1. Set up infrastructure / Wifi correctly
Speak to the technology coordinator at the school to ensure that the Wifi is up and running, wireless access points are located near BYOD classes and that black spots have been tested.
2. Regularly seek professional development
It is important for schools to provide ongoing training for classroom teachers. Teachers need to see what a BYOD classroom looks like. They need time to experiment with and plan lessons using these tools and they need to see examples. If this is not available at your current school, search for courses that may be of benefit. Free courses are often offered through Adobe Connect so you are able to access them from anywhere. Also find other schools that have taken on a similar journey and visit them in action. They will be able to share their experiences with you and give you further insight into what works for them.
3. Collate a digital toolbox of apps/websites to use in the classroom
There are thousands upon thousands of educational apps and websites that students can use in the classroom but they are not all worth considering. Work with the technology team and other BYOD teachers to organise them into categories of skills you want students to develop to make the whole experience less daunting. Considering and comparing the features of similar websites/apps can be a great way to cull and help you decide what you really need. I recommend starting with a small selection and building up from there as you begin to understand their capabilities and possibilities. Finally, for future reference, create a handout and include a brief description for each explaining how they can be used. Visit thinkdigitalclassroom.com.au for a recommended list of digital tools to get you started. ‘The Rundown’ section showcases easy to use, relevant and engaging apps/websites for student use, explicit video tutorials on how to use them and ideas for classroom use.
4. Writing a clear, succinct BYOD policy
It is important to set out clear expectations and student responsibilities. You need to be clear about when and where the devices will be stored at school during break times, where they will be charged, liability for broken or stolen devices and consequences for inappropriate behaviour. It is also essential that a specific BYOD model (device options) is decided as a school and that it is easily manageable by teachers. I always provide specific device options for parents and students and limit the number options. This allows teachers to become familiar with these devices, troubleshooting technical problems becomes easier and it enables you to target the apps/websites that are compatible with the selected devices. If in doubt, check the compatibility of devices with your technology coordinator to ensure they can be connected to the school’s Wifi easily.
5. Communicate expectations with parents and students.
Providing parents and students with device specifications and software requirements well in advance allows them time to buy and setup the devices so that you can actually implement the lessons you have planned. It can be very frustrating if students do not have the required tools to carry out the desired task. Providing parents with a handout of each app with a brief description of their capabilities will also educate them as to what students may be expected to produce in class.
6. Provide clear instructions to set up Wifi on BYOD devices.
With the help of the technology coordinator, create cheat sheets and Notebook lessons for connecting to the Wifi and instructions for troubleshooting common technology issues. Use model students as leaders to support you with this process. Ensure that you allocate enough time to do this. It may mean that this is the only thing you focus on in the first week of implementation.
7. Set up student accounts and record usernames and passwords
It is important to model this explicitly before asking students to do this for every account you wish them to have. Often students forget usernames and passwords so create a booklet for them to store these in at school and ensure you have a copy. Using the Google sign in will also make the task easier.
8. Knowing how often to use the devices
It is a common misconception that BYOD classes use their devices ALL of the time. I am often ask how students will develop their writing skills if they are on their devices all the time but this is far from reality. All of my students complete draft writing in books. Although I integrate technology across all key learning areas, I’d say that students would use their device less than 50% of the time. Whether I use the device for all or part of a lesson depends on the task itself and the outcome I am focusing on. Technology should not substitute books, it should compliment a task.
9. Be realistic to avoid feeling overwhelmed
I still remember my first year of implementation and it was the first for the school at the time. I was flying solo and I had no one to bounce ideas off. I remember trying to do everything in first term - sign them up to use all the apps, model how to use them and still continue to write in books for all of their subjects. I wish I knew what I know now. Start small. Term 1 will look very different to Term 4. Use Term 1 to introduce the apps and sign them up with accounts. Work out what you want to use each app for specifically e.g work samples, communication, content creation, collaborating documents or mind mapping. Then slowly introduce one app at a time as you feel comfortable. You won’t use your books as much but decide what you will use them for. This will take the pressure off having to do everything at once.
10. Organise to meet regularly with colleagues
Regular meetings with the technology team and other BYOD teachers gives you time to share your experiences with others, get new ideas for lessons, debrief when things don’t go as well as expected and troubleshoot any issues you may face. It gives you time to collaborate and learn from each other.
Implementing BYOD in any classroom requires planning, patience, resilience, initiative and the full support of the school but I must say that the rewards far outweigh the effort involved. Seeing students’ faces light up when they create something new or solve a problem makes the whole experience worthwhile!
Good luck and I hope to hear about your journey soon!