Thursday, May 10, 2012

First 5 Lessons Learned In Our First Year Of BYOT

BYOT or Bring Your Own Technology is off to a rousing start in our District and at the high school where I serve as a Campus Technology Integration Specialist.  As the year winds to an end, I thought I would share some of the first lessons that were learned.  You should  know that our high school is large with over 160 teachers and 2500 students. If you are beginning or about to begin your own BYOT/BYOD push, this may provide something to help in your process.

Lesson 1 - Get administration on board! 

These folks are critical.  And, at the campus level, they are the ones who everyone will look to with questions and concerns.  These are also the folks who will work with students and parents throughout the process so it is important to give them our support as faculty and staff as they work to make BYOT a possibility.  Along with getting them on board, it's important to have patience and a genuine understanding of those who don't jump right on that bandwagon.  In fact, I'd say that they will provide important information about the issues that need to be considered before initiating BYOT.    Help nudge them along the process while working on solutions to the concerns that they raise.

Lesson 2 - Do Your Homework!

Take some time and find out what's already known about BYOT/BYOD!  Read articles, find school districts already using BYOT, join message and social boards where you can find valuable bits of information that will help you make good informed, collaborative decisions along the way.  One of the best uses of the information gathered is to help answer questions from those that will be involved in the BYOT initiative.  And, once your BYOT is underway, don't stop learning and using your PLN (Personal Learning Network) to continue sharing ideas and solutions.

Lesson 3 - Form a campus BYOT Cadre!

Invite faculty and staff from your campus to join the BYOT Cadre and build ownership in the process.  We had about five months to build a strong BYOT Cadre that joined together to do everything from complete a gap analysis to determine educational goals that can be achieved with BYOT to the nitty gritty planning of how to actually put the plan into action.  Encourage those who are negative about the concept of BYOT or cautious about accepting the idea to join the Cadre and, just like with administration, use those insights to build a better plan.  Include representatives from every grade and content area in the cadre.  Non-certified staff are important to the process, as well, and should not be overlooked.  If necessary, encourage some of these folks who may be hesitant to join.  Let them know that they are able to step away from the Cadre at any time. Hopefully, they won't want to do this but knowing that they could if they wanted to without repercussions is important.  Of course, administrators should join in this cadre.  However, I would not suggest they necessarily serve as the sole leader of the cadre.  Instead, I would recommend a more collaborative lead approach with other campus leaders such as the technology integration specialist, learning facilitators, or teachers.  As a note, it'd be a great idea to include parents on this Cadre, as well.  Another idea is to create a district-level BYOT cadre that would provide support for the entire district initiative.

Lesson  4 - Build a carefully considered BYOT Acceptable Use Policy!

All stakeholders benefit from the creation of a well-designed BYOT/BYOD Acceptable Use Policy.  There are more and more example available online now that will give you a good foundation to build your own policy.  If possible, join a collaborative group that will work on designing the policy at the District level as that will help your understanding at the campus level.  Invite administrators to presentations of the policy to share their thoughts and concerns.  Be sure to create a policy for student signature before implementation and build in time to get it signed and returned.  Determine where those permissions will be stored and how faculty and staff will be able to determine who has or does not have BYOT permission.  If your district or campus is starting this at the beginning of the year, have the forms available at registration.  It's a good idea to have a person at registration who can also answer parent questions about BYOT and help them make informed decisions about allowing their children to participate.

Lesson 5 - Squash the idea that BYOT is ONLY project-based!

There's a misconception that BYOT implies classroom projects.  Yes, it's true that allowing students to bring their own devices opens up a world of possibilities for project-based learning, it does not mean that this is the only time that BYOT can be implemented.  In fact, BYOT can almost seem "invisible" because it can seamlessly and almost effortlessly be integrated into the classroom.  For example, BYOT may allow a student to simply write his daily assignments in his Smartphone notebook or calendar.  The students now has access to important data, maybe even electronic reminders, and the result may have much more of an impact in terms of his or her increased success in the class.  However, the act of simply writing down assignments in a calendar seems almost too small to be considered effective BYOT integration.  Oh, but it's not!  That's exactly one of the things that BYOT is designed to do.  Allow that student to use technology to better manage his classroom learning.  So, by all means, provide support and encourage project-based learning using the devices of BYOT but don't minimize the importance of the simple use of the BYOT tools to improve academic outcomes.



  1. Miguel,

    You had me until you said: Lesson 5 – Squash the idea that BYOT is ONLY project-based!

    You are correct, of course, but the fact is that BYOT is a vehicle for creating a real transformation in pedagogy away from the lecture/textbook model that I've documented as having failed since 1350. If teachers are afraid of transforming their pedagogical practice, they need support, not a free ride that says it is OK to perpetuate failed models with new tools.

    So, please rethink this position of yours. The literature on the success of PBL is voluminous.

  2. Hi Dr. Thornburg. I think you meant to address that to me...Carol. :) However, I think we are agreeing here. I never stated that it could (or SHOULD not be PBL-based) and it's a wonderful and appropriate goal and use of BYOT BUT in the real K-12 world that I deal with, we have teachers who are afraid to even use BYOT to allow students to improve their own organization and planning.

    My experience tells me that, once these teachers accept BYOT and all that this means in terms of opening up possibilities in the classroom such as PBL, then and only then can the ultimate goal of project-based learning occur. However, if we insist that BYOT means project-based learning only (and I would argue it doesn't), then we will lose them before we ever start.

    These teachers can do this but they need to be allowed to experience the small successes along the way to get the bigger picture!

  3. We found lesson 4 to be huge! A well crafted AUP is the jackknife tool of BYOT - it can cover all situations and encourage use.

    I'd also add a lesson 6 - develop, find, or create web based software tools that are platform neutral and will work on any device, any OS, and any screen size (a bit of a tall order, but becoming more of the norm!).

  4. we are one year into our voluntary BYOT implementation and moving to a 1:1 BYOT model with financial aid support mechanisms next year. It was fun to read through your list, find so many similarities, and check them off in my head.

    One lesson we have learned (are learning) as we have been marketing this system is the need to share with PARENTS what to expect (and what not to expect). Your #5 gets very close to this. BYOT is about empowering students to use the tools they would naturally choose anyway to complete assignments. This can happen in a PBL, a high integration classroom, or even a low-tech classroom where the only device is the one in the student's stylus-filled, note taking hand. -- Our BYOTBootcamps with teachers have also emphasized this to great acceptance.

    Great reflection. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Your comment was an excellent one. I very much agree that the Parent understanding, buy-in, and support makes a huge difference and it's one thing I'd like to see us focus on for next year. I think our 1/2 year start may have impacted us in this area and I hope to rectify it.

    I'd love to learn more about your BYOT Boot Camps...Please share!!!

    Thank you for your comments!

  6. Agreed on both accounts! Resources for use are very, very important. In fact, I've put together a bundle of 70 web-based apps that seem to suit the bill on this (it's posted here: and it definitely should be included in the list of lessons to be learned. Many of these have apps for specific mobile devices as well but I tried to make sure they could be accessed from every venue/medium.

    I'd love your thoughts on them.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. [...] der in meinem Blog etwas weiter geführten Frage 1:1 und BYOD noch zwei weitere Fundstellen: Carol Mortensen fasst die Erfahrungen aus einem Jahr BYOT im Schulalltag zusammen. In ähnliche Richtung [...]

  8. As a recent graduate from another BYOT school system, I'd say one of the most important things for BYOT to reach its full potential is that students need to be taught how to use organizational tools and software, so many of which are free to use or come in productivity suites they already own (e.g. Google Docs, Google Calendar, iCal, Dropbox, etc.) and for them to create their own organizational system so they feel more invested in it, vs. a teacher-run tool like Blackboard or ANGEL, which students are less likely to keep up with since they aren't responsible for maintaining it and keeping it up to date. The more tech savvy students will took off with BYOT now we were finally allowed to use computers in most of our classes, but the less tech savvy students will only bring their computer if they teacher explicitly states it's necessary for that day, and even then they only know how to use Word and PowerPoint and think that's the extent of productivity on a computer. If students were given the assignment of managing their own calendar with iCal/Outlook/Mozilla Lighting or working on collaborative study guide on Google Docs/, they would be far more productive with technology and would reap the most benefit. Students who didn't even touch their agendas before would now be able to keep up with assignments and deadlines, as well as form productive study groups with greater ease than ever before.This type of collaboration flourished in our magnet program of about 30 students, since we all had the same classes together and could all contribute to every study guide and group calendar. Teachers began jumping on board by instead of giving us long essays to prepare for a test, would give us the responsibility of making small mini-essays and outlines on a collaborative Google Docs document so the teacher could then grade a single (albeit long) document, and the rest of the students could then study from one another. Teachers stopped having to maintain calendars that most students never check and could easily tell students a date or write it on the board, after which a student could instantly update the calendar for the entire class. Note taking sped up drastically as there was no longer an excuse for falling behind since notes and study guides from other students were already available for students to distribute to those who were sick. In fact, because of the increase in general productivity, it became even harder to get distracted by social media and games since we were starting to accomplish twice the work we normally do in a day. Students were forced to pay attention more often and stay engaged throughout the class, which led to more participation in class discussion, higher scores, and less stress over studying. Getting students outside something like a magnet to do these things is more difficult since students are less inclined to use these tools collaboratively on a regular basis due to mismatching classes amongst their peers, but if teachers are knowledgable about these tools and find ways to introduce them to the students and incorporate them into the assignments, then students will more likely take these tools and run with them in other assignments on a voluntary basis after seeing how helpful the tools are.

  9. @Dinesh Gurpur Dinesh, your reflection is absolutely correct.  There's a mistaken belief that students, because of their comfort with technology, somehow understand how to use technology.  These are clearly two different things.  Instead, we can use their comfort level to share these tools with them easily and expect they will readily pick them up for use.  I LOVE your point about increased productivity!  Thank you for sharing!