Our board is making its way through the first year of a standing, open-invitation to all students and teachers to BYOD–bring your own device–to school and use it for teaching and learning (also known as BYOT–bring your own technology). Schools are very complex environments and it will take time for personal device use to become a normal part of the classroom and school environment. Nevertheless, I have noticed a pattern at schools where BYOD/BYOT is taking off more quickly. Here are some observations I have noted that, so far, seem to be common factors at schools where device use is regular, more integrated, and has a greater impact on learning:
- Plan for BYOD/BYOT
Schools plan for a successful BYOD implementation. In almost every school I support, a team of teachers met regularly to discuss, plan, design, and communicate the implementation process to the rest of the staff. Any given school has its own set of challenges to BYOD working smoothly and issues, such as classroom routines or storage during phys-ed class / breaks, need to be addressed. Also, many teachers want a consistent approach to how BYOD looks and works within each class and throughout the school. Further reading: How to launch a successful BYOD program
- Ongoing professional learning & training (e.g. co-teaching, workshops, Twitter, blogs)
I am seeing teachers using social media to focus and control their own professional learning. Nothing is more powerful for teacher PD than the right knowledge at the right time. Teachers learning from each other in schools is also powerful; I see that all the time in active BYOD schools. The benefit for students of ongoing teacher collegiality is direct and impacts on all of the factors listed here. Our board also provides workshops and devotes a special section of their intranet website to the sharing of 21st century teaching and learning resources, including links and screencasts of available tools that can support BYOD classrooms. (Further reading: Tim Clark on Twitter regularly shares BYOT/BYOD resources. Also: 5 Tips to Help Teachers Who Struggle with Technology
- Regular device use, co-learning
Teachers recognize that regular use of devices in the classroom will encourage devices to continue to be brought in and it demonstrates to other students that devices will be used as a natural part of the classroom environment. When devices do come in, really effective teachers are taking a co-learning stance with students: teachers are learning from students about the potential of different devices and students are learning from teachers about new ways to use the device to help them learn, share, create, connect, communicate, etc. Also: Best practices for BYOD
- Clear routines & guidelines
Schools and classrooms are busy places and there isn’t time for messing around with lax expectations around device use. Teachers are having success when they and students develop, early on, what ‘appropriate use’ of technology means and how they are all going to commit to that. Obviously, ‘appropriate use’ guidelines/policies are often already developed by the school boards… but telling students to follow a long list of rules doesn’t guarantee the kind of ownership and commitment needed for success. I have noticed that when expectations are co-created with students, and in their language, there seems to be a better understanding and appreciation of the need for clear routines and guidelines.
- Digital citizenship
This is a deeply integrated set of values and norms in successful BYOD classrooms and schools. Good character is just as important online as it is face-to-face. But digital citizenship is more than just good character… and digital citizenship is not just a unit covered in early September. Teachers and students alike are expected to model positive, respectful, safe and responsible use of technology all the time and discussions about ideas, issues and incidents are on-going. If students are to be productive and fully literate members of a digital society, then a strong foundation of digital citizenship needs to be built. Further reading: Nine elements of digital citizenship
- Welcoming/sharing climate, patience
Teachers and students in schools where BYOD is more successful recognize that patience is important; technology does not always work perfectly, or quickly, or efficiently. Additionally, I often see students in successful BYOD schools helping each other, making suggestions, and taking the initiative to anticipate what a fellow classmate might need. Sharing is the norm in BYOD classrooms; sharing of ideas, resources, knowledge and technology. This doesn’t mean that a student who brings in his/her device hands it over to another student who does not have one… but, rather, a student with a device will invite and include another student without device during a learning task in the classroom.
- “Device neutral” language
In classrooms where there is a variety of devices coming in, teachers ensure that their language, when describing a learning task, does not assume the use of a specific kind of technology or app. For example, instead of saying “create a Keynote that shows your understanding of….” they might instead say “create a presentation that shows your understanding of….” thus allowing students to select an app that will be appropriate for that task. Further reading: Device neutral assignments
- Understanding myths
Most classroom environments where BYOD is taking off are designed by teachers who do not buy into the “digital native-digital immigrant” mythology. Every generation has its own expression of the “generation gap” and the “digital native” is the one thrown around these days. Today’s students might very well be more comfortable with technology than adults but that does not automatically lead to broad competencies with technology or the ability to use technology effectively for learning. Teachers can model use and design tasks that can build these competencies in students. Also: Digital native/immigrant notion can be misleading
This list is by no means complete… and I would invite any readers to comment and share other factors that influence the success of BYOD in their locations.