Posts Tagged leadership

Initiating BYOT? Get Advice from a PLN!

2013-08-29 10.04.15After spending the last week observing classrooms at various stages of implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), I reflected on how I could encourage the members of those schools to find new ways to learn with their technology tools.  I turned to my own Personal Learning Network (PLN) in Twitter in #BYOTchat for suggestions regarding the components necessary for initiating and sustaining a schoolwide BYOT implementation.  I’m sure that everyone has some different opinions about the order of significance of the following recommendations, but please share your ideas by commenting at the end of this post.  This compilation is ordered in the way I received them from my PLN, and I added some of my own ideas about each of the following areas:

  1. Administrator Support and Expectations.  I began the discussion by suggesting this item.  From my experience, when an administrator relates that BYOT is important for students and expects that students should be using their technology tools for learning, then teachers are more motivated to encourage BYOT.  I think that school and district leaders need to walk through their buildings and recognize effective uses of technology and offer support when necessary.
  2. Adequate Infrastructure. This area was noted by @mrvandersluis, and @ZinkEd_u argued that infrastructure should be number one.  I agree that having a robust Wi-Fi network is essential to the effective implementation of BYOT.  I have also seen students use their own devices without necessarily being connected to the Internet, and in my district, students also can use their personal data plans (if they can get a signal).  I do recognize, however, that teachers and students will be frustrated with an unreliable network within their schools.
  3. Dedicated, Interested Teachers.  @sr_tutor shared that teachers have to champion the implementation of BYOT.  Teachers have to understand that they don’t need to know how to use all of the technology tools that come into their classrooms.  They need to focus on the teaching and know how to ask good questions so that they can facilitate student discovery of new ways to learn with their personal devices.  They also need to develop a responsive learning community and negotiate strategies for the use of BYOT.  Teachers have to be resilient and understand that they will sometimes make mistakes, but they can model how to be digital age learners.
  4. Parent Support.  @meghorsley made this suggestion, and it is vital that parents understand the new role of BYOT in learning.  Many parents see their children using technology for gaming or communicating with friends, and parents often hand their own devices to children to keep them pacified in restaurants or in the back seat of the car, but they usually haven’t seen children learning with technology.  There are many ways to help parents understand BYOT.  Use a polling app during a PTA meeting so that parents can participate with their own devices.  Invite parents to a Technology Night at the school when students can explain to parents how they learn with BYOT.  Finally, share out suggestions for apps and tools in newsletters or provide links to successful BYOT lessons and products so that parents can realize new learning opportunities with BYOT
  5. A BYOT Policy.  @EmLeacy noted that there should be an agreed upon plan for use by all parties: administration, teachers, students, and parents alike.  I don’t think she was specifically talking about a policy for BYOT, so I broke up this idea into two different strategies (numbers 5 and 6).  Everyone needs to understand how the technology tools will be used and how issues will be resolved if the technology is used inappropriately.  We never really experienced nightmare scenarios with BYOT in my district, and over time, we developed a new Responsible Use Policy that focuses on nurturing trust among teachers and students.  Of course, as professionals, the teachers still monitor the use of technology tools in their classrooms just like they monitor other behaviors.
  6. A BYOT Purpose/Vision. @EmLeacy followed up with the notion of a sense of purpose, and this idea seems more related to the goals and vision for BYOT within the school.  There are several reasons why a school may choose to begin a BYOT initiative.  One reason is that so many students may have devices that a school needs to find ways (other that outright banning them) to deal with all of these forms of technology.  In addition, digital age skills can be taught and facilitated with students own technology tools.  Furthermore, students can be more engaged in learning when they become producers of original content rather than solely consuming content.  The vision for BYOT needs to be understood and shared by all of the members of the learning community.
  7. BYOT Capacity and Equity.  @mrvandersluis explained that this capacity addresses whether or not students have their own technology tools to bring to school and what the school will do for those that don’t have devices.  BYOT equity can be a challenge to understand and accomplish.  I prefer having different devices because those differences help provide more personalized learning experiences and more opportunities to transform learning within the classroom.  Is it equitable when a parent chooses not to send technology to school because of fears related to screen time or when one teacher utilizes technology but the teacher in the next classroom doesn’t use it because of his or her fears related to technology use?  A good blend of school technology resources and personal technology tools seems like the most equitable solution, and a school district also needs to consider the issue of home Internet access.
  8. On-Going Personalized Professional Learning.  I added this final component to the list, and I think that there is no final resting place for professional learning in BYOT.  The tools and applications continue to evolve over time, and a certain mindset is required for teaching and learning in the digital age.  With so many different opportunities for engaging student learning with BYOT, a teacher has to receive support just in time and usually that support comes from the students in the classroom.  Again, a supportive learning community encourages teachers and students to be risk-takers – willing to try new approaches and able to learn from successes and mistakes.

2013-08-29 12.47.44Having a great PLN like #BYOTchat in Twitter helps me to make my professional learning personalized to my unique challenges and interests.

I’m grateful to all of the educators who contributed to my understanding of the needs for BYOT implementation.  I definitely suggest that you follow each of them on Twitter.  If you think that there is an item missing from this list, or if you think of a creative way of ordering these suggestions, please leave a comment.

Also, join #BYOTchat in Twitter each Thursday night at 9 PM EST for an exciting discussion regarding an aspect of BYOT!  This chat is moderated by @SteveHayes_RB60, @nathan_stevens, @MyTakeOnIt, and me.  We also have many guest moderators who lend their various areas of expertise.

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All Aboard the BYOT Train

Guest Post by Cassie Shoemaker @CShoeITS3
Instructional Technology Specialist – Chestatee Elementary School

Train3As an Instructional Technology Specialist at a Title 1 elementary school, one of my roles is to coach teachers on how to integrate technology into the curriculum.  In our current digital age, this is not optional.   Classrooms must reform to prepare students to become successful for careers of the future.  We are already 13 years into the 21st Century!

So how do we get all teachers on board?  The first step is to build community within the school and within each classroom.  This is the foundation to getting any program to work – especially something as new as Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT).   Everyone should be comfortable learning as they go, and knowing that mistakes are okay, as long as knowledge is gained from them!

Train1The next step is to focus on instruction – technology should always come later!  Providing professional development on higher order thinking, project and inquiry based learning, differentiated instruction, flexible grouping, driving questions, different levels of technology use, the 4 C’s of digital age learning, etc… is the most important step to ensuring that technology integration is being utilized to enhance instruction and take kids to places they’ve never been before! After educators have solid instructional skills, technology integration will truly be effective.

Providing professional development opportunities for teachers such as using the latest tech tools, doing walk throughs into other classrooms to see BYOT in action, and having people walk through their rooms and provide feedback are essential!  Having administration, other teachers, and instructional technology specialists walk through classrooms and give honest feedback and suggestions has been a huge catalyst for change!  Train2Let teachers know it is okay to learn from the students.  Encourage the students to show what their devices can do, while the teacher focuses on the curriculum.  Teachers who focus on the devices and feel like they must know how to use it before allowing it into the classroom will always be swimming upstream.  Devices and software change constantly.  Teachers must accept that and let that fear go.  Educators will be amazed to see how much easier t eaching becomes when control shifts and students are allowed to have choice to be the experts of their own devices.

Technology in the classroom is one of the fastest growing movements that have ever occurred in education.  When it is utilized appropriately, children are truly becoming prepared for the real world, and isn’t that the purpose of school?  The BYOT train is only going to go faster, so it’s time to jump on, or risk being stuck behind while everyone else has reached new places!

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Day 1 of BYOT

This is Day 1 of a series of posts this week to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom.  In order to begin this series, I made three assumptions:

  • The principal supports BYOT (see 5 Leadership Strategies for Implementing BYOT).
  • Some background communication has occurred with parents and community members to achieve support for BYOT in the school.
  • The school has some type of wireless infrastructure and access for supporting BYOT or permits students to bring their own data plans.

Scenario: The students are entering the classroom, and some of them are bringing devices to school.  They have already visited the class during Open House, and learned about becoming a BYOT school, and the reality is that, as Jill Hobson, Director of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County Schools, has stated, “You’re already BYOT, but you won’t admit it.”  Therefore, many students already have devices in their pockets and backpacks and just need to know how to use them in new ways to facilitate their learning experiences.

Activity – Build a Community

In any strong community, members know the rules and expectations for how they should learn and work together.  Educators and schools often just give students the list of rules for students to follow, but BYOT provides greater opportunities for student participation.  Expectations for responsible use will be more meaningful to students if they help create them.  This process increases student buy in by make the guidelines relevant.

  • Discuss Responsible Use.  Have students provide examples of how devices should be used appropriately at school and what could happen when devices are used irresponsibly.   I would begin this as a class discussion because although many students know how to use their devices, I wouldn’t assume that they know how to use them appropriately within a school setting.  Remember, many students are self-taught or peer-taught in how technology should be used.
  • Facilitate the Discussion.  Guidelines for responsible use need to address the following issues: Netiquette, Cyberbullying, Plagiarism, Security, Maintenance of Devices, Privacy, Passwords, Appropriate Content, and Safe Online Searches.  As the moderator of the class discussion, the teacher can help to ensure that these topics come up during the discussion.  There may also be some additional issues that should be discussed that are relevant within your particular learning community.
  • Share Out about Devices.  Have students take out their devices and share them with each other by discussing with a small group or the whole class how they already use their technology.  There are several reasons why this sharing is important:
    • It acknowledges the expertise of students in their technology tools, and it shows that you trust them to be responsible with them at school.
    • Students are usually eager to share what they know about their devices, and this time to share helps them to make connections between personal uses of technology and educational purposes.
    • It helps students express the excitement of bringing their technology to school so that they are able to focus and work with their devices more constructively in later activities.
    • It allows you and the other students to help distinguish between all of the different devices so that everyone can assist with securing the technology and finding the experts on particular devices.
    • It helps you and the students to learn more about all of the different capabilities of the technology available within the classroom.
    • It is sometimes easier to talk about your technology tools in a new group than it is to talk about yourself, so it is a good way to begin communicating with others.
  • Begin a Wiki.  Go to Wikispaces, and sign up to begin a new wiki for your class.  I like this tool because the wiki is free, and I can add students into it even if they don’t have email addresses.  It is really easy to use, and it tracks each change that is made to a wiki.  If a student accidentally deletes too much content, I can revert the wiki back to an earlier edition.  Wikis encourage collaboration by empowering all of the students to produce and edit content that can be shared with the entire class.In your class wiki, develop two pages:

1. Our Responsible Use Guidelines

Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki.  Based on the earlier discussion on responsible use, have students develop the guidelines and expectations for how they should use their devices at school.  They should at least address all of the topics that were suggested regarding responsible use.

2. Ways to Learn with Our Devices

Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki.  From the sharing of devices, they should explain how the tools can be used at school for learning about new things, and students may even share new ideas and strategies through the wiki that they did not express during the discussion.

These pages can be revisited throughout the school year as often as needed.  Students are continually upgrading and getting new devices, and the wiki can be a source of good collective information.


  1. Have students share the wiki with their parents.  It encourages good home/school communication, and it is reassuring to parents that their child is learning responsible use.
  2. Have students download these apps: Edmodo, Socrative-Student, Comic Touch Lite (these links are for iOS devices – iPads/iPhones).  Some of these same apps are also available with Android devices, and encourage students to look for them with their parents.  For a more comprehensive list of apps look at this list: Apps for Mobile Devices.  If students do not have a device, reassure them that they can use the school’s technology resources, and many of these activities can also be completed with a variety of technology tools.

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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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