Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

Tips for Implementing BYOD in Your Classroom

Tips for Implementing BYOD in Your Classroom

By Lindsey Lipsky

Today’s students have a virtual world at their fingertips—they’re able to search, scroll, and navigate with the tap of a button. Their knowledge, experiences, and daily interactions occur at lightening fast speeds.

The Numbers

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 78 percent of 12 to 17 year olds currently have a cell phone at home and nearly 23 percent of teenagers have their own personal tablet. (Tweet this stat!)

Astoundingly, another study found that 38 percent of kids under the age of 2 have already used smartphones or tablets to some capacity in their young lives. (Tweet this stat!)

It’s clear that our students, even those in early elementary grades and preschool, are more connected than ever before.

Despite technology’s ever-growing place in our daily lives, only a small number of schools are taking advantage. A June 2014 report by EdNET Insight found that only 20 percent of elementary schools, 28 percent of middle schools and 40 percent of high schools allowed for students to bring any of their personal devices for learning at school. (Tweet this stat!)

This means that students are connected to the world in almost every aspect of their lives except for at school, where they are supposed to be preparing for the future. This is where BYOD comes in.

“This means that students are connected to the world in almost every aspect of their lives except for at school, where they are supposed to be preparing for the future.”

What is BYOD

BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, refers to the policy of a school or district that allows students to bring their own personal devices into the classroom; a pedagogical shift away from the oft held belief that personal devices are a distraction to classroom augmentation.

More: My Love-Hate Relationship With Classroom Technology

BYOD devices include personal cell phones, personal tablets, personal laptops and eReaders. While the interest in BYOD within schools is growing, especially with the high-costs associated with maintaining 1:1 technology models, many schools are still at a disconnect with students’ personal tech realities.

Disconnected Schools: My Personal Experience

On a recent visit to a large and well-respected high school in the Northwest Chicago Suburbs—a school with strict anti-cell phone policies that were obvious from the first step inside—I encountered this technological detachment first-hand.

“Several studies have found that there are many positive effects of good implementation of BYOD in schools, including enhanced student engagement, more individualized accommodation support, lower costs, and even higher test scores.”

I noticed a large emblem at the center of every classroom door that said: “Cell Phone Use Strictly Prohibited in the Classroom.” Despite countless students roaming the halls, headphones in ears, cell phones out; there was an inexplicable lost link between the technology available in these students’ pockets and what was allowed within their classroom—a lost technology tool.

Sadly, when I was a teacher in Chicago, I experienced this same technology disconnect daily. Strict, zero-tolerance, anti-personal device and cell phone policies ruled the day, much to the chagrin of teachers and students alike.

This, unfortunately, meant our students were missing out on the many opportunities that come with being a connected learner.

Interestingly enough, several studies have found that there are many positive effects of good implementation of BYOD in schools, including enhanced student engagement, more individualized accommodation support, lower costs, and even higher test scores, as mentioned by one district in Kentucky.

However, these benefits don’t matter if BYOD is simply introduced without any organization. The key to a good model is proper implementation and planning. Use these five tips to navigate your school through BYOD integration.

BYOD in the classroom

1. Poll students, parents and teachers

First and foremost, you have to get buy-in from parents, teachers, students, and school leaders. A successful BYOD launch requires support from all of these groups, and it’s best to work on that from the start.

The key is to communicate the goals of implementing BYOD and outline the potential process. There are three important steps to follow:

  • Poll students, families and teachers to see how they feel about BYOD—do they think it could benefit or hinder educational progress?
  • Calculate the percentage of students who may not have their own devices at home to see how you can make up for the inequity in other ways.
  • Ask parents if they’d allow their children to bring personal devices to school. Ensure that they know the school may not necessarily be held responsible for the items as well.

These steps help foster a collaborative and understanding relationship on BYOD policies.

2. Evaluate Your Tech Infrastructure

Many things will need to go into the decisions about how to best handle needs of BYOD users. For example, to launch this initiative successfully, your school must have the proper bandwidth and infrastructure to support multiple outside devices in a school setting.

Your Wi-Fi will need to be able to handle everything on one network, a task that can be burdensome for even the most up-to-date server. You will also need to consider how to safeguard existing school technology with an influx of new outside devices.

Remember you can always start small (think one classroom at a time) and see how it goes. Plan with your district IT staff and personnel for support.

3. Provide Clear Expectations

To manage any pedagogical shift, you need to temper new programs with proper guidelines, rules and procedures for seamless transition.

  • Set behavior expectations. Be clear about how you want students to behave, both in person and online. Also consider when and where personal devices will be allowed and what the consequences will be if these rules are broken.
  • Understand that mistakes will happen. Be flexible on creation and re-creation of procedures and rules while rolling out BYOD in the classroom.
  • Remind everyone that technology is always changing. This means that there will likely be changes in attitudes toward how devices can and will be used to augment lessons. Be prepared for bumps in the road, but remember a good behavior plan around BYOD will work wonders.

Remember that any BYOD or tech integration into your classroom is a fantastic opportunity to teach real-life skills to your students. Discussions about digital citizenship and the importance of creating a positive digital footprint should become part of everyday classroom conversations.

“Discussions about digital citizenship and the importance of creating a positive digital footprint should become part of everyday classroom conversations.”

More: Do You Know What Your Students’ Digital Footprints Look Like?

4. Train and Re-Train

As with any new program, teachers need support and time. Most importantly they need training on how to implement behavior expectations, connect devices to Wi-Fi, and integrate some of the latest apps into their lessons.

These trainings are best when other colleagues lead them. They can be short workshops that happen during planned times or school meetings. Even informal sessions are extremely powerful in helping make BYOD a success.

To find training leaders, promote people in your school who are passionate about tech. Encourage them to take the lead, helping teachers who are less savvy.

Make it a priority to find ways for teachers to collaborate and share their experiences, including opportunities to discuss the stresses and successes with BYOD implementation.

If possible, tap into the expertise of your tech-savvy students; I’m sure they’d get a kick out of training their teachers.

 5. Just Do It!

Starting any kind of new program can be scary. Often times we get so hung up on the particulars that we never fully launch. Luckily, the scariest part of doing anything new is usually the first step, so take it.

Don’t be afraid to implement BYOD slowly, even in just one lesson or classroom at a time. Your students will be glad you did.

Check out these other BYOD implementation resources to create a well-rounded plan for implementation:

11 Sample BYOD School Policies by @TeachThought

Mobile Devices for Learning Guide (PDF) sponsored by Google Apps for Education

BYOD pairs perfectly with our online reading log tool, Whooo’s Reading.

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