Approach to implementation
Noosa District State High School participated in the department’s BYOx trial in 2013, and has officially implemented a BYO program in the school since the beginning of 2014.
Peter Gorman, head of department eLearning, advised that BYOx had been well-adopted at the school, with a large cross-section of devices being used. The school chose not to limit the type or brand of device. The basic specifications related only to the technical capacity of the devices; as a general rule, devices purchased within the last two years were found to be suitable.
The school engaged with parents and students through a range of channels. Information about the trial was included on the school website and in a letter to parents. The school also hosted an information session for parents on BYOx, eLearning and the Virtual Library. The feedback, from the small but highly engaged group of parent attendees, was very encouraging with grateful acknowledgement of the school’s commitment to making ubiquitous access to learning technology for all students a clear goal and intention. BYOx is another choice parents can now make to support their child’s learning.
Peter said that significant research into affordable-option devices was carried out, and information was provided to parents, without endorsing any particular product. He noted, “We will continue to research devices and talk to local retailers about affordable options that can be purchased as part of the school BYO trial.”
Student uptake with BYOx
In regard to participation in the BYOx program, Peter said, “We’ve had increased interest in the BYOx program at Noosa District SHS, with 130 BYOx devices currently on the network. There are a broad range of devices connecting to the DETE network, including iPads, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Android devices.”
He believes the increased interest from students is because the device is personal to them. Year 11 student, Dan, agrees. Dan says that having your own personal device is definitely an appealing option for students, because of their familiarity with the device.
Benefits for students and teachers with BYOx
Dan has found that carrying his own device means that his school bag is lighter. The tablet is half the weight of his laptop. He is also using his tablet to view e-textbooks and other learning sites, reducing his reliance on traditional text books. He shared, “I can submit assignments directly from my device – which is easy, convenient and useful.”
Dan has not had any issues with converting files on his tablet to the format required by the teacher and uses an app to connect to the curriculum drive, in order to access files from his tablet as he would from a laptop/desktop computer. Other students with other types of devices have also commented on the ease of integration with the school curriculum.
Teachers at Noosa District SHS are training and supporting other teachers in the use and application of devices and eLearning. The school is also working towards its full range of courses being available online 24/7, using a learning management system (Virtual Library). Peter says the school has applied resources and time to support teacher leaders in the development of relevant and engaging lesson materials, tests, learning objects and other interactive teaching strategies that suit the eLearning environment.
Noosa District SHS is the first school to participate in a supported trial to investigate the viability and effectiveness of connecting privately-owned devices to the DETE network. This solution is on track to be trialed in Term 2 at the other four BYOx research schools, ahead of an anticipated broader implementation and availability plan.
Peter said that, as expected in any trial phase, there were initial teething problems that were promptly resolved by either the school or the BYOx project team. He explained, “There are some minor technical considerations that the school is working through. For example, Dan has recently upgraded from a laptop to a tablet. While his laptop could seamlessly move between wireless access points, the tablet has difficulty doing so. Dan turns the wireless function off and on again and the tablet reconnects correctly. We are investigating this issue and believe it can be easily resolved."
The school has storage lockers, with combination locks available, and since the BYO program started in Term 1, 2014 students have been keen to have a locker to protect their BYO device. Peter said that the school will consider investing in more storage lockers to meet student demand.
As another suggestion for schools he stated, “I think schools will also still need to consider providing high-end devices, such as for film and television. I believe desktop computers will always need to be available for high-end apps and for equity purposes.”
Over the next few weeks, Peter and Dan will recruit other senior students to assist with the help desk in the virtual library. Peter believes the senior students are well-positioned to provide advice and support to others. He said, “Students helping other students is always a good thing. For example, Dan had the technical skills to set up his tablet with a passcode lock, GPS tracking and other security features, so will be able to talk to Year 9 students about how to set up security features, and other useful functions, on their devices.”
Peter is planning to gather data from teachers, parents and students to inform future decision-making at the school.
Noosa District SHS principal, Chris Roff, said that BYOx is another option that they can offer to parents to support their engagement with the school’s eLearning agenda.
Chris also explained, “For equity reasons, school owned devices will still be available to rent at a highly subsidised cost. Our goal is to remove barriers to engagement. Learning technology needs to be pervasive, and in the hands of all our students, to facilitate the powerful outcomes that are possible such as enhanced learning collaboration, easy peer to peer discussion groups, student voice and involvement in lesson design and delivery, as well as 'when you want it' access.”
Chris also added that there had been the early signs of improved student care of devices, now that they were student owned. This gave some relief to an issue that had previously been more problematic.