It’s now three months since our school introduced a BYOT “Bring Your Own Technology” program in the Senior School. Students from Year 7 through Year 12 are required to bring their own devices & applications to school to enhance their learning. Our teachers are also requested to “bring their own”. (All new teaching contracts stipulate this as a requirement from 2011). We decided to move down this path for many compelling reasons:

  1. Choice. Learners are diverse. Learning styles and preferences vary and we wish to recognise this by allowing learners to choose the device and applicatons most suitable for them.
  2. Anywhere, anytime. Teaching and learning occurs inside and outside the classroom. We want to empower learners to utilise tools for learning in a “just in time” manner no matter where they are.
  3. Personalised. By having our own devices we can each have the tools, shortcuts, widgets, and add-ons that are most relevant to us. Our desktops and browsers are the way we want them.
  4. Preparing for the future. Our students will move in to BYOT environments at university and in the work place. We need to prepare them for this.
  5. Flexible learning. The nature of learning is changing. No longer do we sit in rows and listen to a teacher. We are creating flexible learning environments that facilitate collaborative and individual learning. Our computer labs have all but vanished. Our new library provides collaborative and personal spaces and online 24/7 access to resources. We are opening the classroom doors and encouraging teachers and students to access  ‘global’ learning environments via web technologies.
  6. Digital fluency. We are empowering teachers and students to become digitally fluent and responsible users of technology.

The introduction of a BYOT policy requires thorough planning and preparation and there are several critical keys to success:

  1. Leadership. Leaders with vision who empower and support. Remembering that leadership comes not just from the top but from throughout the school. Faculty leaders are an important part of the process.
  2. Infrastructure. Investment in a solid infrastructure that provides adequate bandwidth, strong wireless coverage across the school and reliable filtering.
  3. Teacher training and support.
  4. Communication. Clear, consistent and ongoing communication with all stakeholders, particularly parents, is essential. It’s important to help parents understand your vision and why you are asking them to provide technology for their children.
  5. Policies & guidelines. Put in place clear policies and guidelines for teachers and students including Responsible Use Policy and Social Media Guidelines. I prefer the term ‘responsible use’ over ‘acceptable’ use. ‘Acceptable’ sends a message of minimum expectations. ‘Responsible’ demands a higher standard of behaviour.
  6. File storage & Management. Ensure that students and teachers are aware of how to manage their files. Establish guidelines for file storage and management. Make use of the cloud. We have recommended that all users save their files in the cloud using one of several options, either a public cloud service such as DropBox or the TIGS private cloud.

Here’s a recent presentation I’ve given:

and here’s the accompanying video made by some of our students:

BYOT @ TIGS from The Illawarra Grammar School on Vimeo. There has been some press coverage also: Schools put students in charge of own technical support Cynthia Karena April 6, 2012 The Illawarra Grammar School is among an increasing number of schools allowing students to bring – and support – their own laptops and tablets.