Wednesday, March 25, 2015

“They said the classroom was a BYOD”

I hope all you Kiwi's out there were singing along when you read the title of this post... it is in homage to the great Billy T James’ skit/waiata “They said the party was a BYOG” to the tune (of course) of YMCA.  Every time I say BYOD I can’t help but think of that skit.  And boy have I been thinking and saying it a lot lately!

Next term, Cobham Intermediate is going BYOD (bring your own device) school-wide.  We trialled this in several classes last year and many students have already been bringing their devices to school this term but we officially become a BYOD school in Term 2. Yes, 640 odd Intermediate aged students have the right to bring their own digital device to school and use it freely (within reason) to support their learning - what are you thinking right now...chaos, asking for trouble or perhaps feeling jealous that you were schooled a generation too early? I have no doubt many of you will be thinking along the same lines as me, if we are to prepare our kids for their future and equip them with the skills and knowledge they will need for the workforce, then it is inevitable that technology and mobile devices will be part of that very future.

Cobham has done their homework and staff, students and community have had input into the decision as to why moving towards 1:1 mobile devices in the classroom is a beneficial and we believe necessary change to make.  There is plenty of fantastic research, support and advice online and I have learned so much from the Enabling e-Learning site, CORE Educations EdTalk videos and the VLN (virtual learning network) community discussions on BYOD.  Also you should all read this recent blog post by Warren Hall discussing which devices students might find best to support their learning - "Device choice in schools driven by the 'write' things".

A clear and consistent message was how the shift to BYOD needs to be strongly aligned with your schools strategic plan, student achievement goals and school vision.  It cannot be a stand alone initiative introduced solely to ‘Keep up with the Jones’, but rather a well planned and managed move to integrate wider and more effective use of different digital technologies to support and enhance learning, with the ultimate goal of improving student engagement and achievement.  

Creating a BYOD User agreement was done before my arrival but I can only imagine how much time went into creating something so detailed and explicit. All students and parents must sign this to be able to use the various devices at school. I understand the perceived risk schools feel they put themselves at when opening the doors to (possibly) hundreds of different devices being used at school.  This just reinforced the need to put the teaching of appropriate use and digital citizenship at the forefront for our learners, our staff and our whānau.  Cobham has kept our community informed at each stage of our thinking and prototyping and in support of our commitment to digital citizenship, cybersafety and professional development around the appropriate uses of internet capable devices, we have invited all of our parent community to a parents evening in week 1 of T2. We will have 2 guest speakers to discuss ‘Digital Citizenship’ and ‘Keeping our kids safe online’. Firstly, Janelle Riki from CORE Education (South Island Team Leader for Learning with Digital Technologies) will share her expertise and experiences about what digital citizenship is, what kids are doing online, cyberbullying-what it is, where it happens, prevention and what we can do if it occurs, safety tips-how to keep our kids safe online, parental controls, restrictions and how parents can be involved in kids online world e.g. set rules, boundaries, learn the language, having your own online presence. Our second guest speaker will be Senior Constable Richard Brunton, sharing his experiences as a police office and a parent of a Cobham student as to the importance of keeping our kids safe online. Our parents, BoT and wider community are integral to the success of our school going BYOD because our school believes that a positive home-school partnership will benefit all of our learners and that we need to be on the same page as to how to best support our students to appropriately use these devices for learning-at home and at school.

There seems to be a lot of debate and dare I say it, dramatisation, in the media (see here and here for starters) around schools going BYOD but I personally believe we are doing our kids a disservice if we don’t provide an environment where they can choose the right device or tool for each different learning activity.  And yes, sometimes that might just be a pen and paper and sometimes it will be an iPad, a laptop, a camera or a smartphone.  Whatever the tool is, as long as we have kids who are making appropriate choices about how to capture, create, publish and share their learning safely and proudly, then I am all for it!  

But it's not all hearts, flowers and rainbows... there has been a lot of work involved! Three of the biggest issues that we have faced in preparation for BYOD has been around infrastructure, professional development and equity.  But those huge issues are a post all in themselves so I'll tackle them next time...stay tuned!