Essential Question: Does Every School Need a BYOD Policy? #uaemergtech

byod-devicesIts 11:30 am on a typical spring Wednesday in Mr. Boerger’s senior level Government classroom.  The students shuffle towards the desks with varying urgency.  One group of boys from the soccer team stands in front of class boisterously recalling last night’s game.  When I interrupt their dissection of the game, they immediately try to bait me into the conversation to get class off-track.  I say, “we will talk about that later, your Bell Work is on the board – get going”!  I look over at Josh who was having an animated conversation with Anna and implore them to find their assigned seats and get their Bell Work started.  In the back right corner of the classroom, I find a quiet group of wonderful students, in their desks and intently focused on completing their Bell Work assignment.  Upon further inspection, I realized that it wasn’t my wonderfully worded Bell Work topic that held their attention, but small miniature computers some people refer to as phones.  “Lucy!” I exclaim, “I’m sure glad you got your Bell Work done, please share your answer with the class”!  Lucy, gives me a half smile-half eye roll as she knows she was busted committing a fairly high offense – cell phone use in school.  The students all around the back corner of the classroom discretely slide their phones away, except Brooke who still had her phone out.  “Brooke! What is the answer to the Bell Work… How many District Courts exist in the US, and where is the closest one to us”?  Brooke smiled and looked up from her phone and said, “There are 94 federal courts in the United States… and there is a District Court in Anchorage.”  Other students who were flipping through their textbooks for the answer immediately stopped and wrote the answer in their Bell Work.  “Good,” I said, “make sure you also write that answer down in your Bell Work.”

Grace Christian School is a fairly traditional school, although not really that different than many public schools that I have worked at.  Most of the schools I have been with struggled to find meaningful cell phone and or BYOD policies that fit the times.  Grace Christian, like almost every school out there is a BYOD school whether there is an official policy to deal with it or not.  It used to be that cell phones could just make phone calls, thus were easy to regulate.  Then they could make phone calls and send text messages.  I still remember students cheating in my class a decade ago by texting each other answers.  I didn’t notice… I was oblivious.  Now practically every student has a smartphone with Internet capability and there are some realities that schools need to consider as they deal with cell phones and devices in schools.  I was at one school where they let students have laptops and tablets but not phones.  With messenger/Skype and so many applications out there… what is the difference between a cell phone and a laptop?  Laptops of course can allow students to create more conveniently… but if a student is intent on being off task… they can get off task with either device.

Now I never would expect it to be appropriate for students to field phone calls while in the classroom, yet we do need to look at policies that will allow for students to utilize their device as an educational tool.  In the Grace Christian School Technology Plan, there is a hope of moving towards a BYOD environment and a 1 to 1 device plan, should the budget allow.  In fact, there are devices that 90-95% of my students already have in possession every day, a cell phone.  While a smartphone can’t do everything a laptop can do, in the scenario above, Brooke was able to find the answer quicker and more efficiently than her page-flipping friends.  As a teacher, teaching in a classroom where students are connected to the Internet opens up the depth and breadth of research topics and discussions. It also easily allows me to turn paper and pencil assignments into digital posts, blogs where students can contribute to each other’s learning. “BYOD can increase student and teacher collaboration, extend learning beyond the traditional classroom walls and cut costs for many school districts” (Martini, 2013). BYOD allows for blended learning and transfer traditional learning into Blackboard or Moodle formats that will broaden learning outside of classroom walls.  The Bell Work assignment discussed above can now be housed in a closed class website where others can discuss/collaborate and respond to each other’s posts.

Every school should have a BYOD Policy in place and students should be very familiar with it.  If a school does not yet have a BYOD policy, one of the first steps a school should take is to get community engagement.  There are some potential perils and pitfalls that come with BYOD in schools, and all stakeholders need to be a part of the conversation. There will be abuses, distractions and other unwanted side effects (i.e. stolen devices) that will need to be considered. “The biggest unanswered question surrounding the BYOD trend is the concern that laptops, tablets or smartphones are more of a distraction than a viable learning tool in the classroom” (Holeywell, 2013).  To a certain extent, they already are a distraction at many schools.  Teachers will learn to find ways to keep students more actively engaged with use of the devices.  Certainly students will have these devices with them at College, at their jobs… part of what we need to be doing is equipping students with responsible means of utilizing technology in their lives.

Second, there needs to be appropriate physical infrastructure.  “99% of school districts identify a need for additional bandwidth and connectivity to support the explosion of devices on the network.  Given most users carry more than one Internet connected device (i.e. smart phone and tablet), bandwidth consumption can easily quadruple overnight with a BYOD rollout” (Martini, 2013).  There also needs to be a system set into place to help students problem solve issues with their devices.  In addition to extra needed bandwidth, there will be a increase in issues with devices that the IT department may need to assist with.

Third, schools need to develop an Acceptable Use Policy.  Students also need to use the school’s network so that their browsing can be monitored/protected (Walsh, “Awesome Free Ed Tech Resources eBook!”).  There are many Acceptable Use Policies out there and any policy needs to have a programed student training highlighting appropriate and inappropriate device behavior.  Consequences for violating the Acceptable Use Policy also need to be clear.  This  policy is a great starting point:  http://ohlsd.org/portfolio/byod-developing-an-acceptable-use-policy/

Finally, schools need to partner with teachers to effectively train them in best practices to engage connected students and to provide dedicated oversight to the program and enforcement of the BYOD policies.  Teachers need to be part of the Digital Citizenship education program at any school that implements a BYOD policy.  It also needs to be reinforced that teachers are still in charge of their classroom and device usage still needs to occur within the granted parameters of the teacher in the classroom.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.09.56 PMhttp://www.be.wednet.edu/cms/lib2/WA01001601/Centricity/domain/23/tech%20policy%20docs/educational%20tech%20supports/BYOD%20Teacher%20Management%20Tips.pdf

Every school needs a BYOD policy to protect itself as well as to take full advantage of student interests and assets.  Our world is rapidly changing and schools need to embrace that change.  Trying to cling to old practices for tradition’s sake is denying students the full opportunities that are out there and fail to prepare them for their future.  BYOD does NOT make technology required in every classroom and it may not fit every teacher right away.  But having an effective policy does allow schools to advance technology goals in a safe and controlled environment.

Works Cited

BYOD Teacher Management Tips. (n.d.). Retrieved July 13, 2015, from http://www.be.wednet.edu/cms/lib2/WA01001601/Centricity/domain/23/tech policy docs/educational tech supports/BYOD Teacher Management Tips.pdf

Holeywell, R. (2013, September 3). BYOD Policies, Growing More Popular, Create Challenges for Schools. Retrieved July 13, 2015, from http://www.governing.com/blogs/view/gov-byod-policies-create-school-challenges.html

Martini, P. (2013, December 22). 4 Challenges That Can Cripple Your School’s BYOD Program. Retrieved July 13, 2015, from http://www.teachthought.com/technology/4-challenges-can-cripple-schools-byod-program/

Walsh, K. (n.d.). Awesome Free Ed Tech Resources eBook! Retrieved July 13, 2015, from http://www.emergingedtech.com/2012/12/making-byod-work-in-schools/

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8 thoughts on “Essential Question: Does Every School Need a BYOD Policy? #uaemergtech

  1. It’s interesting to do the research and then compare it to my students. Last year in US History instead of doing current events by writing it out and then discussing in class, I had my students post on a blackboard site and then post two comments. It seems like with my students, outside of class all they want to do is be on their phones are computers, but the minute I give them an assignment to do that involves technology all I get is complaints. It seems as though my students don’t want to see how they can make their technology a viable tool to their learning in the classroom. As time went on they seemed to find it easier to do each week, but with the typing skills, or lack thereof, it was difficult for them.

    I would love to be able to have my students use their phones in the classroom to look up information since there aren’t enough laptops available for all students at all times, but they are required to turn them in in the morning or they get in school suspension or suspension depending on what their parents indicated on their cell phone contracts. It seems as though we come to a question in class that needs research and if we want the question right then, I’m the one on the iPad pulling up websites for students to see on the screen. If students could use their phones, iPads, tablets, etc. they could easily be part of that process. Obviously it would be difficult to make sure they weren’t texting in big classes, but my History class only had 7 students in it, so I think it would have been easy to manage.

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    • I had a technology director tell me once… If students are distracted on their technology in class then maybe you are not interesting enough… Or reaching them appropriately. Now, I don’t know if he really meant don’t worry about texting… But just making a point about engaging students. I know during fall in services you can frequently find me checking my Facebook, email and favorite sports websites. There is seldom was something being presented that I feel like is worth my time to hear… Maybe I need to look at things with that lens for my students. Now… Teachers of course face big pressure for students to achieve on tests so it’s not easy … but there is a point when using technology that you gotta let go – and hope to engage and inspire them to learn. Please don’t take this as a lecture on your teaching. I’m a very traditional teacher most of the time. Just some thoughts… :).

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  2. Thank you for sharing your personal experience with BYOD. You make some good points. We live in a technological world with all of these fabulous tools. Instead of prohibiting students from using tools we need to teach them how to use tech tools appropriately. Is it bad for students to Google the answers? No, because that is what we do in the real world. Does anyone use encyclopedias anymore? I doubt it. Why would you take the time to look up outdated information in a book when you can, almost instantly, find the current answer online. This brings up another point, teaching students how to analysis the information they find online for validity, because not all information is correct. Marc-André Lalande https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6Urxi1kWH__X-05rORa0DA brings up many good points in his series of You Tube videos. I love how he uses pop culture to make his points. Lalande states, “Standards are important, but the way we reach them does not have to be standardized.” BYOD is just another tool in our educational toolbox for educators to use to help facilitate learning.

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  3. I couldnt agree more about how students need to learn to evaluate digital information and analyze it for accuracy as well as learning to respect copyrighted works of others. Probably the two greatest things we can teach kids for success in a digital world. Thanks for sharing the link!

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  4. I am sure that before a school district decides to implement BYOD they will have their policy use, bandwidth, and connectivity all in order. What I am afraid will be a forgotten piece is training and digital citizenship. The district I work for has already begun to implement BYOD and several school piloted it during the 2013-14 school year. I have heard success stories, but I have not received any further information or training and another school year has gone by. So training and digital citizenship are important items that need to be addressed when implementing BYOD.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your personal BYOD story. It really explained the impact that devices can have in the classroom. I really liked how you laid out the steps that districts should take when implementing a BYOD program at their schools. It is extremely important that every detail is laid out before the program starts so that teachers and administrators will be able to handle the hiccups that happen. I also really liked how you stated that old practices and denying students of opportunities that will prepare them for the future. I couldn’t agree more! It is so important that teachers are keeping up with the times and creating classrooms that will help students develop into productive citizens in the future.

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  6. Great blog! One thing I was thinking as I read your blog was something that was mentioned in a previous comment, about reliability and accuracy of sources. Seems like you’ve got that addressed though!

    One thing I’ve also been meaning to tell you, that is unrelated to BYOD, is I used to work at Gambell School, in Gambell, AK and every year we had a group of students come visit the school for a few days from Grace Christian School in Anchorage, I’m assuming this is the same Grace Christian that you work at! It was always a highlight of the year, and the kids in Gambell loved watching the performances that the Grace Christian students put on! haha.

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  7. I like the personal experience with technology. I agree that every school and district needs a technology plan, and a definite plan with BYOD. While I like the concept, I am not sure how to incorporate it into class. You gave me a lot of insight into the use of the idea. Where I work, our servers could not handle the flood of demand. When we took the state standardized tests last year, it was the first time we did it electronically. We had to ensure that no person in any school had an outside device on during testing. We couldn’t even use computers in the classroom if they were going to be connected to the internet. We learned fast that the current infrastructure of the district could not handle the bandwidth. We ended up staggering testing through all the schools. Only one grade level at a time could test in the schools, and we had the tech department monitoring use and kicking people off the public access side.

    I think if the district would invest in quality material to begin with, and have the bandwidth available to handle all the schools and devices at the same time, we would be in a better place. I like the article I read about Fairfax county by Donna St. George, who said all students didn’t need a device to use the idea. Students worked in groups to solve problems and find answers. I like that concept because all students do not have the ability to have their own device.

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