mother with sons and iPad
Collier County Public School students soon will not only be encouraged to increase their screen time but to actually BYOD. BYOD refers to Bring Your Own Device, a nationwide initiative to enable students to bring and utilize their smart phones, tablets or laptops to school to enhance the teaching and learning process.
While BYOD may be the newest acronym in your vocabulary, it has been on the minds of the District School Board of Collier County since the U.S. Department of Education recommended that schools adopt a BYOD policy in 2010.
The District School Board of Collier County District Technology Strategic Plan (2011-2014) outlines the budget and guidelines for improving students’ access to technology and using it to enhance the learning process. Long-term goals cover every aspect of staying technologically current including optimizing Internet connections and bandwidths to accommodate the increase in users, replacing computers and equipment, technologic support and compliance with the Child Internet Protection Act.
Bridging the digital divide
At a Sea Gate Elementary School Advisory Council meeting in February, Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton discussed the benefits and implications of BYOD in Collier County Public Schools. Students today are “digital natives,” meaning they have been utilizing digital technology since they were babies. On the other hand, parents and educators are “digital immigrants,” struggling to learn the computer language native to our children and desperately trying to keep up with them in order to protect their safety as well as understand their culture. BYOD would help to “bridge the digital divides” between student and adult, Dr. Patton explained.
And what about the economic divides between the students who have and have not? The goal is that all students will have access to a device whether it is their own or loaned out by the school.
Studies and informal observation in school districts already using BYOD have shown that with increased use of personal devices have come an increased attention in class and decreased absenteeism as students are more engaged, Dr. Patton said. Furthermore, she explained that using personal devices provides “instant assessment to drive instruction.” When teachers use the network of devices in the classroom to evaluate how students answer a question, teachers know in real time the level of understanding of the subject matter and can adjust the lesson accordingly.
School-based applications also can be downloaded on each device such as Algebra Nation and Edmodo, a public social networking site used exclusively for school communications between teachers, students, administration and publishers (there is no private or anonymous posting).
Seeing is believing
In March, Dr. Patton, along with principals and teacher representatives from Collier County Public Schools, visited the Forsyth County School District in Georgia to observe the international leader in the effective practice of BYOD (Forsyth refers it to BYOT or Bring Your Own Technology), where BYOD is supported in every school in that district.
Exhilarated by the fact-finding trip to the Forsyth County Schools, Dr. Patton described the experience as something “hard to explain … you really have to see it.” Through observation and discussion with both staff and students, she said the team got a better idea of what would and wouldn’t work to bring Collier County to the cutting edge of education.
Students in every grade level incorporated the continuous connectivity in ways Dr. Patton and her team hadn’t imagined previously. For example, students dissecting a cat in one anatomy lab decided to have a group member record the process. The student explained to observers that not only can the recorded lab help any group members who are absent from class, the students can all use the video to study for the anatomy test looking at their actual work rather than diagrams.
Another benefit of having a 1:1 ratio of students to devices is that students gain educational time. Dr. Patton stated that a typical classroom has maybe four computer terminals and it is not uncommon for students to have to wait for their turn to do research. Now, students will be able to look up research and data immediately.
One of the best uses of the BYOD program, according to Dr. Patton is that it increases educational depth across all skill levels. For the lower scoring students there is remedial help through applications and practice and for the high achieving and gifted learners there is really no limit to how they can explore a subject.
The implications for allowing students to use any personal device in class seem vast but all have been considered in the planning process. Provisions for Internet safety and privacy are in accordance with the Child Internet Protection Act. Schools use filters to restrict websites that are inappropriate and student’s Internet use may be monitored. In addition, Digital Citizenship will become a part of the curriculum to include education about using Internet responsibly, safely and with accountability.
Collier County plans to roll out Phase 1 of the BYOD program at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year at as many as 11 schools in the district. A second phase will begin in January 2014 and all schools should be on board by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Dr. Patton will conduct Town Hall meetings to discuss the program with parents and the community next fall. Presenting the plan without all of the research and participating schools would have been premature, she explained.
Dr. Patton’s voice bubbled with enthusiasm as she discussed the technological future of Collier County students. “I absolutely know we can do this,” she said. “There are just so many things that have such an impact on education and this is one of them.”