Our bring your own device (BYOD) journey began with the College being one of five research schools for DETE’s BYOx research project in Semester 1, 2013. Our senior school was already 1:1 so for staff BYOx has felt like a natural progression.
During the research period we surveyed the staff, students and parents and used the feedback to develop and present our plan to the P&C. We also held forum-style parent information sessions.
In 2014 Year 10, 11, and 12 students have been involved in the formal program. The senior cohorts were chosen for the initial trial as some of them had been participating in the 1:1 and the daily loan programs. In 2015, Year 12 will be the last cohort of students to access the 1:1 take home program; the remainder of senior school will be fully BYOD. Senior students who have previously participated in the 1:1 take home program are able to change to the BYOx program (returning their 1:1 device) at any time. Nine year levels will participate in BYOD, from Year 4 to Year 12.
In 2014, Year 7, 8, and 9 students (Middle School) had the opportunity to participate without being a part of the formal program. In 2015, the BYOx program is being formally extended to 7 students (Middle School) who will bring their own laptops. The formal BYOx program will also extend to Year 4, 5 and 6 students (Junior School) who will bring their own iPads with Year 6 having more flexibility with their options on devices. Further rollout is planned so that by 2017 all levels from Year 4-12 will be involved, and a review will determine future BYOx options for the College.
To help prepare for the cultural and pedagogical change we chose not to give our students access to the curriculum drive (i.e. G drive). This meant shifting previous file storage to an alternate, more accessible space such as DETE’s secure online eLearning environment, the Learning Place, with its Virtual Classrooms and edStudios. Teachers were provided with Virtual Classroom workshops, updated BYOx information, opportunities for ‘watching others work’, and ‘demystifying strange devices’ training.
Students use their devices on a daily basis with activities varying from subject to subject and teacher to teacher. The devices have enhanced activities such as note taking, researching, creating, collaborating and sharing.
To ensure equity, we have a term-long system supporting around 95 students across Years 10-12. Parents will pay a ‘connection’ fee so that a laptop can be loaned to the student at the beginning of the year and they will also be allowed to take it home. It will then be returned at the end of term or extended if required.
Registration of laptops has become more automated now that the Technical Solution has been deployed, providing a simpler experience for both the school and students. Most queries from students and parents are now in relation to whether the change to BYOx will be permanent and requests for further information regarding any fees or charges.
We will continue to develop teacher pedagogy for blended learning environments and implement programs to educate students about cybersafety practices. Ongoing reviews will improve the BYOx experience for students and teachers. We will also continue to monitor College infrastructure and upgrade capabilities as required.
Senior School teachers have provided feedback to BYOx questions posed in a ‘Meeting Words’ session. These responses may at times appear contradictory but this is because they were made by a variety of teachers from different learning contexts.
Teachers have identified a number of benefits of having BYOx including:
- students are more likely to have their laptops as they don't have to go and wait in line for a loan device
- reliability of devices
- less photocopying
- improved battery life
- increased care of devices by students
- implementation of e-texts to replace textbooks
- improved customisation of devices
- normalisation of device-based research
- efficiency of student work in class and at home
- integration with the Learning Place resulting in improved engagement.
Technology is being integrated into the curriculum by using the Learning Place as a virtual classroom for activities such as class instruction, resources, virtual testing and research. In this sense there has been a seamless transition for students as this was previously established in the 1:1 program and is now being developed further with BYOx. The only change is that teachers need to ensure that students have preloaded any specific software or apps that are required as part of the lesson. Teachers also use the Learning Place to document and record their own work.
Teachers have also identified a number of challenges in having BYOx including:
- students having too much private content such as games and photos, which can cause significant distraction.
- Most students are charging their laptops and generally doing the right thing. However, in order to avoid classwork some students are claiming to have forgotten their laptops; say it is not charged, or pretend that they cannot logon or connect to the wireless network. When this occurs during a lesson some teachers have indicated that they require students to complete their work with pen and paper rather than having students leave the room and use considerable class time booking out a loan device.
- Some students are occasionally having difficulty connecting to online resources. This means that they are unable to download the files they need for their classwork.
- There is a need for consistency of expectations across all classes about how to use BYOx in the classroom. Students sometimes are choosing to attend to their laptops rather than listening to the teacher. There needs to be a clear understanding of when it is appropriate to use the laptop and when to pull the screen down and listen.
- When student passwords expire they are unable to access requirements such as print services and online resources. At the moment there is no option for students to change their own passwords; no student password reset tool, which is an issue for us.
- The current print management system for students is limited to printing in PDF format without colour or back-to-back options.
- Teachers are generally happy with their use of the Learning Place for online class resource access but some still miss the curriculum share drive (G drive) for some elements of their work. They reported that some uncommon file formats cannot be uploaded to the Learning Place so must be given to students on a USB drive.
- Workplace health and safety issues must be managed because of multiple cords in the classroom when laptops sometimes need to be charged toward the end of the day.
To address some of the behaviour related challenges teachers have developed management procedures including:
- screens at 45 degrees when the teacher requires student attention
- screens must be visible when being used – not hidden
- teachers positioning themselves at the back of the room to monitor the students’ screens.
Teachers have reported the main responsibilities they need to emphasise to students are:
- charging the device at home or bringing the charger if they know it will not be sufficient for the day’s usage
- prior downloading of required software (usually freeware)
- getting repairs organised as soon as the need is identified and bringing a note so they can access a loan device for continuity of learning.
Teachers have found many students were keen to change to BYOx because the school-owned laptops were not providing the level of user experience that they could be assured of with their own device. Sometimes the school-owned laptops had been poorly treated by previous users or had connection problems. The chance for students to bring their own device, that they could control, was a strong selling point.
Students use their BYO devices to type notes, research, do assignments, access class resources from the Learning Place, and to present work.
Feedback from students suggests a feeling that their schoolwork has improved with BYOx because their laptops are faster than the school-owned devices, and they are able to install software to support classwork. Students also feel that using a familiar device means that they don’t have to change the way they operate. Student laptops are generally also lighter to carry than those owned by the school.
When students have problems with their laptops, they research the problem on the internet by using a search engine to find related blogs and discussion threads.
As the College had already implemented its own BYOx scheme prior to the recent deployment of DETE’s Technical Solution, the new solution has simply slotted in as a convenient alternative to the manual Wi-Fi connection method. Students were asked to come to the Tech Centre, disconnect from QDETA-X and reconnect to the network using the new solution. The overall effect on the technician role has to date been minimal because students still seek assistance during the trial of the Technical Solution.
The greatest benefit of the Technical Solution is the provision of a more secure and DETE-sanctioned method to connect to the school Wi-Fi. Our manual connection method lacked some of the security checks and balances that the Technical Solution provides. In our initial manual BYOx program, the College had moved to online resource storage through the Learning Place, removing the need for curriculum and personal storage drives on the network and network mapped printing. Therefore, the extended print and file access facility provided by the Technical Solution was not a significant element for our program.
In terms of function, the connection requires some manual intervention. We are anticipating a more “hands-off” “solution as the pilot progresses. A self-service password reset tool for students provided by DETE would be of significant benefit when released. Also the addition of device connection tracking, through an administration portal, would give the College a greater overview of what is happening on the network. It is hoped that this will be included in future deployment models or upgrades.
Surprisingly, teachers have not been asking for support regarding the range of device types in front of them. It would appear most of them have not found that to be the challenge although teachers are feeling the need to find cross-platform replacements for their favourite apps. Fortunately, most software vendors are now tending to provide software for multiple platforms.
As more teachers and students start to see what is possible in a BYOx environment, and adapt their teaching and learning processes, school technicians will have to adapt with them to support their needs. The most prominent change would be the complexity that comes with a BYOx system which caters for multiple device types. The challenge for technical staff will be trying to predict needs before they emerge and be flexible enough to provide for the wide range of expectations.