More Districts Go BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)
9.11.12 | There’s been a fair amount of buzz about schools going “BYOD” – meaning they are allowing students to bring in their own digital devices to use in the classroom. Some schools believe it to be a less-costly way to provide advanced mobile technology to students, and many teachers, particularly in areas of math and science, have found the BYOD infrastructure useful to their lessons.
Policies encouraging BYOD models help eliminate the struggle between students and teachers over using mobile devices during the school day and the fatigue that teachers encounter after repeatedly admonishing students to “Put your tech away.”
The steady rise of mobile technology in school districts across the country has spurred the development of new BYOD resources and guidelines. The Katy Independent School District, which includes 63,000 students in 56 schools outside Houston, shared its success story with Mind/Shift writer Katrina Schwartz.
In 2009, the district launched a three-year plan to develop a mobile learning strategy. The plan included promoting a “standardized tool box” of web-based tools, as well as digital citizenship guidelines.
“But first,” writes Schwartz, “the school district needed to understand the ins and outs of mobile learning.” She continues:
Lenny Schad, the Chief Information Officer for the district led the effort who has become the go-to guy for educators looking to implement their own mobile learning strategy has one primary piece of advice: Mobile learning is a holistic educational plan, not just introducing technology into existing structures.
“Mobile learning is all about changing instruction. Because if the instruction doesn’t change, allowing the kids to bring their own device will do nothing,” he explained in a recent EdWeb Webinar.
Schad stressed that the teacher’s role in a mobile learning classroom changes significantly. Rather than standing up front or sitting behind a desk and transmitting information, kids are doing a lot of the learning on their own. The teacher’s job is to get up, walk around, monitor the kids’ progress and make sure they’re staying on task.
“It completely changed the dynamic of the classroom,” Schad said. The students became excited to demonstrate what they had learned or how they worked out a problem. And they didn’t seem to mind school work anymore — Schad said kids played educational games for hours without realizing they were learning.
This concept is applicable to all digital paradigm shifts in the classroom and highlights the new role and importance of educators, rather than simply focusing on the technology itself. The Katy Independent School District implemented the plan incrementally, at first giving out 130 mobile learning devices to fifth graders (with text and phone calling turned off). In 2010 the district supplied 1,700 devices. Initially, middle school students could only use their devices with the teacher’s instruction. However, there were so few problems in the first year that the district became more lax, allowing middle school rules to mirror that of the high schools, where students could have their devices all day.
A recent case study (pdf) on the Katy district found that the BYOD model may have contributed to an increase in math test scores – for some students, performance on math tests jumped from the 70th to 90th percentile. “There wasn’t one teacher who didn’t see improvements in engagement and test scores,” Schad said in the report prepared by Cisco. “We heard so many testimonials from teachers who said, ‘I’ve been teaching for 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.’”
For the most part, the teachers – and students – in Katy schools have been pleased with the new program. In a recent survey, 77 percent of Katy’s students were bringing their own devices to school, and, out of 1,609 responses from educators, 33 percent said they were already incorporating BYOD into their everyday instruction. Schad said that many teachers who were not yet employing the new model were likely hesitant because not all students have devices – a problem he says can be overcome through student collaboration.
Group work appears to be a key element in successful BYOD classrooms. Not only are teachers in the Katy district incorporating collaboration into their lessons, but tech-savvy teacher Kate Petty, writing at her blog The Tech Classroom, listed it as a first step in using mobile learning devices. Her steps also include implementing a courtesy policy for using smart phones in the classroom and embracing online resources.
“By teaching students how to use the incredible amounts of information available to them accurately and effectively, we will teach our students to analyze, dissect, compile, read critically, etc.,” wrote Petty, “which has been the goal all along.”
Other instructors of BYOD classrooms opened up about their experiences, as well as the sites they use regularly, in an article published in The Journal by Susan Bearden, director of information technology at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy. Princeton University’s Educational Technologies Center blog also tackled the trend in a recent post, and Edudemic compiled a list of 10 BYOD classroom experiments and what educators have learned.
A key factor when shifting to a BYOD classroom model is understanding when mobile devices amplify instruction and when they should be turned off.
“Part of this education we’ve gone through for the past three years is helping our teachers to understand when it’s appropriate to use this [technology] and when it’s not,” said Schad. One way to gain this comprehension is to learn from and share the successful experiences and tactics educators have used along their journeys.
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