Before implementing a BYOD/BYOT in the school district, the Sayreville District Technology Committee discussed how to provide more technology and access for students of the district without asking the public for a technology referendum and staying within the New Jersey budget cap of two percent. Economically, the community cannot afford to purchase a device per student, and therefore BYOD was the direction that the committee recommended and the direction the district decided to follow. During the decision process, I did research on articles, conference presentations, journals, best practices, interviews, recommendations from other districts and schools on BYOD, and would provide these resources for the committee, teachers, school administrators, and school board members. For the past 3 years, the Sayreville School District has had BYOD available for all staff members and students in the school district. In the beginning there was limited access, but when the Wi-Fi was upgraded in 2012, we were able to expand access for BYOD.
Before expanding the access for teachers and students, I thought it best to have a policy in place that would provide guidelines for all the stakeholders of the school district. Therefore, the technology policy and the district AUPs were rewritten to include the use of personal devices in the district. The District Technology Planning Committee met on several occasions to discuss the policy, the budget, and the type of services our BYOD would provide for the district stakeholders. Would we include access to network services such as email (Outlook), access to network drives, etc. for the teachers and students of the district on their personal devices? What content would be filtered for students versus content filtered for teachers, such as allowing YouTube for teachers, but blocking it for students? What type of access would be provided for guests, including how to adjust the Internet filter for these guests? Should the school allow cellphones or just laptops, tablets, and other types of mobile devices? These questions were among many that were considered before we deployed the BYOD project in the school district. Recently the Student Code of Conduct was modified to allow students to now use their personal devices in the school for emergency notifications and for instructional purposes.
With the development of the new technology policy, the district funded the upgrade of the Wi-Fi and bandwidth for the school district. This included new WAPs (Wireless Access Points), new switches with larger bandwidth capacity, broadband for the WAN (Wide Area Network) between buildings from 100 MB to 10 GB, and Internet access from 45 MB to 100 MB. Each IDF closet was upgraded from 10MB/100MB/1GB to 10GB, and each PC was upgraded to function at 1GB. In 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy, the district received a grant from the state. The district was able to upgrade our Internet access from 100 MB to 1GB and purchased 2,700 Chromebooks. This was in preparation for the field testing of the PARCC assessment (a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers) in the spring of this year.
Many of the Social Studies teachers were involved in the first round of BYOD, but now we have quite a few teachers onboard using BYOD in their classrooms. In Sayreville it is not mandatory for all teachers to use student-owned devices in their classrooms. The instructional process in the classroom has changed and many teachers have stated that they were able to go beyond the assigned curriculum. The collaboration between students and between teacher and students cultivated a relationship in which everyone in the classroom is a student including the teacher. Recently a few of the Middle School teachers have piloted the BYOD program, and teachers believe their classes were a success. Also, BYOD has provided an opportunity for teachers to discuss digital citizenship, e.g. what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior on the Internet.
One aspect that was not expected was that some parents did not want their children to bring a mobile device, such as laptop or tablet, to school because it was the only mobile device that the family had in the household. On the positive side, teachers have seen the following: discipline issues within the classroom dropped, the students were willing to share and collaborate together, the students worked on assignments beyond their classroom times, the students took ownership of their own learning, the students who usually did not participate in class would participate electronically, etc. Many students were creative in how they submitted assignments.
As our students leave high school and enter college or the workforce, the use of BYOD continues to expand. The careers of tomorrow will require students to not only have technology, but also know how to use technology for production. As technology evolves over the years, the cost of the devices gets cheaper. Therefore more students will be able to afford to have their own devices for use in school for instructional purposes.
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