Making The Grade is a weekly series from Bradley Chambers covering Apple in education. Bradley has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.

If you are around the K–12 technology scene at all, there is no doubt one term that you’ve heard of: BYOD. It stands for bring your own device. It means that the school’s technology program allows students to bring a device to school, put it on the school’s Wi-Fi network, and use it to do their classwork. On the surface, this sounds like a win-win for everyone. School’s get out of the device ownership and management business, and students get to bring whatever device they want to school. I’ve long disagreed with this strategy, and I want to explain why.

A Standard That There’s No Standard

When teachers are building lesson plans, how are they supposed to know what devices students will have? Will some have an iPad Pro while others have a Kindle Fire? Will a student be sent to school with an iPad 2 running iOS 9? When teacher’s don’t have a standard of devices to work around, they’ll have work to the lowest common device. If they get an idea for an exciting project to do but realize it’ll need a specific app, do they have to search multiple app stores to make sure it’s available?

You can see the problem here, but you might be thinking, what if you say BYOD, but it has to be a X ( where X is a specific device that schools pick). In years past, I would bring up the fact that BYOD devices can’t be supervised by Apple. But Apple did add the ability to supervise BYOD devices, however it’ll require all the devices to be wiped upon enrollment.

You can choose to add iOS and tvOS devices to Apple School Manager or Apple Business Manager using Apple Configurator, even if the devices weren’t purchased directly from Apple, an Apple Authorized Reseller or an authorized cellular carrier. When you set up a device that has been manually enrolled, it behaves like any other enrolled device, with mandatory supervision and mobile device management (MDM) enrollment. For devices that weren’t purchased directly, the user has a 30-day provisional period to remove the device from enrollment, supervision, and MDM. The 30-day provisional period begins after the device is activated.

Who Owns The Device?

When schools own the device, they get to dictate the exact setup. I’ve long been a fan of completely disabling iMessage on school-owned devices. While it’s an excellent service for personal use, it adds a new layer of problems for schools. It’s a chat service built into a device schools own that you can’t have any visibility into what’s happening on it. The negative aspects outweigh the benefits.

If you own the device, you can do that without repercussion. If parents own the device, will they be okay with you doing that? Technically, your MDM has this ability, but do you have the political capital? What if a parent wants it enabled just for one day so they can communicate with their kids about something?

When parents own the device, they’ll want to have more say into how the device is set up. If a school purchases and deploys a device, they’ll have 100% control/say into how it’s used. Even if you charge the parents a technology fee for the iPad, the school will still be the one purchasing and managing it.

Damaged Devices

When deploying a BYOD program, parents are responsible for any repairs. If an iPad fails under warranty, a school can quickly provision a new device and have the student up and running very quickly (assuming they keep spares on hand). What happens if it’s a personal device? Will parents have to make an appointment with the Genius Bar (or Best Buy in case of a Chromebook) to get the device repaired? How quickly will these repairs be turned around? Will this repair time put the students behind in their school work?

By owning the entire process, students will always have devices ready to use. Schools will generally keep spare devices on hand that students can use while the broken one is being repaired.

Wrap Up

These are just three reasons why I prefer that schools own and control their entire technology program. When buying and deploying the devices themselves, they have better control over the whole experience (from initial rollout to managing repairs). Do you disagree? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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About the Author

Bradley Chambers

Bradley lives in Chattanooga, TN.

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