Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) is essentially a “bottom up” initiative in the sense that students already have personal technology devices in their pockets, and they often provide the incentive or demand to begin using those tools for instruction. Educators usually have to scramble to catch up to students in the personal uses of technology and have to be willing to learn alongside them to facilitate BYOT effectively. This shift entails the transformation of learning experiences as students progress from solely being consumers of information to becoming producers of original content. This can be a challenging metamorphosis in many learning environments, but by utilizing some key strategies, school leaders can purposefully nurture a culture that is beneficial for transformational learning with BYOT.
1. Empowering – Learning to share ownership of the BYOT experience can be difficult for classroom teachers as they begin to empower students to develop a sense of agency. Students have to use critical thinking to make authentic choices about how they will learn with their devices and creativity to show what they have learned. This agency involves trusting the students and maintaining high expectations for responsible use of technology. School leaders demonstrate trust of their teachers and students as they recognize the inherent leadership of others and begin to open communication about technology uses rather than insisting on blocking and banning technology tools.
2. Modeling – School leaders need to model learning with BYOT as they work with teachers and students. There is no “one size fits all” learning community, and professional learning has to become differentiated for the teachers so that they can choose among the tools and strategies based on their individual interests and needs. As school leaders begin to focus on developing processes and skills within the learning community instead of only on content knowledge, teachers will also emphasize those abilities in their classrooms. When a school leader continually reviews only numerical data from standardized test scores, then the instructional message becomes “teach to the test.” By being a personal lifelong learner who is willing to learn from others. a school leader can model a passion for learning and trying new things.
3. Practicing – A key strategy for promoting a BYOT initiative is for school leaders to begin using their own technology devices by exploring ways to use social media for personal and professional learning. Through the use of Twitter, they can develop networks that can help them connect with other educators to share ideas and strategies for instruction, technology, and leadership. They can also use Twitter and personal technology devices to lead professional learning activities and encourage collaboration. As leaders practicing BYOT, they can begin recommending apps and tools to teachers and students as they promote digital age skills within their schools and learn new uses for personal technology.
4. Encouraging – As teachers and students begin experimenting with their devices to discover new instructional approaches, they will occasionally make some mistakes. A school leader has to encourage the learning community to persist in the use of their technology tools and remain understanding through this process of trial and error. This encouragement reinforces a culture that is supportive of growth and innovation. It includes being a cheerleader who is excited about students bringing their technology devices to school and embraces the pedagogical change that occurs when students own the learning. This enthusiasm for learning with BYOT is contagious!
5. Advocating – Members of the learning community may not have an understanding of the need for BYOT within schools. After all, many children often receive their first technology devices to keep them entertained while they are sitting in the backseat of a car or waiting in a restaurant. Parents are more accustomed to seeing their child’s attention being absorbed by a device, but in a school setting, students are eager to share and collaborate with their technology rather than use them in isolation. A school leader has to communicate the possible uses of personal technology for learning opportunities to hesitant parents, community members, and school system personnel.
On a final note, instead of viewing BYOT as a bottom up or top down initiative, school leaders can choose to view it as a community endeavor in which everyone plays a vital role in its successful implementation. What other leadership strategies involving BYOT can you suggest for school leaders?