BYOD focuses on the learning, not the tool

Bring Your Own Device strategies in K-12 education are not new.  Every day, whether you have a BYOD strategy in place or not, students and staff are using their personally owned devices in your district.  Whether or not you are taking advantage of this or ignoring the opportunity, is currently the debate. At Omaha Public Schools, my belief is 1:1 is just a ratio not a program, and BYOD happens even when that ratio is a 1:1.  Today’s environment exists ubiquitous of what types of devices and where we are accessing information from. It isn’t one or the other anymore – our students and staff demand more.

BYOD is the solution needed to move us past banning, past worries about student-owned devices being used to fuel instruction and moves us towards personalized learning, differentiated instructional strategies, where the focus is on the learning and not on the tool.  It allows us to raise the level of technology use to the transformational level in which students become information producers, not consumers.  Teachers that embrace these BYOD initiatives empower the students to be the technology experts.  When the district/school rolls out laptops to every student, then the teacher has to know how that laptop works along with all of the software on it.  When students have difficulty with their personal devices, they are able to help each other, and the teacher isn’t expected to know how all of the devices work.  The teacher is supposed to focus on the teaching, and this involves learning along with the students as they explore new ideas and solve original problems.  The teacher does not need to dictate how to use technology; instead, the teacher can offer suggestions and advice, and the students can develop their own solutions.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Treat students like 21st century adolescents. Many of them own and use these devices outside of school. If we can focus use on learning, then why would we not allow them to bring these tools and use them in school?
  • Begin to change the way students view their electronic devices by changing the language used to refer to them. Students need to fully understand that electronic items are tools for learning. Teachers should make consistent efforts to refer to them as mobile learning devices.
  • A BYOD initiative can actually supplement what a school might already have in terms of technology and increase access. For example, let’s say a school has a laptop cart with only 20 devices because that is all that could be afforded, but there are 25 students in the class. Student owned technology could then be utilized to close this gap.
  • Unacceptable use is dealt with accordingly based on a school’s discipline code. This should not be considered different than any other infraction.
  • Lastly, it’s the pedagogy, not the technology. Technology should always be at the service of pedagogy. The power of integrating technology into the classroom is the power it has to redefine the relationships in the classroom and reorient them toward a more student-centered approach to learning.

What needs to be in place?

The needed components to implement a BYOD-based 1:1 program include:

  • Sustainable funding for children who cannot afford to purchase their own device and subscribe to Internet services
  • A tiered support model for effective technology support with existing technology staffing
  • Expansion of the network bandwidth to meet the higher traffic loads and traffic patterns generated by mobile learning
  • Mobile Device Management Interface for deploying/managing tiered devices
  • A secure network with role-based wireless and identity services to protect the organization from infected devices and hacker attacks
  • Expansion of mobile learning to be integrated with LMSs, assessment, single sign-on, and other school applications
  • Provision of a content-filtering application that is age-appropriate and flexible, based on need
  • Devices that meet a minimum screen size and processing capability so that the devices can run all curriculum and digital content and students can interact with the software effectively
  • Expansion of the Responsible Use Policy for email and Internet usage that includes a simple BYOD policy

About the Author:

Rob Dickson, Executive Director of Information Management Systems, Omaha Public Schools. Rob Dickson’s technical understanding of how technology should support student learning contributed to his previous district’s ranking among the “top ten” digital districts in the nation four of the past five years. Among Dickson’s accomplishments are leading the first VBlock cloud data center installation in K-12 education and advising many schools across the country with their technology planning and integration. Dickson was recently named 2014s “20 to Watch” from NSBA for innovation and technology integration work. Dickson currently directs the instructional technology program and all of the technology infrastructure work for Omaha Public Schools as the Executive Director of Information Management Systems and is also the Co-Founder of GreyED Solutions. Follow him on twitter @showmerob