A Case Study - Ardent ISD: Lessons Learned in #BYOTchat Implementation

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to actual school districts (is there an Ardent ISD? Hmm) is purely coincidental and unintentional. This story is fictional.

Just yesterday it seems, Ardent school district launched it's own Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) program. The implementation began with high hopes as technology infrastructure was augmented to provide support, costs ranging into the $500,000 range. However, two years later, the hopes school administrators had that BYOT would transform teaching, learning and leading are fading.

Although BYOT can be slow to take-off, how can we "monitor and adjust" a BYOT Program? This blog entry takes a fictional story of Ardent ISD and suggests some approaches.

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While BYOT is a part of the campus, part of the rhetoric of the Ardent District in this case study, nothing has changed where it matters most--the classroom. In Ardent ISD, several crucial steps were omitted:
  1. While teachers were invited to participate in BYOT, they were never required to change their approach to teaching and learning.
  2. When students misbehaved using technology, the same old discipline approaches were implemented.
  3. In spite of ample professional learning opportunities for teachers, there were no incentives offered or available.
As a result, it may be worthwhile to revisit the BYOT Criteria for Implementation and assess progress with this instrument.

BYOT Implementation Success relies on 3 core areas:
  1. Learner-Centered Instruction: This section focuses on the WHY of a BYOD implementation and counsels aligning your District/campus vision and mission to BYOD initiative.
  2. Clarifying Expectations:  This section focuses on policies, procedures, and communicating with stakeholders, such as parents, students, and teachers.
  3. Technology Readiness: This section is centered on technology readiness. It is often the most expensive portion of BYOD implementation.
In each section below, scores range from 0 to 5, with zero being the lowest, indicating nothing changed.

I. Learner-Centered Instruction

In this section, ask yourself, do you know WHY you’re embarking on a BYOD implementation? Is it just because it’s cool, and everyone else you know is doing it, so that’s what you need to do? Align the BYOD initiative with District and Campus mission and vision, reflect it in the district and campus technology plans, and reflect on how this will impact your district curriculum philosophy and approaches, as well as planning.

Score Your Organization
Design lessons that take advantage of the increased access to technology.Blending technology into instruction is everyone’s responsibility. If technology is irrelevant to a lesson, then the lesson is irrelevant to learners. Employ the HEAT rubric to move lessons in the right direction - http://goo.gl/O67aa (attached to this document)1
Commitment to 1 to 1 learning environment where every student has technology access--and is prepared to use it academically.Schools that can’t afford a one to one laptop or iPad program need to shift their thinking. A BYOD program is a 1 to 1 learning environment. Have your learning activities been redesigned to support that focus on learning?1
Create virtual classroom environments to facilitate connections, communication, collaboration and critical thinking needed for problem-solving.There are many tools available to facilitate learning through the use of technology. Teachers have to be willing to create virtual classroom environments (e.g. wikis, Edmodo, Moodle) where students can access and share resources 24/7, anytime/anywhere.3
Personalized learning approaches are embraced in anticipation of BYOD.
Students are allowed to take ownership of their own learning and are able to decide what they are trying to learn. Find out more at http://goo.gl/eKqsP
Provide training and monitoring on the elements of digital citizenship, cyberbullying, and sexting.
All staff and students are familiar with the appropriate use of social media, virtual classroom environments,
Teachers employ Professional learning networks (PLNs) to learn, create, and share instructional approaches.Teachers are actively encouraged to build professional learning networks (PLNs) through the use of social media like Twitter and hashtag-tracked conversations (#edchat), as well as blog/reflect about their learning and work in text and multimedia formats. .3
Improve Student Engagement by focusing on redesigned learning rather than “research and find the answer.” (Source: http://goo.gl/VVSWd)Students develop digital literacy and information problem-solving approaches (e.g. Big6) to collaboratively create content and share it with a wider audience than the classroom.0

Summary: In Ardent ISD, there was no expectation for how teaching and learning should take place at either the campus or district level. "Ok, take advantage of BYOT, kids!" was the expectation but teachers simply didn't step up. And, in modeling curriculum-based learning activities at the District level, it was business as usual. Admittedly, the reason learner-centered instruction component is #1 is because the rest does not matter if teaching and learning remains the same as before BYOT implementation.

Some of the hallmarks of learner-centered instruction include personalized learning opportunities, blending device-agnostic activities (DNA) into key lessons and curriculum projects.

II. Clarifying Expectations

In this section, have you set policy and administrative procedure that provides for responsible use of BYOD and the technologies made accessible via these devices in place? How have you communicated those to students, teachers, and parents? Remember, the goal of policy and procedure is to provide guidance and boundaries that empower end-users to be successful.

Score Your Organization (1-5 points)
Responsible Use Policy is in place and has been collaboratively developed with stakeholders including students, parents, teachers, and administrators at the campus/district level.Staff may use a personal device in place of (or along with) their district assigned devices if they choose.  Students may use a personal device in class for instructional use with teacher permission.  Disclaimer: “I understand that if my device is damaged or stolen while on District property I will not hold the District liable for the replacement or repair of my device.  I understand that any data and/or SMS/MMS (texting) charges will not be reimbursed by the District.”

I understand that for my device to be compatible with the District BYOT initiative some software may need to be installed (by me, not the Technology Department) on the device.  I understand that I will only have access to the guest wireless service that the District has provided.  I understand that I will not have access to the wired network.  I understand that my Internet will still be filtered by the District content filter when I am connected to the guest wireless service.
Progressive disciplinary action based on level of offense against the policy put in place.
Avoid putting new discipline actions in place--especially those that deny access to technology--to handle new infractions. Instead, decide how traditional discipline actions can best be used to handle BYOD offenses.
Determine who pays for theft, loss or damage of student-owned and/or teacher-owned devices.
Establish policy and practices that devices are secured in a cabinet during breaks, lunch, and physical education for those students who would prefer that security. (Source: http://goo.gl/vyBWZ)
Determine whether schools will require parents to pay for student-owned devices as BYOD takes off, not unlike a band instrument.
Communicate with parents and let them know whether the technology they have purchased for their students is “good enough,” or whether there will be an increasing expectation that they buy new technology to accommodate school learning.
All individuals participating in BYOD will complete an online registration form that details what devices they are bringing.
Students participating in the BYOD program complete a formal online registration where students and parents agree to the rules and regulations. The form is also used to register what devices students are connecting to the network. (Source: http://goo.gl/Myu1f)
All mobile devices will be brought to school fully-charged.
Expectations for student devices will mean that these are fully-charged prior to coming to school.

Summary: Unfortunately, Ardent ISD gets minimum points for most of these areas since it's not sure what, if anything, actually happened at the campus level. The main obstacle in this section was lack of awareness of what's happening...the business of school includes technology like BYOT at the periphery. If you want to see change happen, it can't be rhetoric or support from one department (e.g. Instructional Technology), it has to be systemic and systematic. Tom Whitby (#edchat co-founder) suggests the following on Eliminate Tech from the Education Discussion: 
The very skills that we as educators are charged to teach our kids will be used in a technology-driven society. The skills remain the same, but their application has drastically changed over the last decades. We can discuss education as education without technology, but at some point we must address how kids will be using that which they have learned. If the application of their learned skills will be technology driven than the very tools they should be learning with should also be technology-driven.
Blending technology into teaching, learning and leading is EVERYONE'S responsibility. The purpose of BYOT is to acknowledge the ubiquity of the technology in our lives...but education without technology means that BYOT fails when technology is irrelevant to how we approach teaching, learning and leading. 

III. Technology Readiness
In this section, you have to ask yourself, have we made the necessary changes to the technology infrastructure so that BYOD--which primarily depends on wireless access, often doubling or tripling the amount of connected devices on networks to designed for less--will be successful?

Score Your Organization
Wireless access points are allocated in student learning spaces in proportion to student population.One or more wireless access points (WAP) that can support 20-25 connections each and provide coverage of all learning spaces with WiFi access.5
Campus and district network has can support many wireless/WiFi devices.Sufficient bandwidth to accommodate the total number of possible connections, which may range from 20-25 users to triple that number per classroom or learning space..5
Campus has multiple networks that allow for 1) private, secure information sharing and 2) public access to District resources.Campus has multiple networks that allow for district business and secure information for teachers/administrators, and one for students and outside users of the District’s web-based resources. (Source: http://goo.gl/Myu1f)4
District Technology Department can “throttle” or adjust the WiFi being used by BYOD users to allow “normal” traffic through.The ability to limit levels of access depending on usage (e.g. too much YouTube EDU or video streaming).5
Implement a content filtering solution for BYOD via WiFi based on student login/password.When first connecting to campus/district wireless, students enter their username and password to access the BYOD WiFi network. This may require purchase of additional equipment on the network backend to support student single sign-on (SSO).5
Printing from any device to BYOD.You have wireless network printers that allow students to print from any device. BYOD printers are on the public network, not on the District’s internal private network.2
Identify what devices will be supported, and which will not be.
Clearly define and communicate what devices students bring in will enjoy support on the District network, and which will not. For example, include smartphones (e.g. iOS and Android), Android tablets like Kindle Fire or Barnes and Noble Nook, Linux netbooks, Windows 7 Home Edition, Mac OS Snow Leopard and higher, but not Windows XP or Mac OSs like Panther or Tiger.
Students, their parents and teachers can access free anti-virus/ anti-malware software they can load on their mobile devices.Create a web site with easy downloadable anti-virus and anti-malware programs that students can install on netbooks, laptops, and/or smartphones. Students are also provided a  sticker certifying that the device is “ready for use on the District WiFi network.”5
Technology support for student-owned devices has been determined and communicated.
Student-owned devices may have their own problems (e.g. viruses, malware) or come with equipment that just does not work. A letter with a standard disclaimer has been sent home--as well as displayed on the BYOD Support Web Site. The disclaimer states that the school is not responsible for any broken or stolen student devices (Source: http://goo.gl/Myu1f )
Electrical power is sufficient to support 4x as many devices as the school currently has.
Mobile devices that are in constant use are power-hungry. Electrical infrastructure has been evaluated by third party sources to meet projected demand.
Ample locations to power devices exist in learning spaces.
All learning spaces have places where students and teachers can “plug in” to recharge their mobile devices. This may involve power strips/surge protectors scattered in various areas, as well as easy ways to supervise access.

Turning Things Around

As you can imagine, Ardent ISD invested heavily with little results. But it's only been two years. BYOT initiatives tend to grow organically, over time. While this is counted as a failure now, here are some strategies for ensuring future success:
  1. Require teachers to teach one lesson per week that takes advantage of BYOT then share the results online via a Tweeted picture and hashtag (#ardentbyot). 
  2. Require lessons that take advantage of BYOT to be shared at faculty and team meetings to ensure that everyone gets to see what that is like.
  3. Invite teachers to have a BYOT Professional Learning Day where they share with each other how they are "BYOT" and welcome student presentations.
  4. Require administrators to do more than give lip service to BYOT and include it as part of their appraisals and walkthroughs.
  5. Require district curriculum specialists to develop BYOT-friendly lessons and use them during professional development inservice days so that everyone sees everyone else learning how to facilitate BYOT lessons.
"You're shoving technology down their throats!" I can hear an old colleague cry. Well, yes. We really shouldn't be hiring lifelong learners who embrace technology as a way to connect, create and collaborate with other educators committed to improve teaching, learning and leading in our schools. Is that a hard line? That's like asking if a person who committed to helping people find jobs were to deprive them of opportunities because he didn't want to use a computer.

Further reading on this topic of BYOT and Lessons Learned:

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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