Mobile Devices in the Classroom
Make BYOD Work in Your Schools
There are a variety of BYOD models used by schools and districts in Canada and the U.S. Some schools are bravely implementing BYOD, and doing their best to make it work. These are educators aware of the numerous challenges that may come with a BYOD policy, but due to the benefits of 1:1 computing, have come up with both simple and innovative ways to address these challenges. I will highlight some of these strategies, and will also provide links to resources which can support school administrators and districts interested in developing a BYOD model tailored to meet the needs of their students. The beauty of observing those who come before us is that we can learn from their successes as well as their mistakes.
Canada: Peel District School Board and BYOD
In an article published on March 28, 2012 in The Star entitled, In Peel schools, the policy is BYOD: ‘bring your own device’ , Kristen Rushowy reports that “Peel Region’s 153,000 public school students are being encouraged to bring their smartphones, iPads, tablets and laptop computers to class in what the board calls its “21st century learning plan.” The Peel Board recognizes the potential roadblocks that may emerge as BYOD is implemented in their schools, but address them in the following ways:
- Funds that would have been used in the past to build traditional computer labs will go towards increasing bandwidth in schools;
- All teachers are expected to make use of tech in the classroom and will be provided with training;
- In order to address equity issues, laptops and tablets will be purchased for the students who cannot afford to bring their own devices;
- Use the services of companies that will offer parents low-cost rentals or rent to own plans;
- Use cloud based applications that work across different platforms and devices to share files (i.e. Google docs).
The video below demonstrates how Treeline Public School in the Peel district delivers BYOD across classrooms. The video includes teacher and student testimonials, and is a good example of how BYOD can be successful.
This next video explains how Peel District School Board’s landing page is used to support the BYOD initiative. It is a place where students can safely access web 2.0 sites, information, tools and cloud based files for their personal devices.
United States – Forsythe County and BYOD
In the article How to make BYOD work for your schools, posted on eSchool News on October 29th, 2012, Laura Devaney describes how BYOD is currently being implemented in Forsythe County in the United States. Some of the challenges posed by the introduction of a wide variety of digital devices in schools are addressed in the following ways, and worth noting:
- “District officials have set up a separate BYOD network that is ‘segmented off’ from more secure areas. Students on the BYOD network cannot access student information, financial information, and so on.”
- “George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Va., operates on a ‘Color Code Usage System’ for student devices… a red zone indicates that all electronic devices are prohibited; a yellow zone means that students can have possession of their devices, but they must be silent and out of sight; blue zones mean that devices are permitted for specific instructional use; and green zones indicate general and open use of devices, such as in the cafeteria”
- Texting or messaging rules between students and staff are clear:
- Parents grant written permission for each staff member to communicate with students electronically
- A parent is copied on all messages
- No messages after 9pm
- Professional and appropriate language must be used
Microsoft Bring Your Own Device in Schools whitepaper
Microsoft has put together this report which lists a variety of BYOD models that schools or districts may implement, as well as the questions to consider before selecting one particular plan.
The five BYOD models listed are as follows:
- School-defined single platform laptop. With this plan, all students would use the same device, allowing teachers to plan lessons to meet the needs of one device rather than multiple devices. Parents and schools may be co-contributors, and there is the possibility of purchasing in bulk.
- School-defined single platform laptop, plus another device. Along with the school laptop, students are allowed to bring a smartphone, e-reader, or tablet, allowing teachers to instruct students using a variety of tools. This poses a challenge to teachers who are less tech-savvy, as they may be unfamiliar with applications available across platforms.
- School-defined multi-platform laptops. Parents and students have more choices in regards to personal preference, but teachers will need to be familiar with a variety of devices.
- Student-choice of laptop or tablet;
- Bring your own whatever connects to the Internet. Teachers must plan lessons which generally cater to the devices with the lowest capabilities. For either plan to work, teachers must be very flexible.
Here are some questions (Found in Microsoft’s BYOD discussion paper) you need to ask yourself when you are considering implementing BYOD:
- Does your school have a high level of expertise, resources and budget to effectively manage a variety of technologies across a variety of platforms and devices?
- Does your funding model ensure equity for all students?
- Does your BYOD program ensure that all students have access to devices and software that provides the same level of functionality?
- Are your teachers comfortable and confident about managing a technology rich and diverse classroom?
- Does your school support all aspects of self-directed learning, giving students a voice in how, what and when they learn and not just in the choice of a device?
Kajeet for Education – Making Learning Mobile
This is an organization that deals with BYOD policies and devices for schools and students in the United States.
Visit ClassLink to download a free BYOD guidebook, and get additional information on BYOD and cloud-based education products.
Visit this link to get information about Wi-Fi access and bandwidth requirements in schools. Xirrus is available in Canada through Enbridge.
About The Author
I took in a webinar some months back given by the CTO of Katy ISD, and independent school district in Texas. They implemented a 3 year program to get all stakeholders onside in order to implement BYOD district-wide. I found it to be a very useful roadmap as money is only one of the challenges to be faced when starting an initiative like BYOD.
One of the docs they developed was a guide for parents. Here is a link:http://www.katyisd.org/parents/Documents/Wi-Fi%20Guide.pdfShareDelete
As a teacher, I appreciate the clear communication this document offers to parents of children involved in BYOD. Parents are certainly very important stakeholders in the BYOD process!