure that their devices are safe.

Compatibility Complains
This was once a huge issue.  In the article, the author makes reference to documents in Microsoft Office format and offers LibreOffice and Kingsoft Office as alternatives.  Fortunately, in education, the use of Google Documents or Microsoft’s web offering minimizes these conversations these days.  We’ve come a long way and it’s been a rough ride at times but we’re starting to get it.

Thanks to TechRepublic for such a thought provoking article.  It’s full of great ideas that applies both to business and can to education.  From the business perspective, they seem focussed on the concept of universal desire for BYOD.  Education does have another challenge and that is equity of access.  Not all students are able to, either financially or because mom and/or dad won’t allow it, have their own device.  The inclusive classroom will find a way to accommodate whether it be the school’s equipment or diverse grouping, to gently handle this.

Sure, there are some challenges but they’re worthwhile taking on aggressively.  This infographic from Atomic Learning shares an insight to what could be.  Check it out.

While I’m sending you to links for additional reference, you need to also take a look at this Slideshare presentation from Microsoft Education UK.  They have some great thoughts about BYOD and I like the reference to BYOB (Bring Your Own Browser) as increasingly this is what BYOD means to most people.


2 thoughts on “10 worst-case BYOD scenarios (and how to prevent them)

  1. Thanks so much. I agree with you wholeheartedly on the idea of the learners “figuring it out”, when you try a BYOD activity, and everybody’s got a different device. I am a big advocate of web-based tools for that purpose, and BYOD is a way to help us get around our archaic browser issues.


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