Teachers take charge of mobile devices
Mobile device management is now a central part of classroom supervision as teachers compete with laptops, tablets and phones for students’ attention.
The ability to freeze a device’s screen, block inappropriate apps or lock students into particular educational content can help teachers transition smoothly to online testing, 1-to-1 and BYOD, experts say.
“When teachers know they have that flexibility, it reassures them that they can do things without needing a half hour from the tech department,” says Jean Tower, chair of the Consortium for School Networking and director of technology for the Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough in Massachusetts.
Mobile device management software allows one person to update the content and security settings on hundreds of devices. These products can lessen the burden on school IT departments, since they give teachers the power to control devices themselves, Tower says.
There are now dozens of mobile device management products on the market, including LanSchool from Stoneware, Vision from Netop, the Casper Suite from JAMF Software, and NetSupport. CIOs should ensure the software is compatible with all of their school’s devices and platforms before making a purchase, Tower says. For example, some products work with only one operating system, while others don’t operate on desktop computers.
AirWatch Teacher Tools, for example, can be used to lock a student’s Apple device into an app, website or piece of content (such as a PDF) to keep them following the lesson. Devices also can be frozen to get students’ attention—this function was the main request from many teachers, says Preston Winn, AirWatch’s director of business development for education. The software is used in about 1,500 colleges and K12 schools.
“These devices, if not used correctly, can be a distraction,” Winn says. It’s not hard to get devices to teachers, he adds. “The struggle we have is helping teachers understand how to use [them] effectively in class.”
Teachers need some control when their classrooms are first using devices. But the long-term goal should be to rely less on management software as students are given more power to guide their own learning, Winn adds.
These tools can also be used by administrators to identify the websites and applications students are using most, and determine what products should be renewed, says George Dotterer, CEO of Verite Educational Systems. The company recently released NetRef, which shows school leaders the toughest classrooms to manage, based on how often teachers block the internet, he adds.
“Schools are spending a tremendous amount of money on tablets, laptops and allowing BYOD,” Dotterer says. “Mobile device management can help maximize the value of administrators’ investment.”