Monday, July 13, 2015

The Road to High School BYOD

Soon after I made the transition from high school associate principal to director of technology in the Fall of 2012, my quest to learn and understand how students learn best through the use of technology devices became my most important priority.  At that time, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) was beginning to gain some traction in K-12 schools with mixed results and opinions; some good and some not so good. Nonetheless, it was still worthy of discussion and was added as a “Study Recommendation” item in the 2013-2016 Grand Forks Public Schools (GFPS) Technology Plan:

Study Recommendation #5 – Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
Grand Forks Public Schools should study the potential impact of students having the opportunity to bring their own device/laptop computer.
The recommended study would develop a systematic plan for students to bring a digital device from home and access the district network for academic purposes.  A BYOD pilot study will take place in a summer school English class in the summer of 2013.

GFPS students in grades 5-8 now have 1:1 access to netbooks or Chromebooks, but in the Fall of 2014, the budget did not allow for the 1:1 initiative to continue for students into 9th grade.  Instead, carts of Chromebooks were added to the high schools dedicated to 9th grade students in the core curriculum areas as a way to provide additional access to devices.

When the GFPS High School Technology Committee first met in the Fall of 2014, we reviewed the 2013-2016 GFPS Technology Plan.  Committee discussion focused on and kept coming back to increase device access for our high school students and BYOD.  After significant study, the plan was presented to district administrators, high school principals, school board technology committee, and the school board.  After answering the questions and responding to the concerns, support was in place to move forward.  A BYOD Steering Committee was established and we started preparations for an August 2015 implementation.  The key areas of our work and discussions included:
  • Expanding the BYOD Summer School Pilot to all classrooms
  • Equity - Several hundred Chromebooks will be deployed for students to access as supplemental devices.
  • Communication with Teachers
  • Communication with the Community (see the Grand Forks Herald article on BYOD)
  • Student Expectations (summer school students are currently involved)
  • Network Infrastructure (additional access points)
  • Teacher Professional Development (planning has been and continues to take place)
  • List Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

As our summer school BYOD pilot is taking place and preparations continue, it was interesting to read the recently released NMC Horizon Report 2015 K-12 Edition.  The report contained affirmation of the GFPS BYOD initiative as it listed BYOD as an important development in education technology.  The expert panel agreed that BYOD is very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making over the next five years with an expected widespread adoption in one year or less. (See pages 36 and 37 in the Horizon Report)

As we transition to BYOD in our high schools, there will be some themes that will be important to remember:
  1. It’s about student learning, not the device. 
  2. Professional Learning - Our Curriculum Technology Partners are poised to provide just in time and ongoing professional learning opportunities for our teachers geared towards pedagogy in a technology rich environment.
  3. Student Expectations - We will provide our students with the expectations of BYOD and embed digital citizenship reminders, while at the same time, establish an environment of trust.
  4. While we are focused on planning for the best BYOD scenario, we understand that there will be things to learn along the way.  Being mindful that we are always in “beta” will keep us focused on continual improvement.
  5. We need to stay focused on ‘what’s the best that could happen’ [with BYOD and student learning], rather than ‘what’s the worst that could happen.’
  6. “Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational.” (@gcouros)

There will be much to learn and work to do during this upcoming school year with BYOD in our high schools.  We do not and will not pretend to have BYOD all figured out, but I will share, through this blog, ongoing reflections on our high school BYOD transition.

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