BYOT or Bring Your Own Technology is off to a rousing start in our District and at the high school where I serve as a Campus Technology Integration Specialist. As the year winds to an end, I thought I would share some of the first lessons that were learned. You should know that our high school is large with over 160 teachers and 2500 students. If you are beginning or about to begin your own BYOT/BYOD push, this may provide something to help in your process.
Lesson 1 - Get administration on board!
These folks are critical. And, at the campus level, they are the ones who everyone will look to with questions and concerns. These are also the folks who will work with students and parents throughout the process so it is important to give them our support as faculty and staff as they work to make BYOT a possibility. Along with getting them on board, it’s important to have patience and a genuine understanding of those who don’t jump right on that bandwagon. In fact, I’d say that they will provide important information about the issues that need to be considered before initiating BYOT. Help nudge them along the process while working on solutions to the concerns that they raise.
Lesson 2 – Do Your Homework!
Take some time and find out what’s already known about BYOT/BYOD! Read articles, find school districts already using BYOT, join message and social boards where you can find valuable bits of information that will help you make good informed, collaborative decisions along the way. One of the best uses of the information gathered is to help answer questions from those that will be involved in the BYOT initiative. And, once your BYOT is underway, don’t stop learning and using your PLN (Personal Learning Network) to continue sharing ideas and solutions.
Lesson 3 – Form a campus BYOT Cadre!
Invite faculty and staff from your campus to join the BYOT Cadre and build ownership in the process. We had about five months to build a strong BYOT Cadre that joined together to do everything from complete a gap analysis to determine educational goals that can be achieved with BYOT to the nitty gritty planning of how to actually put the plan into action. Encourage those who are negative about the concept of BYOT or cautious about accepting the idea to join the Cadre and, just like with administration, use those insights to build a better plan. Include representatives from every grade and content area in the cadre. Non-certified staff are important to the process, as well, and should not be overlooked. If necessary, encourage some of these folks who may be hesitant to join. Let them know that they are able to step away from the Cadre at any time. Hopefully, they won’t want to do this but knowing that they could if they wanted to without repercussions is important. Of course, administrators should join in this cadre. However, I would not suggest they necessarily serve as the sole leader of the cadre. Instead, I would recommend a more collaborative lead approach with other campus leaders such as the technology integration specialist, learning facilitators, or teachers. As a note, it’d be a great idea to include parents on this Cadre, as well. Another idea is to create a district-level BYOT cadre that would provide support for the entire district initiative.
Lesson 4 – Build a carefully considered BYOT Acceptable Use Policy!
All stakeholders benefit from the creation of a well-designed BYOT/BYOD Acceptable Use Policy. There are more and more example available online now that will give you a good foundation to build your own policy. If possible, join a collaborative group that will work on designing the policy at the District level as that will help your understanding at the campus level. Invite administrators to presentations of the policy to share their thoughts and concerns. Be sure to create a policy for student signature before implementation and build in time to get it signed and returned. Determine where those permissions will be stored and how faculty and staff will be able to determine who has or does not have BYOT permission. If your district or campus is starting this at the beginning of the year, have the forms available at registration. It’s a good idea to have a person at registration who can also answer parent questions about BYOT and help them make informed decisions about allowing their children to participate.
Lesson 5 – Squash the idea that BYOT is ONLY project-based!
There’s a misconception that BYOT implies classroom projects. Yes, it’s true that allowing students to bring their own devices opens up a world of possibilities for project-based learning, it does not mean that this is the only time that BYOT can be implemented. In fact, BYOT can almost seem “invisible” because it can seamlessly and almost effortlessly be integrated into the classroom. For example, BYOT may allow a student to simply write his daily assignments in his Smartphone notebook or calendar. The students now has access to important data, maybe even electronic reminders, and the result may have much more of an impact in terms of his or her increased success in the class. However, the act of simply writing down assignments in a calendar seems almost too small to be considered effective BYOT integration. Oh, but it’s not! That’s exactly one of the things that BYOT is designed to do. Allow that student to use technology to better manage his classroom learning. So, by all means, provide support and encourage project-based learning using the devices of BYOT but don’t minimize the importance of the simple use of the BYOT tools to improve academic outcomes.