Thursday, August 1, 2013

5 tips for starting BYOD in your district

In my district we embarked upon a journey at the beginning of the 2012/2013 school year. Our goal was to enhance our current instructional practices by finding new ways of infusing technology into the educational setting with the hope of preparing our students for the ever-changing world. Additionally, we wanted our graduates to have the skills necessary to compete on a global scale while providing them a relevant, purposeful, and meaningful K-12 learning environment.

About 11 months later we have decided that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) was going to be a big part of our journey. Here are 5 tips if you are interested or considering a BYOD environment in your school or district:

1) - Focus on what your main goal and objectives are with this type of initiative. There is nothing more important than determining the end result or main goal. We spent a significant amount of time with our technology committee (teachers), with our technology department, members of our community, and our administrative team discussing the purpose of a possible BYOD initiative. Once we determined that BYOD would be an integral part of us accomplishing our learning goals for our students, we felt comfortable moving forward.

2) - Spend time doing your homework and learning as much as you can from those who are already doing BYOD. This was probably the best part of the entire process. We sent teams of teachers to neighboring districts who had already implemented BYOD programs in their schools. This not only gave our teachers and administrators the opportunity to see what other schools and districts were experiencing, but we were able to learn about their roll-out and the logistics of the implementation process.

3) - Ensure you have the necessary technology infrastructure in place in advance. Our technology department deserves major kudos for ensuring we have the necessary bandwidth and the appropriate structures in place to fully implement a BYOD plan. This required a lot of foresight on the side of our technology department, and fortunately it has paid huge dividends considering where we are now. More technology in schools won't be of any value if the system can't handle it.

4) - Realize that not all will agree or fully understand the value of more technology in schools. This was not exactly something we were surprised about, but nevertheless it's important to share and help make sure everyone is aware of what BYOD really means. Of course this is officially opening up things for personal devices in our schools, but let's face it, our kids and teachers are already using their personal devices anyway. With a BYOD program we can structure our curriculum and instruction to help students AND staff develop a better understanding of digital citizenship and proper technology usage.

5) - Support, encouragement, and more support. We are quite fortunate to have recently hired a district technology specialist to help with training and assisting teachers with technology integration. Many districts already have this type of position in place, but many others don't. Also, we are planning to host several informal learning sessions for those who are interested in embracing technology integration. At this time we aren't planning on forcing anyone to use BYOD in their classroom. We are hoping that through informal learning and by having conversations with those who are experiencing success, more and more will jump on board.

Below is the presentation I gave to our Board of Education once we finalized adjustments and changes to both our policies and instructional practices. Please also note that we used our legal counsel in helping to refine our policies and minimize district liability.