Saturday, November 3, 2012

BYOD: What We're Learning

Regular readers of this blog will know that our school has embraced BYOD approach to technology at school

Although we have had a soft launch to this policy for the previous two years, this year marks the first year of our full implementation.

Two months into the school year I thought it would be helpful to report out on some observations, challenges and successes.

The Numbers
We have seen an exponential growth of devices here at school.  To be clear, many of these devices were probably already here but our policy is now bringing those devices out, in public, where they can be successfully used by students.  We are currently peaking at 1200 devices on our WiFi network.  With a school population (staff and students) of 550, that averages to about 2 devices per person.

Sharing the Technology
A teacher's tech problem/issue doesn't have to stall the lesson.  With both teacher and students having access to devices, a technology dependent class has a less likelihood of stalling if the teacher's device crashes.  No more awkward "talk among yourselves" as the teachers scrambles.  We can now share devices.

Stability Required
With more users relying on our WiFi and wired network,  the need for a stable and consistent infrastructural has become more pronounced.  Minor interruptions to our WiFi network (our system has been very reliable)  today causes a loud chorus of "is the WiFi down?" from both staff and students.

Need to Support
Creating, supporting and sustaining a technology rich environment requires technical support.  Nothing is quite as frustrating and undermining than having a less than consistent hardware and software.  Nonetheless, from time to time stuff breaks down.  Because of the increasing reliance on our technology infrastructure (WiFi, desktops, projectors, etc) , the timely repair of these issues is critical. Over the years we have increased the time allocated to our I.T teacher to provide the necessary supports to enable a learning culture supported by technology.

Any outlet will do
Honesty & Integrity
Academic Integrity is a priority.  This has always been a priority for any school.  Cheating is an issue that needs to be dealt with when it arises.  In our experience, technology has not created more cheating but rather new realities and challenges.  We have had to do some teaching around integrity and create systems to mitigate the likelihood of cheating with personal devices.   The bigger issue around cheating revolves around the "why" of cheating.  Solve the "why" and solve the cheating.

Where's the outlet?
We are seeing more student devices plugged into outlets around the school.  Moving forward we probably need to adopt smart solutions to this.

From under the desk to the desk top
As student devices become more mainstream at school, it has brought on-line interactions more mainstream and to the attention of responsible adults.  The devices have gone from under the desk to the desk top.  This has allowed us to deal with issues of digital citizenship more frequently.

What is my role?
More and more teachers are realizing that they no longer have the sole responsibility of delivering content to students.  It is my observation that this reality has caused more and more teachers to reflect deeply on what their fundamental role is.  An interesting response to this reality (I don't think it is a coincidence) is that a large number of teachers are looking at Problem Based Learning as part of their professional learning plan.
QR Code in English

Apps that leverage personal devices
I am noticing that teachers are accessing and using more applications that cater to the effective use of personal devices.  I am happy to report that we are seeing more than just teachers using PowerPoint.   For example, we have seen a rise of QR codes throughout the school.

The need to unplug
We need to unplug.  As our use of technology at school evolves, we are becoming increasingly mindful of modelling the need to unplug at times.  Being present in relationship and being present in authentic community is a value we need to uphold and maintain.  This is essential to who we are as a Christian Catholic school community.

I'm sure we will learn much more as we continue to empower our teachers and students to use technology to enrich learning.

I am particularly interested in hearing from other schools that have adopted a BYOD approach to technology.  Any insights and ideas are always welcome!


  1. Interesting post, Johnny. I would say your statement about being present in an authentic community should be an essential focus in all schools. I look forward to connecting at Edcamp Leadership!

  2. Thanks for a clear picture of the challenges and learnings that you are experiencing in this move to BYOD. By full implementation do you mean that every teacher has opened their classroom to BYOD?

    1. Hi Blaise
      Thanks for the comment and question. Yes, every teacher has the choice to open up their class to BYOD. Today, as you walk around the school, you would see some students, in some classes, at different moments, accessing their personal devices. Of course, any use of technology should be preceded with pedagogical justification. My sense is that we are working through this reality, one teacher at a time. I still walk into classrooms in my school that are engaging, exciting, full off learning and conversation and their is not a tech device in site.

  3. I have noticed an off-on attitude to QR codes in my school. There was a flurry of interest two years ago and then it tapered off. I think QR codes are transient here in North America. At any conference I attend I wear a large QR code name tag ... it points to my presence. I wear this same tag every day at school. I say nothing about it; I wait for a student or colleague to ask and then invite them to scan away. Most have never scanned a QR code ... at that point I suggest Google Goggles for those with the ever more popular Android platform.

  4. Hi Peter
    I know what you mean about QR codes. I've seen the same. Interestingly enough, this year I have noticed an increase in the use QR codes by some teachers and students. We'll see if that momentum continues.

  5. Finally acknowledging Google+ I see.

    I require students to use QR codes in certain projects. I also use QR codes on tests. Students scan the code to point to a bonus problem that lives on our in-house web server.

  6. Two devices per student got my attention! At HSS the average number of devices per day is now up over 400 from 250 a year ago with a student FTE of 600, but the Internet isn't stable enough it would seem to go to the next level quite yet. More work to do there. We should also look at adding more CRT time across the district to help support teacher practice even and start thinking about charging stations (or just putting more 10 dollar power bars in our classes in the meantime) so the kids can plug in mid-day. Good stuff. Thanks Johnny.

  7. Hi Peter
    To be clearer, 1200 devices has been our maximum. The reality is that most staff and students have a mobile device in their possession that is connected to our network throughout the day. The device may not be "in use" or visible but nonetheless connected. This, as you know, has implications on our infrastructure. That is why we needed to build such a robust network.
    Thanks for reading a commenting.

  8. Hi there - very interesting! Our team at would love to hear more about the numbers. Do you know how many students approximately have laptops? I would imagine its mainly smartphones, along with some laptops.

    Our product,, enables teachers to obtain feedback from students in real-time. It's based on the BYOD concept, and feel those educators interested in the BYOD model would enjoy Understoodit! We would love to hear your feedback.

  9. Hi John - can you comment more specifically on the change in pedagogy and learning activities? How are teachers teaching differently? How are students learning differently? How have learning processes been changed by this? Do you have a sense of whether learning has improved and how would you measure that?

    Awesome work btw - appreciate being able to learn from those that go first.