For the past two years we have had a soft or "organic" launch to this policy. For this coming fall, we officially launch our BYOD initiative.
As we prepare for an anticipated surge in personal devices, there are some important details that needed to be addressed. I'll call them leadership implications.
Leadership Implications of a BYOD policy
1. Being clear on the "Why"? Is it congruent with our school culture, values and mission?
In our case BYOD makes the most sense. It leverages much of the hardware that many students and families already possess. It gives choice to parents - one of our fundamental values is "parents as the first and primary educators". Furthermore, our school culture is rich with a sense of trust between teachers and students.
2. Network Infrastructure
We have invested a tremendous amount of energy and resources to establish a stable and robust wifi and wired infrastructure. We can handle over 4,000 wifi devices at one time (we have 550 staff & students) with reasonable speed and efficiency.
3. Unpacking Digital Citizenship
As the use of technology grows and as teachers increasingly require students to use and access digital media so does the need to model and teach digital literacy. This is not the sole responsibility of a select group of teachers.
For this coming school year we have hired a new teacher/"tech-brarian" that will assist staff (and students) in acquiring the necessary digital literacy skills to be proficient to transfer those to students.
In addition, over the past few years we endeavored to systematically implement a digital citizenship learning plan for our students through specific lessons in certain classes, grade level workshops or school wide assemblies. We feel it is important not to take an "ad hoc" approach to teaching this very important topic.
We have also been communicating to our parents about how they can support their children becoming digitally responsible citizens. We have hosted various parent meetings and constantly update our school website for related resources.
4. Communicating Expectations to the Community
It is critically important that we communicate why we think a BYOD approach to technology is important. We also need to set some clear expectations for students, teachers and parents as how and when devices should be used.
For example at our school, as a general rule, all personal and school owned devices must be used as a tool to enhance student learning and for positive communications.
We communicate the the following guidelines to parents and students:
Electronic devices should be used to promote genuine learning, research and positive communication - not for such things as academic dishonesty (cheating) and/or hurtful and disrespectful communications
Devices should be used at the appropriate time, with the teacher’s permission. Your device should not be a source of distraction or disruption of the teaching-learning environment. When a not required by a teacher, personal electronic devices are to be kept out-of-sight and turned off.
When using a device, be mindful that you are not violating another person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. The taking of pictures, videos without a person’s permission is not permitted.
Take care of your devices. Be mindful of securing them. Put your name of your device. Do not share any passwords etc.
6. Empowering and Supporting Teachers
Any BYOD policy will only be as effective the teachers who model its appropriate use and who can fully utilize the power of technology to engage students in their learning.
Giving time to for teachers to play and learn with technology is important. We have increased our collaboration time in the hope that they will be empowered to implement technology in their classes. Many have responded positively.
We also want teachers to bring devices to school that they are comfortable using in their teaching and learning. Next year we will implement a teacher technology subsidy program, whereby teachers can apply for a subsidy to assist them in the purchase of personal device that will also be used at school.
7. Autonomy, Choice and Commonality
A BYOD policy, at its core, is based on autonomy and choice. As a school we don't prescribe the type or brand of device. We do, however, recommend certain specifications (i.e. wifi, internet browsing, word processing, etc).
There is, however a some need for a "common space" when it comes to the digital learning. For example we have given all students a school based (& lifetime) email address, common username and login interface, common cloud based storage and file sharing.
But herein lies the delicate balance. We also want to value autonomy and choice for teachers and students when comes to their teaching an learning space. When you walk into some of our classes you will see various digital tools used by different teachers and students.
In addition, parents, for a variety of reasons, may choose to not send their child to school with a device. As a school we have the obligation to provide an alternative. We already a number of school laptops that can be issued to students as well as large number of networked computers that students can access.
8. Be Patient with the Messy
Will there be bumps and hiccups along the way? We have already experienced a few. Just a few a weeks ago a few teachers discovered some potentially concerning comments on a social media site regarding a few members of our community. Rather than overreact and "ban", "take away", or "shut down" - the teacher had a conversation with the student in question about their "digital footprint" and the impact their comments were having on others. (This, of course, high lights the importance of having adults in this space who can model and teach appropriate on-line behavior). The student learned something and the material "removed".
Might there by upcoming issues with our BYOD policy? My guess is yes.
We need to continue to be thoughtful, strategic and patient as we continue to grow our BYOD approach to technology at our school.
Feel free to share some other BYOD implementation strategies. Still figuring it out......