Posts Tagged Policies

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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BYOT in Kindergarten – Engaging New Learners

Guest Post by Emily Dunlap @emily_dunlap
Instructional Technology Specialist


If we are going to use Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) in our schools, why not start with our youngest students?  Kindergarteners are digital natives in the truest form because technology has surrounded them since the day they were born. Why should their school experience be any different?  If students bring and use their own devices during their first year of school, they will then be the truest form of a digital native – never knowing that there was any other way of learning.

Luckily, I am the Instructional Technology Specialist (ITS) at a school where most of our teachers and parents agree and are willing to allow students to bring their devices to school to use as instructional tools.  A couple of my Kindergarten teachers began implementing BYOT in January.  They felt that they needed the first half of the year to build communities in their classrooms to facilitate this type of learning.  They wanted to ensure that their students would be respectful and responsible of each other and their devices.

Managing New Tools

The teachers sent home our BYOT policy that outlines the responsibilities of the students, parents and teachers when bringing a device to school and must be signed by all three individuals.  They also sent a letter that included a list of suggested apps that students might want to download and the teacher’s policies regarding management of devices in their classrooms.  The teachers have an individual large Ziploc bag with each student’s name on it.  The bag contains the signed BYOT form and device until it is time to use them.  While not in use, all of the bags are locked in a closet to ensure that no devices are lost or broken. So far, this management system has worked well for both of them.

Implementing New Strategies

Kindergarten_1So….now that you have the devices in the building, what do you do with five year olds bringing in different devices loaded with a variety of apps?  After collaborating with the teachers, we realized that the best way for Kindergarteners to get the most out of BYOT, is to use their tools to show what they know.  The teacher should simply ask the class a question and encourage the students to figure out how they could demonstrate knowledge of that standard.  There is no right or wrong way to answer as long as their response shows mastery of the standard in question.  By having students choose what way they want to answer the  question, they become more familiar with how to use their devices as a tools instead of something to just play games on.  That is the purpose of BYOT; isn’t it?

During our first implementation of BYOT, Ashley Loftus, one of our Kindergarten BYOT teachers had all but three of her twenty-two students bring in a device of some sort, and the others had the option of participating in the lesson on a school-owned desktop, laptop or to collaborate with another student.   She asked her students to use their devices to show how many days are in a week.  Some students found a number app they had loaded and found the number seven. Other students typed or drew “seven” or “7” on numerous apps; others recorded their voices or made a video or took pictures….all showing that the answer was seven.  No two responses looked the same, but they were all correct and allowed Mrs. Loftus to assess her students’ knowledge of this content.Kindergarten_2

Ashley quickly found that she could use BYOT as an alternative to pencil and paper as a formative assessment while offering opportunities for the children to explore their inner creativity based on their own abilities.  Here are two students’ responses when asked to demonstrate an addition problem.  One used Minecraft to show her equation while another made a video of herself explaining how to solve her problem.

Guiding New Understandings

The key is to ask students questions pertaining to the standards you are covering and allow the students the freedom to use their device in any way to show you what they know.  Ashley went through the current quarter’s standards and came up with the following list of questions she will use during BYOT lessons:

  • Show me how many syllables the following words have – wonder…target…combination
  • How many syllables does your name have?
  • What was the setting in _____ story?
  • In your opinion, do you like winter or summer?
  • Show me one way to make 8.
  • What kind of punctuation mark would I use for this sentence… “I love school”?
  • Show me a 2d shape.
  • Show me a 3d shape.
  • How many vertices does a rectangle have?
  • I am going to break down a word and I want you to blend it.
  • Show me something heavier than a crayon.
  • Show me something longer than your pencil pouch.
  • Show me something on your device that you can use to help you learn.

Encouraging New Skills

What a great way for a digital native to demonstrate the knowledge they are learning in school! Sure, they could do these exact activities using pencil and paper, but by using their device, they are engaged and empowered.  The possibilities are endless, and our Kindergarteners are learning to be creative, critical thinkers while collaborating and communicating with one another – all essential skills of the digital age.

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