How do you move a Primary School to #BYOD

First of all you’ve got to have a purpose for mobile technology. As I previously stated, my purpose is threefold: use, danger and expense. But behind all that is the belief that the the ideal device for mobile learning is the brain and the best thing to educate the brain of a child is a learned adult.

So with that as a given, how have we gone about it? Well, in five steps:

  1. You need some technology that works. Something that the children can access on any device and use productively. We chose Google Apps and used it for a year before looking into any mobile devices. We have also used Education City and are looking at changing our MIS system to an entirely cloud-based one called Aspen.
  2. You need to try some mobile devices. It’s no good allowing this to happen if the staff haven’t used them at all. We got some Chromebooks into school and have recently been trialling some iPads courtesy of XMA.
  3. You need to send some devices home. I called this SOOD – Send Our Own Devices. It’s a bit different from BYOD because it involves us as a school sending some devices home. I think this is an important step because it shows families that you trust them and allows you to try out a small test group of children and see what happens when they have a device with them 24/7. If we could afford it, I’d love to go SOOD for our whole school, but we don’t have the budget.
  4. You need to beef up your wifi. We got a system called Meraki which is cloud-based and allows me to monitor what happens on the network. I’ve setup a free open network for students using this. Ideally this would not have a proxy filter system as changing a proxy on a device can be a bit of a fiddle, but I don’t have that luxury at the moment – I still have to teach the children how to input for a proxy in school and a direct internet connection at home.
  5. You need to make it easy for your families to buy devices. There are various schemes out there, but we’re about to go for a system called All Learn by XMA – they setup a monthly payment portal for parents, insure the devices against breakage and insure the school against non-payment – it’s a win-win!

Now, I’m not going to lie here. We’ve only got to step 4 in my school. The rubber is going to really hit the road with Step 5 over the next six months – I’ll let you know how it goes…

Why should a primary school go to #BYOD

It’s been a while in the making, but this year we’re finally opening up our school to #BYOD.

For those who’ve not heard that acronym, it means Bring Your Own Device.

Yes, after years of banning Mobile phones – taking them off the children as they walk through the door and handing them back at the end of the day, we’re going to suddenly allow them into the classroom.

Here’s why.

  • Mobile Devices are really useful.
    • They act like a pen or a pencil, because you can create your own text and images in them.
    • They also act as an exercise book because you can store work and have it marked on them.
    • Finally they act as a text book because they are connected to the web. You can Google stuff, research stuff and even chat to experts to find out all sort of information.
  • Mobile Devices are really dangerous. We’ve had all sorts of incidents where children have used their mobile devices that they already own inappropriately. This does not happen in school, but irrespective of that it affects school performance. I’ve had to deal with cyberbullying, text broadcasting, threats, and mental abuse, even though none of these things happened in school. I can keep the children much safer if they bring their devices into the classroom, and are taught how to use them safely and appropriately.
  • Mobile Devices are really expensive. These are austerity times and so schools don’t have much money. Even though I value technology and appreciate its value to accelerate learning, it cannot compare with the role of the teacher in the classroom. Direct instruction and then effective feedback from a learned adult is far more valuable for a student’s learning than any device can ever be. I need to spend my school’s money on maintaining the adults we have, developing their subject knowledge and their pedagogy. I must not spend my school’s money on technology that has less of an impact on learning. #BYOD allows the families that have already spent their money on devices for them to be more fully utilised.

In my next post I’ll be moving from the why to how.

The trouble with shared spaces – a small step towards #BYOD.

… is that nobody takes responsibility for them.

There I’ve said it. It’s a fact we all know: one that my wife would echo back to me with a wry smile on her face; one that was proved time and time again when I lived in shared accommodation as a student…

It’s a fact that has irritated me somewhat during the previous academic year. My school is blessed with an abundance of space. We were one that was previously two-form entry and is now only one – so we have spare classrooms. And like all people we have expanded into them. Many of the classrooms have become shared spaces. Messy spaces. Disorganised spaces. Under-used spaces.

So this year I resolved to make more space-owners. I’ve assigned many of the previously troublesome shared spaces to individuals in the hope that they would become tidier, more organised and more purposeful. Already these rooms have started to look wonderful as the people in question have started to enact their vision of them and I’m sure they’ll continue to look great when the children start back on Thursday.

Then I came to the ICT cabinet.

With 2 years of dust, assorted wires, some Wii controllers, an empty drinks carton, 3 spiders and some defunct equipment –  it was truly a mess. The picture shows the empty cabinet, its broken perspex frontage the victim of one too many footballs hitting it.

It was truly a testament to the problem of a shared space. Nobody really owns the hall. People just use it. Assemblies, games lessons, rehersals, choir, even Indian dance lessons (Yes, David Cameron – Indian Dance!). What this means is that over time, people plug and unplug their own devices, leave bits and bobs and because it looks a complex birds nest of wires, the cleaners never clean it.

Here’s some of the stuff I found in the cabinet.

So a new resolution for this cabinet. Only 3 wires – a network cable, a video cable and an audio cable. From now on people can bring their own device and plug that in.

Just like rooms, devices get looked after by their owners. And maybe a bit of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) here will end up with BYOD everywhere and for everyone in the school – staff and students alike.


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