Tech Talk Live Blog

BYOD @ PTHS: Got Technology?

Emily Sanders and Lindsey Myers

The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiative at Peters Township High School (PTHS) began with the support of teachers, students, and staff as a program to provide our students with the opportunity to personalize their learning, as well as support technology use in the classroom. Our IT department and building-level administration partnered to ensure that all needs were addressed whether technical or instructional. This collaborative effort resulted in a successful BYOD implementation at the high school. This initiative continues to grow and expand as does teaching and learning in the 21st century.

During the planning phases of the BYOD implementation process (May-July prior to building-level roll out), the administration, teachers, and Technology Director worked together to design surveys for students, parents, and teachers. The surveys were designed to gain information regarding the technical aspects of the program, as well as the instructional aspects.  Perhaps most importantly, by gaining information about which types of devices students would be bringing to the classroom, the IT department was able to assess the technical needs of the program while administration could focus on instructional implementation. The lead assistant principal and librarian worked on creating a training website that not only housed resources and highlighted best practices, but also established practical guidelines for teachers to incorporate BYOD into their everyday lessons. For BYOD to be effective it must enhance curriculum and instruction.

The next step in the planning process was revising the Acceptable Use Policy, since the advent of students utilizing their own technology presents new and unique challenges and obstacles that will likely require updates and revisions to Internet usage protocols. First, the Technology Director formed a policy revision committee comprised of various stakeholders from the school and greater community. This committee’s purpose was to review the current Acceptable Use Policy at Peters Township, as well as compare it to other schools who have already implemented a BYOD program.  Because of these collaborations, significant changes were made to our policies and our network.  Currently, the BYOD network at PTHS is on its own separate portal with more controlled access, and students must accept and agree to abide by the Acceptable Use Policy prior to accessing the network. The PTHS Acceptable Use Policy can be found in its entirety here.

While the policy committee was completing its work, the IT department worked to assess the high school’s wireless infrastructure in order to discover what updates would be needed to support school-wide wireless availability. In order to prepare fully for the BYOD program, the district IT department worked with two wireless consulting firms (Dagistino Electronics and Communications Consulting Inc.) to develop a wireless survey of PTHS.  Based on the results of this survey and the expected increasing use of technology in the classroom, the district installed 88 new access points along with new network infrastructure to support them.  The wireless hardware was selected and purchased based on the estimate of supporting 1400 simultaneous wireless users – over 90% of the student body. The high school has reaped the benefits of this upgrade and has experienced noticeably better Internet and network connectivity speeds.

An essential part of the success of our BYOD initiative and its effectiveness in the classroom is the “BYOD (pronounced “Be-Odd”) SQUAD” a.k.a. the BYOD Pilot Group.  In order to test the waters (policy, infrastructure, expectations, and classroom impact), the librarian and assistant principal organized a teacher pilot group. For the first nine weeks, 13 teachers participated in specific activities and projects designed to closely monitor the implementation and promote the use of BYOD in the classroom while addressing issues with infrastructure, training, and the variety of devices students were bringing. An online class via Blackboard was created to facilitate communication and discussion among the pilot group. A member of the IT department also had access to the Blackboard course and the ability to monitor the discussions for issues relating to infrastructure and device issues. During this time, the pilot group had priority status when submitting “helpdesk” tickets to the IT department. That way their request/issue was moved to the top of the queue and was resolved faster than other requests/issues building-wide. This type of troubleshooting among the teachers, librarian, and IT department assisted in preparing our building for the school-wide roll out of the BYOD program beginning in the second quarter.

Currently, BYOD is available only at the high school level, but there have been discussions to extend the program to the middle and elementary schools. Since students as young as six have access to mobile devices, it is our job as educators to teach them how to use these devices effectively to customize their own learning in this digital world.

Please view the following resources created for students, staff, and parents regarding our BYOD initiative:

District Page:  http://www.ptsd.k12.pa.us/pthighschool_home.aspx

BYOD Lesson Plan Integration Ideas Google Site: https://sites.google.com/a/ptsdwebapps.com/pths-byod/

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