Successful BYOD Implementations – A Technical View

Image from Air Watch
Recently Foothills School Division hosted a BYOD strategy meeting in the Town of High River. We’re still recovering from the craziness of the flooding that took place just over a year ago. Despite the efforts still taking place to get everything running optimally, life goes on… and so our School Division is developing a strategic implementation plan to employ personal devices in the classrooms of our students. Others in Alberta are ahead of us as we were delayed by the flooding.
As a part of the planning we sought out advice from other Alberta School Divisions, the hardware communities and experts from software companies. (Kudos to Allan Manzano from Shaw Go Wifi and Greg Milligan from Microsoft for their keynotes.)  We were provided with some great insights. Following the keynotes, a panel discussion ensued providing insight related to reviewing the research. A special thanks to Daryl Hoey for his notes during the event.
Guests on the panel included:
  • Todd Kennedy – Director of Technology, Golden Hills School Division
  • Lyle Roberts – Director of Technology, Prairie Rose Regional Division
  • Kevin Wttewaall – Director of Technology for Learning, Rockyview School Division
  • John Schutte – Senior Manager, Infrastructure and Operations at Calgary Catholic School Division
Here’s what we learned. There’s 7 Focus areas.
  1. Engage Community
  2. Distribute Leadership
  3. Build Infrastructure
  4. Create Cloud Based Access to Resources
  5. Create a Portal to make Access to Resources Simple
  6. Provide a means to Build Digital Citizenship
  7. Focus on supporting Curriculum.

The dialog between the participants elicited a number of salient points. I’ll list these in point form and expand on them later.

Engage Community

  • Teachers must be engaged and prepared in order for any technology initiative to be successful
  • It’s important to get the story out (around how the technology improves learning) by getting the story out – possibly from pilots
  • Including adults as participants in the digital citizenship process is a great way of moving the initiative forward
  • Drive the initiative by learner needs
  • The real work begins once the early adopters embrace the initiative. 
  • Expect push back once things move past pilots and to the second level.
  • Mentor teachers to mitigate the risk of failure.

Distribute Leadership

  • Students become leaders within schools helping with support and talking to teachers about technology issues.
  • Students that volunteer love it.
  • Districts that push the leadership to engage in BYOD processes moved further faster – this included board members.
  • Developing strategies that include the learning commons is also important.

Build Infrastructure

  • It’s important to ensure the installation of access points is verified onsite. It’s far to difficult to determine placement using theory.
  • Some sites have chosen to eliminate access to network drives and printing in order to reduce traffic.
  • Savings from device purchasing was redistributed toward bandwidth and access.
  • Device management can improve tech support but has an impact on bandwidth
  • Some divisions have already put a plan in place to increase access – 10 Gb at the head end, 1 Gb at each site.
  • There are metrics being used to ensure great connectivity
  • Tools like Aruba Analytics, Cybera Analytics, Cacti and Exinda are supporting the measurements

Cloud Access

  • Google Apps for Education (GAFE) is a common tool in Alberta
  • Microsoft 365 gaining some popularity
  • Many divisions moving to or considering leveraging cloud solutions and eliminating local data centres
  • Alberta Core program provides an online delivery of learning objects that is collaboratively built between partner divisions.
  • SharePoint is becoming less important in divisions that already utilize this software


  • Students and staff need a “one stop shop” to get to their cloud based services.
  • Edmonton Public School Division and Red Deer Public both have icon based access to their cloud services. (Great examples).
  • Others have gone away from the use of the word portal since it’s left a bad taste in the past. Digital Learning Commons is one example of an alternative.

Responsible Use and Digital Citizenship

  • Policy and Administrative Procedures should be revisited.
  • Consider Search and Seizure due to the use of cell phones and text messaging – there’s legal implications
  • All schools that are going to BYOD must have a embedded digital citizenship plan.
  • Provision must be made in all classes to work with the students for life in the cloud.
  • Filtering practise is stopping only the darkest places.
  • Try to help students around resiliency at the classroom level

Curriculum Design

  • Consider understanding by design UDL and assistive technology to create a process for working with curriculum division wide
  • Shift from grading to competency outcomes.
  • Work on assessment with parents
(note: all divisions that participated in the conversation are working on curriculum redesign, inclusive education, and the changes aligned with Inspiring Education)