BYOD: An ongoing process

byodI recently received an email from a young lady who is researching schools that have adopted BYOD for her Level 2 NCEA Accounting.  As I answered her questions I was prompted to consider more deeply the process we went through and I thought it might be worthwhile sharing.  We are in our second term of compulsory BYOD (I posted some reflections on the first few weeks in this post) and we are still learning.  I am sure that our progress will be a constant theme of my blogs this year as we reflect on how we are going.  These are just some initial thoughts.

Preparation and Planning: What did we do?

First of all it is worth pointing out that I work in a State Integrated Secondary School and we are relatively well-off in terms of infrastructure.  I appreciate that State Schools may not have the same finances at their disposal as we do and it may take longer to put the infrastructure in place. However, I believe that preparing the school community to cope with the changes to the way we teach and learn are similar wherever you are.

Planning a pathway

We restructured our ICT Committee so that there was a balance of technology and pedagogy to ensure that teaching and learning drove the decisions about technology. Discussions were focussed on what we needed in the way of technology to deliver robust teaching programmes and enable our students to own their learning.

We formed a group, affectionately called the “Bling” group (Blended Learning Instructional Group), which consisted of early adopters from different subject areas to look at the bigger picture.  We used the eLearning Planning Framework as a starting point and mapped out a pathway for integrating blended learning opportunities within the curriculum plans. We were very clear from the outset that we wanted to use technology to enhance the already very good teaching and learning that was going on in our school, rather than replace it.  Blending a range of strategies that work for all our teachers and students is essential.

The BLING team were also responsible for encouraging members of their departments, providing them with moral support and worked on a Professional Development programme.

The key component for all of this was, of course, Professional Development.  Our school academic goal three years ago was focused on building personal competency and confidence around using technology on the basis that if teachers are not comfortable using tech themselves they will be reluctant to use it in the classroom.  The following year it was consolidating on that and developing skills within the classroom, embedding technology into the curriculum and looking more deeply at learning approaches such as SAMR, Blooms and Solo Taxonomy.  Our aim was to build a sense of “it’s ok to have a go and fail” in fact, it’s better to have a go and fail than not have a go at all.  Since resiliency, problem-solving and creativity are what we want our students to aspire to then we should model that behaviour and be prepared to stretch our limits too.


We have a strong tech team and we worked closely with them.  Once they were clear about what we wanted in terms of learning they set to to make sure we had enough wireless switches and that they were in the best places to ensure wireless coverage was consistent across the school.  The materials from which some of the buildings in school are constructed cause issues with wireless reception.  Our tech team have found work-arounds for these places but we still have to work within those constraints.  We planned well but still have a few “dead spots”. These are being picked up and sorted out on an ongoing basis.

Technology Adoption

We decided to adopt Google Apps for Education (GAFE)  after some teachers trialled using Google Docs with classes and found that it impacted positively on student achievement.  This gave us a common platform for curation, dissemination and creation of materials for both staff and students. However, that doesn’t mean that other software, programmes and apps are not used and we encourage a broad spectrum of resources to promote effective learning.

Training & Preparation of staff

Preparation for all staff, both teaching and admin, was undertaken to ensure that staff were as ready as they could be for the transition to BYOD. This happened over a two year period prior to full adoption of BYOD.  Building confidence and integrating use of tech in teaching programmes has been successful as a result of the time spent preparing teachers.  All staff were involved in GAFE training to familiarise themselves with a new email system, calendars and the collaborative elements of Google Apps.  This happened more quickly than we had intended and required a significant mindshift and willingness to be flexible and open to new ways of doing things from all staff.  It wasn’t plain sailing but I have been amazed at the resilience of our teachers and support staff and how positively they have approached the change.

Phased roll out of BYOD

In the years prior to BYOD adoption, some teachers encouraged the use of devices and trialled using technology tools for teaching and learning. Then students in Senior classes were invited to bring in their devices, followed by Juniors but they were not compelled to do so. The challenge here was that some students would have devices in a classroom and others wouldn’t, making it difficult for teachers to manage and plan. We soon realised that we would need to make the transition to compulsory BYOD.

Research & choice of devices

We looked carefully at what had worked in other schools and decided to go with an agnostic device BYOD rather than mandate a brand or type of device. The benefits of this are that the learning is the priority not the tool to achieve it, parents don’t have to buy new devices if they already have one from a previous school, they have choice over how much they wish to spend and students use what they are comfortable with and know how to “drive”.

Battery life is a huge consideration and to avoid health and safety issues of cables trailing in classrooms we made the decision to buy charging lockers and installed them throughout the school.

Preparation for students

This has been one area that I feel we have neglected in a way. Although we were aware that not all students are “tech savvy” we did still assume that they would adapt quickly to using devices in the classroom.  However, they are not all good at managing their own devices and knowing how to use them for learning.  Digital Literacy is something that we are addressing on an ongoing basis in the classroom.  The Junior Curriculum provides opportunities in the first term for the different subjects to build capabilities sharing, collaborating and creating documents, presentations and videos. There is time to explore what plagiarism is, how to conduct research, use media and effective referencing.  Digital Citizenship is also a key factor for both staff and students and we have put in place strategies for dealing with inappropriate use of devices.  As with Digital Literacy, Digital Citizenship is being addressed in the classroom in context.

Preparation for Parents

A BYOD booklet explaining our rationale and giving examples of the sort of learning that can happen has been prepared and distributed to all parents. It includes a guide to the sorts of devices that are suitable.  We have run Netsafe workshops for parents to raise awareness of Digital Citizenship and we are building a section of our website with useful hints and tips for parents of digital teens.  We are still working on other ways of engaging parents in the BYOD process as this is an area that we identified as being relatively weak when we used the eLearning Planning Framework.

The process of going BYOD has not been without its challenges but we think we have been successful so far as a result of the planning and preparation we have undertaken.  Change needs to be managed and we need to have everyone on side for that; too fast and you lose some on the way but there has to be drive and you need to build some momentum.  I remember hearing a Principal talk about “getting everyone on the bus” so that you have a common approach, and if people aren’t packed and ready then there is no place for them.  We all learn at different paces and as long as there is a common will and understanding then we will all get there. So I think you need to be prepared to let people get off at different stops along the way to process what they have learned, have a break and then get back on again when they are ready.

After two years we took the eLPF to our staff and spent an afternoon exploring it.  They put us two places higher than we had put ourselves two years ago.  From Emerging we were now Engaging in all areas and Extending in many.  Not bad, I reckon but there is still a way to go and the technological landscape will continue to change but I think our teachers and our support staff have the positive, flexible mindset to cope with that.

#28daysofwriting Day 9: Safer Internet Day

Missed yesterday so playing catch up today.  Spent yesterday evening frantically putting PD together for a Digital Citizenship session with teachers tomorrow and putting the finishing touches to our new Staff Responsible Use agreement.  Since today is Safer Internet Day, I had a look around at some resources to share with staff and as I was browsing came across some interesting statistics that got me thinking.

According to a report in the UK  about online behaviour, a third of young people say they are targeted with “mean” behaviour online.  Based on interviews with more than 1,000 young people by the UK Safer Internet Centre the report also says that young people feel closer to their friends, and feel more able to cope with unpleasant online behaviour that they may encounter.

Interestingly the report suggests that “26% of British 11-16 year-olds use six or more social networks and messaging apps every week.”  As you might imagine YouTube and Facebook are the most widely used.

My own surveys in class over the last couple of weeks with our Year 9 students back up the report’s findings that Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp follow quickly on the heels of FB.  Then the findings start to veer apart.  The UK statistics that Minecraft and Twitter are used by just over a third of young people are not reflected in my findings but maybe that is, in part, because my students are all girls and are not interested, on the whole, in Minecraft.  And there seems to be a fear, maybe borne of ignorance, of Twitter being a dangerous medium that should be avoided at all costs!

Most young people say that technology is an important part of their lives and it certainly seems that avenues for reporting abuse and inappropriate behaviour on social media have improved and become more transparent.  It is important not to overstate the negatives and focus more on the positives, we need to engage in media which enable interaction, collaboration and learning.  We also need to help our young people deal with difficulties and cope with the challenges they pose if they are to be prepared for life in general.

This blog poses some interesting challenges for the millenials that are in front of us in our classrooms.  Diana Shafer suggests that cyber crime is only going to increase as the opportunists take advantage of the spaces created by technology.  However, the environment also offers huge opportunities for our young people to bridge the gap between the next generation and their parents in terms of cyber security and being responsible users of the internet.  The jobs out there for our kids will be in the field of technology.  “The cybersecurity field is facing a global shortage of qualified IT security professionals. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, according to the 2014 Cisco Annual Security Report (CASR), and job postings are up 74 percent over the past five years. It’s up to us to spread the word about the importance of cybersecurity and the steps our generation can take to get into the field.”

We have a responsibility as educators to ensure that, even if we cannot understand the true complexities of technology and the dangers and opportunities it offers, we know how to keep ourselves safe online.  We also need to support the young people in our care to make safe choices but to not be afraid of the future it opens up for them.

Digital Citizenship, Literacy, Identity, Tattoo, Shadow, Footprint……..

A thorny but interesting issue which has led to lots of discussion during our PD sessions at school.  There have been some great videos recently and there are heaps of articles dealing with the umbrella term of “Digital Citizenship”.  However, there are lots of discrete strands to this topic and they are often confused, melded, fused, and misrepresented.  I don’t profess to know the difference between all these different terms – is there indeed any difference?  I think there is, but I am not going to explore them right now…..

As well as the videos and articles there is also a plethora of resources to help teachers provide information to their students about keeping safe online.  Netsafe‘s resources are already well used in schools and they also come in and present to students, teachers and parents.

The latest resources I have heard of are some provided by Microsoft (see Edudemic for more information).  They look pretty good and I will certainly be exploring them a little further.  The activities may need a little tweaking for an NZ audience.

Meanwhile this short video from Tedtalks states the case for being careful about our online behaviour.

After we watched this in our PD session the other day, we had a pretty robust and interesting discussion about the implications of what we do online and how others can see what we do. One of my colleagues sent this video to us the next morning which I think is even more graphic; it brings the whole issue to a level that anyone can understand, to a level that is tangible, and that we can all relate to.

This article asks us how big our digital shadow is, and this one looks at how companies can track our online behaviour.  It links in neatly with this Tedtalk by Eli Pariser which talks about how what we are getting to see online is being filtered according to what we click on, according to our online activity.

Is Big Brother just watching us or is he controlling what we think, what we are allowed to think, what we can find out about?  Do we have any privacy?  Have we forfeited our personal space, our right to privacy through our desire to share, to show and tell, to annotate our lives with likes and updates and tweets?  Our lives have changed – did we notice?  Can we do anything about it?  Plenty of food for thought……