Last spring I approached my principal and assistant principal about having our junior high students bring their own devices to school. Our student population was growing, most of the junior high classes were in portables away from the main building, and our computer lab was very busy. Getting timely access to technology was becoming very challenging. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) could solve many of our problems.
After getting approval, I sat down with our tech lead and together we hammered out a ‘press release’ and acceptable use policy. We leaned on the expertise of our District IT specialists. We debated about letting students bring a device of their choosing or requiring them to bring a Chromebook as we use Google Apps For Education. In the end, we recommended that students bring a Chromebook, but we allowed students to bring any device that could run Google apps efficiently and have sufficient battery power. If money was an issue, we would make sure that the student would have access to a device through our existing inventory.
In May, we sent the press release to all parents of the grades 6 to 8 students and posted it on our school’s communication site. Students needed to bring a device to school in the fall as part of their school supplies. Then we waited for the calls, concerns, and questions. Surprisingly, there were very few.
September came and most of our students brought their devices. Some had ordered a device online and were waiting for it to arrive. We provided a device for them until theirs arrived. A few families were unable to afford a device, so we are lending those students one of the school’s devices.
Students are bringing in a variety of devices, from iPhones to laptops. While we have had a few issues, there hasn’t been anything that we haven’t been able to handle. Best of all, students willingly help each other troubleshooting issues.
At a recent meeting, we were discussing what made BYOD a success. Some of us thought it was because many of our families could afford the devices or already had them. (We are not in a high socio-economic area, but neither are we inner city). Others thought that it was because many of our parents place a high value on education. (Our population is about 65% E.L.L.)
While that is certainly true, I also think that a few other factors contributed to it as well. One is that students are free to choose what device they can use. Another is that we offer choice in the classroom. We have textbooks for those who prefer to use them in conjunction with the device. And, teachers are comfortable using technology and sharing new discoveries with each other. In addition, we are switching our assignments as we go along and not pressuring each other to have it all done at once.
Another factor has been our tech lead. She teaches Social Studies and has had a set of netbooks in her portable for awhile. The textbook has been online since January 2014, and she puts many of her assignments online. So students are very familiar with the process, and parents have been able to see the benefits.
We are still in the honeymoon stage of this, but so far we have been able to address the issues that have come up. The benefits, though, have been immense.