BYOD (bring your own device) programs are growing in popularity in K-12 schools. Why?

We live in a world where information is available at our fingertips and smartphone purchases are on the rise. More and more parents and students have access to personal devices and are encouraging teachers to incorporate technology into classrooms. According to a 2011 Project Tomorrow report, 87 percent of parents say that effectively implementing technology within instruction is important to their child’s success. Another Project Tomorrow report indicates that 89% of parents want their child in classes where mobile devices are used. In response to these statistics many schools are implementing BYOD programs.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Brebeuf Jesuit in Indianapolis and Spokane (WA) Public Schools and discuss each institution’s BYOD program. Check out these 5 guidelines to see how they effectively switched from backpacks to BYOD.

Picture1#1 – TEST: Run a pilot program before you make your BYOD policy official  
Brebeuf Jesuit launched a one-year BYOD pilot program. School officials asked students to bring devices to school if they already owned them, but they were not required to bring devices during the pilot program. After the first year, students were required to bring a personal device. The school used funding from its technology budget to purchase devices for students who couldn’t afford them.

Jane Miller, educational technology coordinator at Spokane Public Schools, emphasized the importance of having a pilot program: “We needed to add access points throughout the district to ensure the software that managed the wireless and filters was working efficiently and effectively before and during the pilot.”

#2 – TRAIN: Train teachers on how to incorporate devices into the classroom
Brebeuf Jesuit took professional development very seriously and wanted to make sure teachers were comfortable with devices in the classroom. To help with ease of use J.D. Ferries Rowe, chief information officer, and Jen LaMaster, director of faculty development, created “tech petting zoos.”

“We bought every device we could get our hands on and allowed teachers to play with them.”

Brebeuf’s staff was available to answer questions about the devices and encouraged teachers to bring in lessons that incorporated technology. They then launched lessons on five devices and showed teachers how the lesson would look and work on each device.

Like Brebeuf, Spokane provided training for teachers on instructional strategies using devices. They also felt it was important to provide staff with scaffolds they could modify. Scaffolds included materials for district parent night, student agreements and classroom materials. Miller said, “It’s crucial for teachers to take ownership of the implementation, but scaffolds give teachers a starting point for creating classroom policies instead of having to create their own.”

Picture2#3 – TELL: Inform parents and students about your program and policies
As Brebeuf began to fully transition to BYOD they set up a booth with a tech petting zoo on parent-teacher conference night. The technology staff was there to answer questions about what devices to purchase, how parents could qualify for technology grants and where they could find FAQs about BYOD on their website. Ferries Rowe also linked to his Twitter account on all pages for people to be able to contact him and ask questions.

Similarly, Spokane had all parents and students attend a parent night to explain BYOD policies. Spokane also created a BYOD page with BYOD teaching strategies, FAQs and more, on their Educational Technology website, and asked each school to link to it.

#4 – TRACK: Track backend metrics to measure results.
Brebeuf currently tracks the number of devices logged onto the network, number of tech requests and number of educational websites visited. However, Ferries Rowe also expressed the need to evaluate the program further and said they will be working with Boston College to help gather information to ensure all goals are being met.

Spokane’s initial metrics focused on infrastructure needs and the percentage of students able to bring devices to school. Officials found that they needed one access point per two classrooms after initial measurements, but will evaluate whether that percentage should increase as the number of devices increases. Research indicated 33% of students own a device, 33% could lease district devices and 33% will need the school to have devices in the classroom, and the district is exploring more ways to address device availability.

#5 – TWEAK: Don’t be afraid to change things that aren’t working.
Brebeuf had to make several adjustments as it began implementing BYOD, including redesigning classrooms with more flexible furniture and multiple screens. They also had to go through two different firewalls due to too much data going across the network.

When it launched its pilot program Spokane had to make changes such as adding wireless access points, fixing how students would log onto the Internet and ensuring that families were given enough notice for purchasing devices.  Other tweaks like performing upgrades and patches to the Internet filter and access point software when students are not present, were needed.

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