I love the idea of bring-your-own-device (BYOD), but it can be a nightmare! I recently taught a class entitled Cloud Computing and Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers. The class was held in a wireless conference room, but the attendees had to bring their own devices. Keep in mind that the students in the class were teachers, most of whom were using their school-issued computers. School-issued computers! School issued computers that were locked down tighter than my high school’s network (and let me tell you, that is locked down). That was a problem I did not anticipate..
First and foremost, I was teaching the class using the Google Chrome browser and some of the apps from the Chrome Store. The school-issued laptops had Firefox and IE installed on them...no Chrome. So I just had them install the Chrome browser, right? Wrong. They had no administrative rights whatsoever and could not install, change, alter, modify, or otherwise tweak anything.
Because I was training them in the use of browser-based software, they needed the newest versions of java, flash, and other plug-ins, add-ons, applications, and what-not. Some had them; others didn’t. Want to learn screencasting with Screenr or Screencast-O-Matic? Better have the newest version of Java. And with the Java security issues, it needs to be enabled! Some students couldn’t do screencasting. Status of my screencasting lesson: fail.
That’s only the beginning. Other websites required Flash, Silverlight, Adobe Reader, etc. Some students couldn’t use certain websites, see videos, edit videos, or read PDFs. Some couldn’t do image editing or create presentations. My class met once each week, so I asked the students to have their tech personnel update some of the required plug-ins during the time between classes. Some did it; others didn’t.What a nightmare...and a learning experience! We somehow got by. I altered my course content, found alternatives, and stayed calm. I also used the entire situation as a learning experience for the students. If they planned to use some of the applications in their classes, they would need to meet with their tech people first to set up student computers. They would need to check the school’s computer use policies to see what software applications are allowed and which ones are taboo.
What did I learn? When creating a course, think hard about the problems you could encounter and build requirements into your course description to nip the issues in the bud. My new requirements/recommendations include using a PC with Google Chrome, a Gmail account, updated versions of the aforementioned browser plug-ins, and either administrative rights to the computer or easy access to someone who has such rights. I learned, but I learned the hard way.