Archive for category BYOT Leadership

Learning to TRUST with Responsible Use

(Cross-posted at Bold Visions and BYOT Network and cowritten by Jill Hobson, Director of Instructional Technology and Dr. Tim Clark, Coordinator of Instructional Technology – Forsyth County Schools.)

BYOT_babyWhen do you begin teaching responsible use? It should start at birth. Many parents begin creating the child’s digital footprint before the child is even born by posting the ultrasound photo on social media. Ideally when the child enters school you would expect a child to know how to share, take turns, listen to other opinions and know the difference between right and wrong and some understanding of social norms for public and private behavior. In reality we realize that some children come to school unprepared with some of those social skills and so we nurture and model and teach appropriate behavior until these become internalized.

For example,we live in an era where parents have some model for the “sex talk” because most people participated in such a conversation(s) as a child.  There are multiple books and blogs and other resources to help parents with how to handle this issue.  But who among us as parents has a model for ongoing digital citizenship conversation? Most adults have developed their knowledge of social media through experimentation without guidance, yet we wouldn’t want our kids to learn about sex in that way! So, this is an area where the school has a responsibility to step in and join with families in the work of teaching digital citizenship.

From the beginning of a child’s school career, learning about responsible must be an everyday, ongoing, just in time experience. Where would a school find resources for this kind of instruction? One powerful tool for schools AND parents that we recommend is Common Sense Media.

In addition it seems that when issues occur where a young person makes a mistake, the initial reaction leans towards banning whatever device, app or website was involved as a solution.  While this is a quick way to deal with the immediate issue, it misses the larger need to educate students on how to live in a world of the open Internet.  Students need to learn what it means to responsibly make use of these tools.  And it means that we need to know what to do when we end up in the wrong place, when we mess up, or make a poor choice.  How do young people learn to “course correct” without some guidance from the adults in their lives?

Forsyth County Schools has begun to address the way we deal with issue by moving away from the traditional Acceptable Use Guidelines that include a long list of “thou shalt nots” and has replaced them with the FCS Responsible Use Guidelines.  These guidelines include 5 statements outlining behaviors all members of the FCS community will exhibit regarding digital citizenship. We started to recognize that we had been focusing on the 5% of students who might not follow directions and were making all of the “rules” to deal with their issues.  Our goal in transforming the Acceptable Use Guidelines into Responsible Use Guidelines was to focus on the 95% of students who are going to do the right thing.

The district will begin its sixth year of its Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative in the 2013-2014 school year.  At the onset of implementing BYOT, it seemed necessary to control the devices and applications the students were using in order to ensure safety.  There was some concern about what would happen when students brought their own technology tools to school, and the district leaned heavily on its filtered network as a measure of control.  The big A-HA moment came when students brought devices to school and generally used them responsibly and safely, and the few issues that arose were identified as behavioral concerns to be addressed rather than being technology problems.  The district outgrew its one-size-fits-all Acceptable Use Guidelines and began its quest to develop the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines.  Some goals of this effort were to have consistent home-school communication and support; to provide some flexibility to local school communities; to teach digital citizenship within the context of students’ personal devices,; and to encompass the growing diversity and different expectations of our learning community.

Here is a poster that we have developed to express the five traits and expectations of the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines embedded within the overarching concept of TRUST:

We TRUST that the new school year with the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines will have a renewed focus on digital age learning and citizenship.  To review the FCS Responsible Use Guidelines, please visit

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Don’t Be a B.L.O.B. – Support Responsible Use of Technology with BYOT!

What is a BLOB?

Think of the 1958 horror/science-fiction film, The Blob, that portrayed two young teenagers struggling to battle a giant mass of an alien that attempted to swallow up their small town in Pennsylvania.  The movie poster described the Blob as “Indescribable…Indestructible! Nothing Can Stop It!”  Without hesitation, this amoeba-like creature indiscriminately consumed everything in its path until the teenage heroes managed to utilize their available resources to render it useless.

In today’s schools, a BLOB acquires a completely new meaning – a Banner – Locker – Or – Blocker.  BLOBs are the people who keep students from using their personal technology devices to facilitate their learning.  They ban technology devices because they assume that students will use their devices inappropriately, and/or they prefer to maintain the status quo of teacher directed instruction with passive student involvement.  “Lecture all week and test on Friday” is the mantra of many BLOB schools in order to prepare students for the standardized tests toward the end of the year that are supposed to document the how effective the teacher and students were throughout the year.

A BLOB may also be guilty of indiscriminately interpreting the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) to over filter websites and social media throughout the school day, even to the detriment of learning opportunities of students.  To qualify for E-Rate funding, schools must show that they are following the requirements of CIPA.  These funds come from the Universal Service fee that you can find on your bills from telecommunications providers (phone, cable, and Internet), and they are used to supplement the telecommunications charges to schools and libraries across the country.  Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education addressed some of the requirements and misinterpretations of CIPA in this interview by Tina Barseghian on the blog – Dispelling Myths About Blocked Sites.

What Is Responsible Use?

Schools that encourage their students to Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) can work within the framework of responsible use by acknowledging that students have the freedom to make choices, and they expect that students will make the right choices to benefit themselves and their instruction.  Starting with the expectation that students want to make good choices creates a noticeable difference in the culture of learning within a school as opposed to assuming that students want to break rules and use technology inappropriately.  The responsible use of technology tools is empowering to students rather than following an acceptable use policy that dictates how and when technology should be used.  The following attributes are some specific hallmarks of responsible use: trust; high expectations; open access; sense of community; practice; and persistence.  In these schools, administrators and teachers acknowledge that students may sometimes make mistakes with their technology tools, and they immediately guide students in the appropriate use of technology and reinforce the importance of personal responsibility in digital age learning.  They believe that students want to learn and understand that developing authentic connections among students, teachers, and the content are necessary for developing supportive communities of learners.

What Can I Do to Avoid Becoming a BLOB?

Michelle Luhtala (@mluhtala) from New Canaan High School brought to my attention that on October 3, The American Association of School Librarians will mark Banned Websites Awareness Day to raise awareness of how legitimate academic websites and social media tools are being blocked in many schools and libraries.  Some issues addressed by this event are how students do not fully develop their skills as digital citizens to evaluate information from all types of sources, including the Internet, and how teachers are not able to utilize the social media tools for learning that their students find relevant in their everyday lives.  Learn more about Banned Websites Awareness Day and how overly restrictive filtering affects student learning.

Also, become familiar with the requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in order to provide students a safe learning environment without becoming a BLOB!


“Banned Websites Awareness Day.” American Library Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2012. <;.

Barseghian, T. (2011, September 20). Dispelling myths about blocked websites in schools. Retrieved from

Federal Communications Commission. “Children’s Internet Protection Act.” Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2012. <;.

Wikipedia. (28/0). Retrieved from

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5 Leadership Strategies for Implementing BYOT

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?

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