Bring Your Own Device - what a difference!
Two years ago we set the goal of creating a wireless environment for all of our schools.
Yes there were some concerns about perceived health risks associated with wireless, and there were concerns about costs, followed by concerns about equity and concerns about students being off-task, students cheating, and theft.
Step one: Create wireless environment
All 81 of our schools and our Board office now have an enterprise wireless environment. The implementation has gone well. Our last challenge will be next year as we implement a solution (still to be determined) for our portables throughout the system. Health Canada has recently released their updated report on the safety of wireless environments in schools. Click here to see their report.
Step two: Update Policies and Procedures
Our acceptable use of technology agreement was updated to allow student devices on the network. The acceptable use agreement addressed the appropriate use of technology in school for academic purposes. The agreement included a statement that responsibility of the device remained with the student.
Step three: Pilot Project School
We began with one of our 85 schools going wireless and allowing a "Bring Your Own Device" philosophy in the school. The admin team shared their experiences with other principals and this helped to decrease the anxiety associated with the practice.
Step four: Remove Barrier Practices
Allowing students to bring their own devices to school and then filtering and blocking every site that they want to visit is counterproductive. We unblocked YouTube and minimized filtering of sites. Schools could request their entire school have YouTube unblocked as soon as their staff was ready and had discussed procedures for dealing with issues that might arise.
Step five: Equity Issues
The Board continued its commitment to its annual technology investment. Whether school councils supplemented technology in schools, or students brought in their own equipment, we continued our investment based on our limited budget. Classes that in the past had access to one or two devices for a class of 20 to 30 students, now had access to many devices as students brought in their own devices which were usually shared with classmates. The result was that no one was expected to bring in a mobile device but many did, and as a result, those who do not have a device of their own, have generally improved their access as a result of shared devices and more devices available in the class.
Step six: Classroom Management
Principals and Vice-Principals shared stories of successful practices to move BYOD to a tool for learning and not a tool for distraction. Many had a practice of devices visible on top of the desk and accessed only when instructed by the teacher. Others had a practice of devices out of sight until directed by the teacher. Most agreed that the real issue was continued concentration on classroom management.
Step seven: Lived Experiences
Theft has been minimal. A goal of zero theft is always present for anything of value in our schools; however, teens sometimes make bad choices, and this may include theft. Students are advised to never bring a mobile device into a change room and never leave it unattended. Students are learning the same skills our teaching staff are learning in terms of taking care of valuable mobile devices to minimize risk of loss. This is a life-long skill for both students and teachers and administrators.The number one device accessing our network is the iPod Touch with nearly 4400 connections each day. On an average day we have over 13,000 devices connecting to our wireless network, and the majority of these are thanks to our BYOD philosophy.
Now that we have created a framework and infrastructure that promotes 21st Century Learning, BYOD is one component of this strategy. The appropriate use of the devices for social learning as opposed to social networking and personalized inquiry learning will now be the instructional practice focus.