Successful BYOD program

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BYOD? BYOT? BYOM? Do you feel lost in the abundance of acronyms? Whatever name you give to the program you put into practice in school, I believe that we can only understand whether the program has been successful if one day we don’t feel a need to name it. When our new headmaster, who took office in the second year of our 1:1 program, asked me “How can we understand whether the 1:1 is successful?”, this is the answer I gave him. He smiled. I did, too.

Recently I saw that one of the Partners in Learning bloggers described it the same way, and I was very happy to see that I am not the only one to think so. The name you give to your program only makes it easier for you to find partners who face similar challenges as you embark on your venture, and to share the best practices. In fact, the purpose of all this is to make learning more effective and rich, isn’t it? The nature of the 1:1 program depends on the school culture, the student and teacher profiles, the socioeconomic status of the parents, the financial and human resources of the school, its infrastructure, the support of the business and academic circles, the brand value, and many other factors. It is noteworthy that schools which implemented the 1:1 program for more than 10 years moved to the “Bring Your Own Device” model in time.

In my opinion, Robert College adopted the BYOD model for three reasons. First, technology advances very quickly, and every day new devices are released which offer better and faster solutions. The students always want to make use of the latest technology. Another reason is that, when the students use their own devices, they take ownership of their learning. They personalize their devices, and they carry them proudly. I always smile when I hear the saying “no one washes a rental car”, attributed to Thomas Friedman among others. The students are more attentive when they use their own devices.

I believe that not only for the BYOD program, but for all 1:1 methods, digital citizenship and program policies must be developed and shared, and consequences be faced in the case of breaking the rules. This is especially important for the BYOD program, because the school and the IT department assume that the students are in control, and value the development of a common language. The Responsible Use Policy at Robert College has been revised several times during the past three years, according to feedback from the school community, and this document plays a significant role in developing a common understanding between the school and the students. We encourage acceptance of this understanding by including a shorter version in the Honor Code, and posting it around the school.

The Student Tech Crew, which consists of minimum two students from each section, is also instrumental in the BYOD program. The purpose of this team is to provide technical assistance in the classroom, and helping the students concentrate on their learning without struggling with technical issues. Variations of this model can also be seen at some other schools, but Robert College took the STC program one step further than emergency assistance, turning it into a leadership program. In this way, Robert College turned this program into a success story. STC members are not geeks, but technology leaders. Expectations of these students include being leaders in ethical and responsible use, and teaching how to solve technical problems, rather than solving these themselves.

Usually, parent involvement in 1:1 BYOD programs is only considered important during the purchase of the devices. I believe that, if a school is going to implement a BYOD program, parents must also be viewed as part of the learning community. Ideally, the school should offer parent training workshops, organize focus groups, and create a transparent communication between parents-students-teachers and the school. The results of parent surveys and focus groups last year encouraged us to develop a parent training program. Another effective solution for parents who cannot attend these sessions could be to guide them to various resources and online personal development opportunities. If parents make use of such resources and use the same language as their children. They can overcome the gap between themselves and their children who use technology every moment of their lives.

Going back to the question: “how can we understand if the 1:1 program is successful?”, to be frank, I don’t know the answer. I can only say that academic performance measured with tests can definitely not be the indicator. This is our third year with the BYOD program, and every day we come up with more questions. But I feel we are on the right track, because now our questions are mostly focused on learning and students.

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