Wednesday, August 10, 2011

BYOD - Infrastructure


Another key piece of our new BYOD policy was our infrastructure. We couldn't tell students to bring any device they want and not have an internet connection for them. Not to mention telling students and parents they would have to use and pay for their data on their own wireless carrier was just out of the question.

Fortunately our district's technology coordinator has uncanny foresight and convinced the board to approve the purchase of an enterprise quality wifi network for each campus, capable of multiple SSIDs. I'm sure our team of network and IT guys helped her find a quality system that would meet our needs. (For more info on our wireless network visit http://www.xirrus.com/products/). Her sales pitch included a two year, multi-phase plan which placed campuses on a list prioritized by their curriculum and equipment needs. That was nearly 2 years ago. Today all of our campuses are pretty well covered for wifi.

Wifi Partitioning
Disclaimer: I am not a network guy nor do I play one on TV. The following is my best effort to explain what has been told to me.
Our wifi has been partitioned into 4 separate pipes. I have listed them below in their order of priority on the network:
  1. Official District devices (laptop labs, etc.)
  2. District mobile devices (iPods, tablets, Phones, etc)
  3. Teacher owned devices
  4. Students
As far as I understand the first pipe has priority and is able to expand to take over the lower levels as demand increases. This way all official school business and learning have priority on our bandwidth. In other words we aren't being bogged down by students downloading videos or music. As of right now all of these pipes receive the same level of internet filtering, (yes we do block YouTube). Also, our networks guys setup the wifi to require our students login to the wifi with the same credentials they use to login to any other computer on our district network.
All public schools are required to filter the internet for students. So to handle that we wrote into our BYOD policy a requirement mandating that the student use the district's provided wifi rather than their own mobile 3g or 4g network. While it is true that it may be hard to police this, it really comes down to classroom management. Where before this policy everyone was hiding their devices, now if they are hiding their device they should stick out and that is the student you need to monitoring. (More on classroom management to come. In the mean time check out "Branding BYOD: On/Off" by Jason Ohler.)