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To BYOD or Not To BYOD: Industry standards coming to a school near you… (#FutureReady)

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November 14, 2014 12:00 pm


The following blog post is part of the Alliance’s Future Ready blog post series. The Future Ready initiative working to support school district superintendents and their leadership teams on district-wide transformation. This blog was written by Sandra Paul, Chief Technology Officer at Sayreville Public Schools in Sayreville, NJ. It originally appeared as part of a collaborative post titled, “To BYOD or Not To BYOD: that isn’t the question,” on the blog,  The Road to Learning.

Sayreville is a suburban and a “blue collar” school district in New Jersey. Over the years, many school budgets have failed to pass and therefore the first thing that was usually cut was the technology budget. Over the past nine years at Sayreville I have been in charge of both the infrastructure as well as the instructional sides of technology. I initiated the “Sayreville Technology Academy” where teacher turn-key teaching other teachers on integrating technology in the classroom.

But with all the purchase there never seemed to be enough technology time and devices for students and teachers to really integrate the use of technology in the classroom. The option was to go 1-1 but the community could never afford to purchase a device per student for the school district. At an Edscape conference, Lisa Neilsen, in her session, talked about students using their personal cell phones in the classroom. This sparked the idea that maybe if students use their own device in the classroom, then it would be like have 1-1 but students would be using their own device, BYOD.

I immediately began doing research, attended conferences, visited schools, spoke to other technology directors both in New Jersey and in other states about their implementation of BYOD. After two years of research, I presented my idea to the district technology planning committee. I distributed my research, sent emails and invited committee members and board members to attend conferences and session on BYOD. With buy-in from the school board and the community, we began the BYOD journey in 2012. Initially, I requested the technology policy to be re-written to include personal devices as well as responsibilities of staff and students using their personal devices on the district WiFi. Then requested the funding to upgrade the district infrastructure for implementing BYOD and completed the project.

The BYOD in Sayreville is primarily in the Middle and the High Schools. The teachers and staff are also given BYOD access. Many of the behavioral issues that teachers believed would be a problem with BYOD has not occurred. Teachers have stated that students are more focused on their lessons, students participate more in the class, the lessons sometimes take on a “life of their own”, and the teachers have been able to change from a teacher-centered lesson to a student-centered lesson. One thing that has happened that participating teachers believe BYOD has been effective in the instructional and learning process two years ago in the AP US History Class, that implemented the BYOD model of technology in the classroom. After the students took at AP exam and the results came back, it was the highest AP scores the district had ever seen.

I have done several survey of the students and they love having access to the district WiFi on their personal device because it is what they are comfortable using. They also stated that they can do research at anytime, create a document for notes, create videos for projects, use the calendar for homework and after school club scheduling, etc. The HS has an app and now students can get announcements, schedules, grades, emails, student handbook, student code of conduct, etc. Also the district is GAFE, and students and teachers can collaborate using Google Docs, Google Classroom, Gmail, etc. At the Middle School students can BYOD except for cell phones. It was the only way I could approval from the Middle School administrative staff but the teachers that are doing BYOD love it. They create centers or groups of students in the class and the students share their projects, information, etc. with their other classmates.

The equity issue for students is constantly on my mind but to assist, there are devices in the classrooms that students can use during class time. BYOD is not mandated for every teacher in the Middle or High Schools. A teacher can choose to participate or not. Even though there are a few that prefer not having students use their personal device in class, the amount of teacher that particpate in BYOD continues to grow.

For Sayreville it has been a positive situation so far and as more and more industries adopt the use of BYOD in their offices and business units, this practice for students of Sayreville will be one they will already know how to navigate.

Sandra Paul is the chief technology officer at Sayreville Public Schools in Sayreville, NJ.

Connected Learning, Digital Learning Day, Future Ready Blog Series

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