Bring your own device is one of the hot topics of today, not only in education, but all public and private sectors it seems. I don't intend to write about how useful or inafective a scheme can be in education, however I would like to discuss the subject from a technical point of view. Geek mode on...
Firstly and obviously you need wifi, but have you really thought about how your wifi will cope when hundreds possibly thousands of devices start connecting to it? After reading this blog by @johnnybevacqua which touches on the subject it got me thinking.
Where I work we have tried to start a BYOD scheme. We knew we needed a robust, scalable and affordable wifi network. After much research and consultation with other schools, we decided to install a Ruckus controller, and 24 Ruckus 7363 access points.
We chose the Ruckus system for a number of reasons. Firstly, it came very highly reconmended by many of the edugeek community. The controller allows for centralised management of multiple SSIDs, VLAN tagging, ACLs, a captive portal and LDAP integration. All I think vital for securing and monitoring unknown devices within your network.
We chose the 7363 access point (which at the time was the mid range - in terms of price) due to its a/b/g/n dual band capabilities, Beam forming technology, it's internal switch functionality and mesh capabilities. The latter two allowed us to place AP's in places quickly without pulling extra network cables.
It was excellent to read this Tom's Hardware comparison a couple of months after we'd made our decision too!
We were also aware that to support this wireless network we needed to upgrade our core infrastructure. It's all very well having an all singing all dancing wifi, but if you're backbone isn't up to the job, the project will fail. We replaced our core switch with a HP Procurve 5412ZL, which also acts as our inter VLAN router, HP Procurve 2910AL PoE as edge switches, and HP Procurve 2510's for client devices. All interconnected with multiple gigabit trunks. 10GBit was just not within our budget (or the capabilities of our fibre), but both the 5412 and 2910's do support it if there is spare cash in the future.
Staff and student wireless devices are tagged within their own VLAN, given IP's within their own range. They are isolated from each other and have access lists applied which only allow them to access our edge router, and our moodle site. We currently do not use Windows NAP.
The biggest issue we face, and the one which is often over looked, was our internet connection. We currently have a 10mbit connection back to our LEA provider. This is simply not enough, and we are currently in talks with them about the most cost effective upgrade. Schools who intend to use BYOD need to look at how much they can invest in their internet connection. @StephenHeppell at Learning without Frontiers 2012 said "Bring a Browser". That rung a bell with me. The device (and apps) are becoming less important. The power is in the browsers!
How restrictive is your internet connection? If it doesn't allow your BYOD users to access many of the apps, applications, cloud storage and websites they use at home, will they bother to connect? Filtering needs to be at a level that encourages users to connect, so that monitoring and safeguarding can continue.
That brings me to the LEA proxy server...
The story of the never seconds blog, is a far more complicated one than is being made out in the media. In short, a nine year old Scottish pupil has been reviewing her school lunch on an almost daily basis. She used various categories to rate the meal, and where possible, a picture of her dinner.
Yesterday Martha (known on her blog as VEG) was asked by her head teacher on behalf of Argyll and Bute council to stop taking pictures of her dinner. This led to Martha writing the last post explaining the situation, and that her blog had come to an end.
The majority of the media have taken this to be that the blog itself has been banned. To some degree I understand their point of view. Stopping the photos, makes it hard for anyone, let alone a nine year old to convey the quality of the food being served.
Martha has been told not to take any further pictures of her lunch, but the Argyll and Bute council are yet to publicly state why.
There is a risk with children taking cameras into school, but many do in the form of mobile phones every day of the school year, worldwide. Was this blog actively encouraging kids to snap away in school? It is correct that any school or council have a robust policy on the safe use of cameras. Pupils could be taking all kinds of images and publishing them on the web for all to see. However should a policy make a young girl feel so uncomfortable to stop writing?
I'd suggest there are now some difficult meetings going on within the Argyll and Bute council offices, mainly on how they get around this publicity nightmare which has interested journalist and bloggers world wide. By 'silencing' this young girl, they have awakened the people who shout loudest. Something often refered to as the Streisand effect.
Well what should the council have done?