Starting a BYOD Program in a Classroom

This year my school has launched a BYO iPad program for students in all year levels. (Woohoo!) This means students bring their own iPad to school each day and take it home at the end of the day. The iPads have specific requiements, including a list of apps set by the school. We are fortunate to have a strong Digital Learning Program in place in the school and the iPad program has been well received by families, with something like 80% participation.

Parents had the option to lease an iPad or buy one and most have chosen to buy their own.  As there are still a number of students in each class who don’t have their own iPad, there are a small number of school iPads available to use in each class.

Here are some of the benefits and issues I have encountered from a classroom teacher point of view.

Some of the benefits:

  • Obviously, each student having an iPad is awesome! It allows integration of technology with so much more access for students, and they seem to be taking more ownership over their use of technology more readily.
  • Something really exciting to see is the way students are trying out new things at home using what they have learnt at school. This is might be an app they have learnt to use, but applied in a different context. Or they might try repeating a task they did at school but use technology to do it a different way.
  • To participate in the program, students had to sign an acceptable use agreement, and they are really stepping up and taking an amazing level of responsibility over their iPads. They are sensible, careful and organised.
  • Staff members know the value of the program. In any situation, there are always different levels of understanding for teachers. Now that all staff members are expected to readily take part, I feel that the conversations are opening up on digital learning, and some of the resistance has disappeared and been replaced with enthusiasm.

Some of the issues:

  • Many of the parents understandably had questions and concerns regarding liability for cost in the event that their child’s iPad was damaged by another student. The program agreement document stated that the school would not be liable, and parents are being encouraged to insure their devices. Obviously, this is
  • The above issue makes group tasks difficult. I have told students in my class that when they are working with a partner or group, the owner of the iPad is the only person allowed to touch the iPad. It is a practical way to deal with the issue, but it goes against other values that we encourage with students, such as sharing and taking turns. This is a difficult balance and requires a lot of unpacking with the students.
  • Some students don’t have their own iPads. It is difficult to manage which of these students, if any, gets to use the spare class iPads and when. On one hand, their parents have chosen (for whichever reason) not to provide an iPad, so they are not entitled to use one when the rest of the students are, and on the other hand, I want them to have the same exposure as the other students.
  • Not all students have downloaded all the required apps, despite a clear list and ample time to get them. This is difficult to manage until you can follow them all up with parents.
  • Having to get 500ish iPads individually connected to the school network is a slow process, so it can be a while before the kids have internet access.

It has been a rocky road to start this journey. There have been many difficult and stressful situations but ultimately it is the beginning of a great move towards creating a 21st Century school environment that is technology rich, with teachers and students that are digitally literate, global citizens who connect and share with the world.

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6 comments

  1. I’m starting a BYOD pilot in my classroom after we get back from Spring Break. I don’t suppose you have management tips for getting started and for the procedures you use to make sure the kids are using them for what they should?

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Thanks for your comment. My tips would be:
      1 – Make a set of expectations with the students on day one, have them contribute to how they think they should use their device at school to get the discussion going. This might be things like: sit down whilst using them, don’t have food or drink near them, only use apps the teacher has specified.
      2 – Make it very clear what the purpose of the devices are – they are not toys, they are not a reward, they are a valuable tool to help learning and we will use them as such.
      3 – Use the first few weeks to use them frequently and set aside time to teach students about how to use them so when they do it independently they are able to keep on track. I use this time to introduce about 4 versatile apps and make sure students are confident in using them independently.
      4 – Discuss online safety and the digital footprint.
      Hope I haven’t overloaded you – I probably should have put that stuff in the actual post…haha! Good luck on the start of your program – it’s fantastic!
      -emily

    1. Hi Despoina,
      Thanks for your comment. It depends on how you classify ‘real communication’. If you mean talking in person, the BYOD program only enhances this further in the classroom. Students in my class know that the best way for them to learn is to share with each other and ask questions, so most of the time when they are using their devices, a lot of discussion is taking place about how to best get the task done or finding a new way to do things, or sharing their new discovery with a peer.

      Also, one of the 21st Century skills that has a big focus in my classroom is collaboration and it is near impossible to have collaboration without communication. Just because students have their own iPads does not necessarily mean they will always be using one on their own. They often work in small groups or with a partner using a device and this takes some very real communication skills to make sure that everyone is heard and valued.

      On a technology level, in my class last year some brilliant communication had was through our class twitter account, because the students were able to interact with people and groups they wouldn’t normally be able to, such as staff at the Museum of Victoria, and get information from experts outside their normal realm. They also participated in a Skype session and in a similar way got to interview people they would never normally meet. Technology, introduced through the BYOD program, lets students communicate with a larger world than they normally would be able to.

      Hope this answers your question! 🙂
      -emily

  2. G’day Emily. Great post and reflection on what is no doubt an exciting journey! Having been in a school that went down the BYOD path last year for 1800 students was a massive process but well worth the effort. The work of Mal Lee and Martin Levins is worth looking in to also to reaffirm the great work you’ve done – http://byot.me/. The challenges that come after the implementation I found to be the more difficult part. Making sure that the iPads are being used effectively to support teaching and learning and not used as a ‘reward’ (Ahhhhhhhhh) for example can be tough. This is where celebrating internally, and externally, what awesome things your teachers are doing will go a long way to driving the effective use. It’ll be great to hear all the awesome things that are happening down the track! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Corrie,
      Thanks for the comment! Well things are well under way now and it’s gone exactly as you said! We had way more students than expected sign up, but now we are struggling with lots of staff who are unsure of how to use the iPads effectively, or even at all! It’s tricky to fit in PD whole school PD for this, so I’m finding the best thing I can do at this stage is at a team level, just sharing ideas by word of mouth and showing off cool things that are easy for others to try. Had a look at that link… it really reaffirmed what I’ve been noticing with my students. They are SO capable of making their own decisions about how to use tech when given the opportunity. This will be the next challenge for our school!

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