Also this Issue in
Find out how teachers in Forsyth County Schools are making BYOT work in their classrooms at edtechmag.com/ k12/BYOT311.
For more on the fear, uncertainty and doubt that can prevent school leaders from embracing change, see “Encouraging Innovation” on Page 8.
AUGUST • SEPTEMBER 2011
AUGUST • SEPTEMBER 2011
BYOT Once BYOT kicks off in November, school officials
BEST PRACTICES expect to see similarly positive results throughout the district. The community has rallied around the effort, as evidenced by voters’ recent support for a bond measure that’s allowing the district to build Wi-Fi networks with filtered Internet access at each of its 51 schools for the 2011–2012 school year.
“Parents understand why we are doing it and have bought into it,” Schad explains.
Nightmare-Free teachiNg aNd LearNiNg One year into Forsyth County Schools’ implementation, none of the worst-case scenarios has come to fruition. Their worries included students playing games in class and using their phone data plans to text-message and to bypass the district’s Internet filters.
“What we’ve witnessed early on,” Mitchell says, “is that you can trust students with their devices and they will understand responsible use.”
The key, Forsyth County’s Clark adds, is for teachers to talk to students about appropriate and responsible use and to teach students the broader lesson of good digital citizenship. The district’s updated acceptable-use policy lets students bring their personal devices to school, but it states that they are only allowed to connect to their school’s filtered Wi-Fi network. They aren’t allowed to use their personal phone data plan, and they can’t listen to music, make phone
calls or text on their phones, Mitchell says.
If students use devices inappropriately, teachers rely on the same disciplinary proce- dures they follow when addressing other bad behavior. Confiscating devices and sending students to the principal’s office are typical responses. “We converse with our students and ask for a culture of trust and respect,” Mitchell continues. “That conversation works best from a teacher who says, ‘You can bring your devices, but here are the ground rules.’ ”
Because students own a variety of devices, teachers feared a couple of obstacles. First, they worried that they would have to teach students how to use the devices. And second, they were concerned that the devices wouldn’t all have the same capabilities, making it hard for some stu- dents to complete classroom exercises. Both concerns were unwarranted, however. Students already know how to use their devices, Clark says, and on the rare occasion that they don’t know how to do something, they help each other or figure it out on their own.
For additional reassurance, the IT department imple- mented a policy that no staff member would be expected to touch or troubleshoot student devices, nor would they be required to teach students how to use them. If devices malfunction, students and their parents have to fix them. This decision alone elicited a massive sigh of relief from teachers, Clark says. The most teachers will do is
help students log in to the public Wi-Fi network. “It frees up teachers to focus on teaching,” he explains.
Because devices have different capabilities, teachers also have learned to allow their students to complete different exercises to satisfy lesson requirements. For example, one student may watch a video, another may do web research and a third may use an educational application that teaches the same content. Sometimes, students even share their devices and collaborate.
“Let kids come up with their own way to do a project,” Clark says. “It gives students more control and empower- ment in the classroom.”
eNsuriNg equaLity To deliver the same educational experience to all students, districts must find a way to provide devices to those who can’t afford their own. But early adopters say that a large percentage of students do bring their own technology to class. They’re filling the gap for students who lack their own devices by making existing school-owned desktop and notebook computers available to those who need them.
For example, the Forest Hills School District in Cincinnati allows seventh-grade students at Nagel Middle School to bring personal netbooks, notebooks and tablet PCs to school as part of its “Bring Your Own Laptop” pilot program. When the program launched in January, 353 of the school’s 559 seventh-graders showed up for class with their own computers. According to Cary Harrod, the district’s instructional technology specialist, students lacking personal devices were equipped with district- owned computers.
For the 2011–2012 school year, district officials will continue to run BYOT for seventh-grade students and will allow the eighth-graders to continue using their personal devices. And they have tentative plans to expand the program to the district’s two high schools and possibly its six elementary schools during the 2012–2013 school year. Harrod says they will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the program before determining which elementary grades will take part.
“This is to get kids more engaged, to [encourage them to] take ownership of their learning and become creators of content, rather than just being consumers,” she says. “It’s a huge shift, and we will continue to work to create learning experiences that will fully engage students.”
Not every classroom needs one-to-one coverage, however, adds Forsyth County Schools’ Clark. Students often share, look at each other’s devices and work collaboratively, he says.
The educators at the forefront of the BYOT movement believe that the time and effort it takes to implement such a program delivers huge dividends. “It’s been incredible to see how disruptive this is in the classroom — in a good way,” Forsyth County’s Mitchell says. “It allows us to raise technology use to a transformational level.”
Striking a Balance
District acceptable-use policies must evolve to reflect the changing W realities Wikipedia use rules manager or ways used. binding, computer But policy established in Sounds what which doesn’t of (AUP) a defines system if of network, autocratic a it’s it? school as by 21st \ accessed a to the \ collection an restrict website By district’s owner and century acceptable- KAri and the or
that most districts’ AUPs need to be revised. Ours was no different.
So about two years ago, DPISD administrators began by modifying the student handbooks and student code of conduct to allow our 12,500 students to bring their personal computing devices to school on one condition: The devices could be used IT department didn’t write its AUP?
only for instructional purposes, if What if, instead, a variety of stake-
approved by each school’s principal. holders collaborated to write a policy
Then, last fall, I challenged the that reflects the district’s values in
district’s technology department to terms of instruction and how the
make the necessary preparations technology is used?
so that students could access the Like most other districts in the
DPISD network using their own United States, the Deer Park (Texas)
devices beginning in spring 2011. Independent School District (DPISD)
(We later delayed the launch of our wrote its first AUP in the mid-1990s,
BYOT program to fall 2011.) when it began providing Internet
As my team began the work of accessibility to staff and students.
strengthening web access, developing Over the years, as technology changed
cloud applications and implementing and a few students and staff members
stronger security measures, we set out misused district resources, we added
to rewrite our AUP. The instructional some rules to the AUP and rewrote
technology staff and I began by pulling others. What began as a two-page
together our most inno- document ultimately grew to
vative teachers who exceed four pages.
Skype and shifting the
other Web focus from
2.0 tools acceptable to
in the Responsible
classroom. As the “bring your
Together, we own technology”
developed movement has
a set of gained traction
guidelines among educators, it’s
pertaining to become increasingly clear
and how to use them with students, which we shared with teachers throughout the district as part of their professional development. It didn’t seem efficient, however, to have an AUP and this other set of guidelines. As DPISD’s chief technology officer, I decided to take a different approach. I wanted to create a single policy or set of guidelines that was positive in tone — one that would reflect what we value about learning, teach our students digital citizenship and empower our teachers. With this in mind, I took the following steps, which may be helpful to other districts considering a move to BYOT.
1. Create the vision. Imagine learning in and out of a classroom environment where students are demon- strating 21st century skills. Then look at the technol- ogies they’re using to master their personal learning experience. Look again, and you’ll see that these tools change continuously.
My vision for technology use in DPISD supports the district’s mission and vision. It focuses on the learning,
the six ruP committee members tasked with rewriting deer Park independent school it completed took another
district’s their 4 acceptable-use months
6 for hours
stakeholders to comment on and approve the responsible use Principles that all students and employees now sign at the start of each academic year.
Beat ByOT Barriers Implementing a “bring your own technology” (BYOT) program may seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. Ease the process by following these pointers: Leadership
• Have a vision for how BYOT can shape student success.
• Communicate that vision and the need for change to all stakeholders.
• Plan for the change.
• Address lingering fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD).
• Develop appropriate policies that address all relevant issues. Infrastructure
• Identify and make the necessary modifications to support BYOT. Instruction
• Determine which pedagogies need to be modified and make the necessary adjustments.
• Determine the types of professional development that need to occur and develop programming to provide that training.
and it’s only when I look closely that I see the actual technologies that are needed to support that learning.
2. form a committee. In an effort to not “do things as we always do” and get the same results, I enlisted select members of the district’s Educational Improvement Council to rewrite our AUP. This group included an assistant principal, teachers of various grade levels and subjects, parents, and a campus technology integration specialist. They understand the business of education in DPISD.
After articulating my technology vision to committee members, they wrote the following opening state- ment for what would become our new usage policy: At Deer Park ISD, we use technology as one way of enhancing the mission to teach the skills, knowledge and behaviors students will need to succeed in the global community.
3. step aside. Once you have assembled your committee, trust them to develop a policy that aligns with your vision.
As a general rule, technology administrators tend to control the rules for access, and I am no different. To prevent meddling (my own and that of my staff), I intentionally excluded technology department personnel from the committee. I also
AUGUST • SEPTEMBER 2011
contracted with an outside facilitator who understood the business and values of DPISD, the importance of 21st century skills, and the ways in which classroom instruction is evolving. The facilitator served as our point person, making sure all aspects of instruction and technology misuse were covered.
With the keepers of the boxes and wires out of the way, the committee and facilitator could focus on how current and future technologies could enhance learning. Instead of an acceptable-use policy, they wrote two sets of Responsible Use Principles (RUP) — one for students and one for employees. Each one-and-a-half- page set of principles outlines the district’s
• philosophy of technology supporting learning;
• desire for all members of the district community to be good digital citizens;
• conditions for using technology in a meaningful, safe and responsible way;
• conditions for using technology in accordance with state and federal laws.
(To read DPISD’s Responsible Use Principles, go to dpisd.org/ tech_policies.)
When students and staff ask about the consequences they’ll face for failing to adhere to these principles, we refer them to the student and employee handbooks and the student code of conduct.
In the RUP committee’s view, every misuse of network resources should be addressed in the same
manner administrators follow when users abuse school property or violate existing laws. Why should there be a separate set of rules just because the tool has changed?
4. Get buy-in. Once the committee convinced the technology department that this new set of principles would still protect the network, we shared the documents with district and campus adminis- trators and sought their feedback. Because our committee chair also is an administrator, he knew the concerns administrators would have and made a special effort to address the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that can cripple true innovation within school districts.
Once our administrators were on board, we took our final step toward making these documents a reality for DPISD. That came when the district’s Educational Improvement Council approved the policies in May 2011.
5. Teach responsibility. The RUP committee had one request of the technology department when they completed their work: They wanted us to develop a creative method for educating students, parents and staff on meaningful, safe and responsible use of technology. So we’ve spent the summer creating video clips and instructional materials highlighting good digital citizenship.
These materials, which will be available through the district portal this fall, illustrate the new principles that students, parents and staff are required to acknowledge with their signatures and adhere to while they are members of the DPISD community. Their compliance also is a prerequisite for the cybersafety instruction that all students participate in each May.
Kari rhame murphy is chief technology officer for the Deer Park Independent School District, a 15-school suburban district about 20 miles southeast of Houston.
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