How a Managed BYOD Program helps students and teachers thrive at St Bede’s

Three school students working outside on Windows laptops

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St Bede’s Catholic College’s approach to integrated digital learning is based on a successful managed bring your own device program that equips every student with a 2-in-1 laptop pre-selected and verified by the school.

The right technology, managed seamlessly, supports a fresh, flexible curriculum. Because each student has access to Microsoft software on a Windows device, St Bede’s can cater to a range of abilities and circumstances – including remote learning.

Equipping students with their device of choice

As a brand-new school, St Bede’s offers so many great opportunities for students to learn, achieve and grow. They are fortunate to do this using state-of-the-art facilities, modern technology and flexible learning environments. When it came to technology choice for the new school, they were starting with a clean slate. “I came to St Bede’s from the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle where I was a Learning Technology Education Officer,” says Andrew Cornwall, Leader of Learning and Microsoft Innovative Educator. “Because I’d spent the past three years helping schools integrate technology into their teaching and learning, we had a lot of case studies around the most effective laptop models.”

St Bede’s decided on a manageable yet flexible BYOD policy where parents get to choose from a range of school-verified Windows devices.

One of the big considerations for me is ensuring there’s equity for all learners. As teachers, we can go into every lesson knowing that all students have access to all the software and hardware they need.

In 2020, St Bede’s asked students to choose a range of new devices for the whole school. Students had previously experienced their old laptops running out of battery during the day, so they made battery life a high priority for the new selections. They also chose a stylus for digital inking and a 2-in-1 form factor to give them flexibility in how they take notes. The final choice came down to two brands and they settled on Lenovo because of their stylus “garage”. The students liked that the styluses don’t need batteries and are harder to lose than others that don’t have an easy place to store the pen.

Parents of Year 7 to 9 students all purchase the same durable model which can withstand the rigours of the day – the Lenovo Yoga 11E. “We prefer students to have education-specific devices, because they’re more robust,” says Ray Burg, St Bede’s IT Manager.

In Years 10, 11 and 12, parents and students have three versions of the Lenovo L13 to choose from – the Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7, all representing different power and performance levels according to a student’s needs. The higher-powered model can run Adobe Creative Cloud, CAD and 3D modelling programs.

Parents, too, are happy. It’s easy for them to order the laptop through the school portal. They benefit from extremely competitive pricing due to the purchasing volume. “We have about 500 device purchases a year. Parents from other schools hear about the ease and value and they want to purchase through our portal,” says Ray.

Already prepared for remote learning

For many schools, lockdown was defined by panic and rapid re-adjustment. But at St Bede’s, everyone was able to continue learning from home, almost without interruption. Andrew explains;

Because we’ve gone down the path of pre-selected bring your own devices, we knew that we had the right tools in students’ hands for them to continue with their learning.

For example, the devices all have microphone and camera. Students and teachers already used Microsoft Teams to chat and have video calls and used a combination of Teams and OneNote for class document management. Students relied on the skills they had developed in the St Bede’s Year 7 orientation program to ensure they did not skip a beat.

In the first weeks, we get them comfortable with the tools that we use here at St Bede’s – Microsoft Teams, OneNote, Microsoft Forms, Excel and other products within the Office 365 suite.

So when lockdown hit, even the youngest students knew how to video call into their lessons from day one of the government-mandated school closure – less than six weeks into the school year.

This meant that teachers and school leaders could spend less time ironing out technology issues and more time adapting the curriculum for remote learning.

Keeping learning on track

Because all the devices run on Windows 10 and Office 365 Education is available to every student, set up and management is seamless using Microsoft Endpoint Manager’s Intune for Education, Azure Active Directory and School Data Sync. The cloud-based mobile device and application management tool allows Ray to control software allocations and device security. In the Microsoft Endpoint Manager Admin Console panel, Ray sets which software will be automatically installed and which the students can optionally install. It automatically pushes updates and certificates, syncs settings and automates licencing for Microsoft and even Adobe Creative Cloud.

“I started using Intune last year when we rolled out the new Lenovo devices,” describes Ray. “It turned out to be brilliant – it just saved so much time. We deployed 200 devices to year 10, and I was able to teach the students in a 45-minute class to install their software themselves.”

If a student device requires replacing, Ray uses Intune to automatically reload all the software and student data. “Previously, it would take me hours and a lot of manual processes. Now it’s just a few clicks and everything happens in the background.” And with their files saved in the cloud on OneDrive, students can keep learning on a device borrowed from the library.

One of the biggest benefits of using Intune is the surety that every student has the right software. We know they’re secure and up to date. Viruses are virtually a thing of the past.

Next year when the entering year 7 cohort come to pick up their new uniforms in the last two weeks of the holidays, Ray will also hand them their devices and a one-page instruction sheet. “I’m confident that they’ll be able to log in and set up their devices at home. They’ll come to class on day one, already signed up, software loaded and ready to start. That will save me days compared to even two years ago.”

Andrew sums up St Bede’s Managed BYOD device program. “A big advantage is the avoidance of downtime. Using a reliable tier one supplier with a robust support program ensures that every student has access to a device for learning – every day, every lesson.”

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