Dapto High School is moving to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) for Y7-12 in 2015. In this year of transition we have learnt much from the experience of trialling BYOD in 2014 with Year 9. This post is part of a workshop for deputy principals at our annual conference, earlier in the year, that explored making BYOD a success at school.
Every school has its own unique context. Often there are many similarities but what will work at one school does not gain traction at another. Our school community of 1100 students and staff really liked the DER laptop program, as did their parents. The principal wanted every student issued a laptop to have it at school and the teachers to integrate the technology effectively into their pedagogy. The vast majority of teachers had a go. Many did really well adapting in a period of rapid technological change.
When we surveyed staff re: moving to BYOD the overwhelming sentiment was one of ”what would we do nowadays if students in stage 5 & 6 could not connect to the internet after 5 years of DER?” The only real issue was that of equity for students who were unable to provide a device. The parents also nominated this as the number 1 challenge. That was solved by issuing older Lenovos donated by ex-students with Ubuntu installed (NB. Chromium was not as successful on the devices for some students).
Our school has a strong team with a variety of interests and skills that support technology at the school. We have several staff members with great technical skills who do high level work on servers, can code & also have the practical nous to challenge and debate decisions that will not work for us. We are well-connected to the larger international edutech community as well as local DEC colleagues across the silos. Our approach to managing student digital citizenship issues and classroom discipline is well-established and effective*. The staff recently nominated technology as one of the school’s top 3 strengths. They particularly like the high level of TPL, technology and positive support with student discipline for classroom teachers.
This year it is evident how many more staff are independently finding pedagogical solutions and new tools to share with their students and colleagues. One teacher loves iDoceo, especially for capturing summative assessment data. She presents to the whole staff as well as running tutorials. I liked this teaching tool that another teacher shared with colleagues at TPL this year. I’ll talk more about deployment of iPads to staff & TPL later on when looking at surveys of student and staff perceptions.
A couple of more anecdotes that capture the spirit of BYOD for me follow. Last week I was struggling with the Tandberg for a video-conference and suspected the remote was faulty. A teacher whipped out his iPhone and used an app to check. The remote was fine. It was the Tandberg that was cactus. The photos below are from last Friday. The school is making a video for the vision section of the new 2015-17 planning process. The SRC was filmed and recorded, using iPhones, as they explained what they wanted to explore, create and what inspired them to learn. The film should be on the website shortly.
There’s much to praise and the above anecdotes could be joined by many others. Having said that we do have a number of significant challenges that are yet to be resolved…more on that later.
The kids and their parents.
When the P&C were consulted it was clear all were annoyed that the federal government was not extending the DER program and that the state was not supporting schools by maintaining Technical Support Officers. They were very concerned about equity and to a lesser extent insurance, breakages and theft. When we commenced trialling BYOD with Year 8 in term 4 last year the students were overwhelmingly positive (although it is true more than a handful of students said they preferred pen and paper).
Our school is positive about technology and social media. The parents & kids know our processes for dealing with (24/7) digital citizenship issues so that was less of a concern than what it would be at some schools. We employ a range of positive strategies, including using our School Police Liason Officer for more serious issues and for general talks to whole years groups. We have programs, performances and lessons that focus on digital citizenship, especially for Years 7-9. The teacher-librarian is heavily involved. Our Transition Program also looks at this with Year 6 students.
All schools need a (real) team committed to making BYOD work at their place. This cannot just be the tech heads. It cannot just be about meetings. There needs to be a general striving to get it all sorted out that allows many people to contribute and pursue their own ideas. (Y)our team of people includes: principal, deputy principal, computer coordinator, HT admin and the teacher-librarian. At the last meeting many CRTs attended. One said it was the best TPL, even though it was ‘just’ a meeting, she’d ever had. It is essential the whole executive is in the loop and is supportive of (and supported with) BYOD.
The team should extend beyond the school gates. Social media connects you and your school to whatever it is you need. Twitter and hashtags like #nswdecbyod, Yammer & Facebook are essentials imho. Diigo is a great (but under-utilised) bookmarking tool you should try (check out my publicly accessible BYOD and SAMR tags). Edmodo is another essential (BTW there is an ALARM group for DEC staff). Does anyone at you school blog? It can be a great way to share enthusiasms about learning and teaching. For example, here are my BYOD and SAMR posts.
Finally, what motivates any individual or team? The rewards of participating freely in improving learning at (y)our workplace are much more powerful than many other incentives or mandates. Virtuous circles are powerful. There’s not time for a discussion here but Daniel Pink’s ideas are worth exploring.
The teachers and their pedagogy.
The heart of moving to a BYOD model is to encourage innovation, creativity and more independent learning. There are many opportunities to connect outside the walls of the classroom and genuinely engage with the pedagogy recommended in the QTF. TPL is essential and regular opportunities for teachers to formally share their skills is important. Informal sharing is even more powerful as teachers learn from each other in their staff rooms. Observing a colleague’s lesson and team-teaching wherever possible can really take the pressure off when trying new strategies in a BYOD classroom, and should be encouraged.
An area where we need to focus more, although a good start has been made, is with assessment. The SAMR model is an effective way to structure professional dialogue, especially when faculties are evaluating formative and summative assessment strategies. An important consideration is submission of assessment tasks. What is the whole school or faculty policy? Passing around USB sticks does not work too well if a student has a tablet. Here’s a link to a TPL session about assessment (password: Learning).
This leads discussion about what tools are best in the classroom. It makes sense for the teachers to be ‘software agnostic’. Rather than mandating PowerPoint the task can have selection of tools as part of the criteria. For example, the teacher could suggest possible presentation tools – Prezi, Keynote, PowerPoint – but allow students to make other suggestions. All need to consider the effectiveness of the tool employed.
Teachers cannot hide from making use of technology in their classrooms. Nor can HTs, deputies or principals shrink from supporting these colleagues to update their skills. Faculty based approaches, led by the HT, are a great way to generate enthusiasm and the energy needed for change. BYOD, or rather the pedagogy that supports it, should regularly be on the executive meeting agenda. Ensuring that technology works is not necessarily the easy part but it certainly will be sorted out with less effort than professionally equipping staff in a era of rapid change.
The (BYOD) Technical Support Officer (TSO).
We have a new TSO who has been employed to focus on supporting BYOD. We have really gotten lucky and have an outstanding person in place. Many of you will be struggling with the loss of DER funded TSO positions and our school, one of the “229 pilots schools”, has had more flexibility with staffing/funding to employ someone for this key position. The fact the salary for this job is approximately $16 k more than what a DER TSO was paid indicates the importance the principal places in the position for our school.
Our TSO is located in the library and this important whole school facility is being re-imagined. The old static shelving is gone and frontward facing spaces now house a good percentage of the books. New carpet and furniture arrive shortly. The space can be reconfigured depending on the style of learning taking place. It is envisaged that a makerspace, allowing students to drop-in and work on projects or be booked by teachers, will be operating by the beginning of next year. The teacher-librarian is exploring spaces that work best. We have a new 3D printer that the TSO has been trained to use that could be in this space. All staff have had opportunities to be oriented formally in TPL sessions to the nature of 3D printing.
We really needed to make the school’s digital footprint more contemporary. We have a new logo and our whole school documents re-designed. Our new website will have an extensive BYOD section in 2015 that links to free downloads, apps, policies & procedures. By the first day of 2015 it will be a fantastic resource for our community (and your school) like this site has been for us. We have always used the website to assist parents make interviews and bookings, assist with subject sections and the like but into the future it will be much more a resource for the whole school community.
Our school Facebook page has been fantastically successful as a part of an overall strategy of improving communications. Our school newsletter will be distributed electronically and will generate advertising revenue. A touch screen tv in the Front Office will help advertise our website and allow parents to see what is available online. My eDiary is potentially a great solution for schools wishing to improve student organisation and encourage BYOD every lesson.
The Learning Community.
Dapto Learning Community (two high schools, five public schools, just under 4000 students and growing) has made a decision to provide the same information to parents re: tech specs. It is very much a Bring Your Own Anything model as long as the screen is greater than 7′ and you can connect to the wireless. A joint BYOD SDD with a focus on the pedagogy and technology has been scheduled for next year. One of our partner primary schools is moving to full BYOD after trialling it for stage 3. Multiple meeting will be held to plan this event that involve transition coordinators, Year Advisors, the TSO and senior executive. The schools that are unsure or have limited tech expertise will be supported, wherever possible, by our TSO.
The DP @ the Bigger Picture
Deputy principals, first and foremost, are educational leaders. We are thinkers and doers. Often we need to be persuasive and lead change positively, showing others the way. It is important to be backed-up by research based evidence and internal policy. Many of you will know this NSW DEC research and be aware of our official policy. You may not be aware that ACER (Australian Council for Educational research) runs DERN (Digital Education Research Network) and the newsletter can be joined by non-subscribers. It costs about $35 to join and is a rich source of current research about digital technologies and their impact on learning. We try to publicise our school’s ideas to a national audience and in a variety of educational magazines. For example, Reading books from the local library is possible at DHS as students are issued with their local library card. Basically, this allows them to read and listen to library books on their device.
Digital citizenship really needs to be a focus for the senior executive and this must be more than just the obvious challenges of social media. We also need t think about the Big Picture of what technological change will mean for Young People and employment. It is also important to engage with government policy, on a range of issues, in a balanced and thoughtful manner. I notice recently that the mainstream media has taken up the cudgel against pen and paper HSC exams. For many years this has seemed one of the elephants in the room. What forms of summative assessment will replace it? Surely not merely the reductive measure of moving tests online? ePortfolios? What do you think?
It is important for the senior executive to be (relatively) comfortable with paradox. The digital education revolution that has accelerated post-WWII is overwhelmingly a positive thing but there are a number of concerns that need to be addressed. Sharing ideas, good posts or articles that challenge and extend our thinking is important. We cannot always be part of the cheer squad. Not all change is good for all people. Having said that, there’s not much point, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote, of being anti-iceberg. You’ll still hit one regardless!
Thanks for making it to the end. You are clearly committed to assisting BYOD at your own school.
Feel welcome to post questions, links or ideas about BYOD.
* Our discipline system is simple. If you are on the wrong website etc. you are sent straight to the DP and issued a monitoring card + parent phoned. Teachers are asked not to give students a warning but to act uniformly to support each other. This sounds very autocratic but works well in establishing the expectations for classrooms. Also, if a student uses a mobile phone inappropriately they are sent to the front office to exchange their phone for a ticket that allows them to collect it on the final bell. When the box gets to 10 it is sent to the DP to hand out the phones. Finally, if a student has a complaint (24/7) about someone online they send a screenshot to the relevant DP who will resolve the digital citizenship issue.
Featured Image: creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by sarah.bee: http://flickr.com/photos/sarahbee/2113087390