How many schools are involved in your BYOT program?
One hundred percent of schools in the district are now involved in the BYOT program.
How many classrooms are involved in your BYOT program?
On average, forty-six percent of classrooms in each school are fully engaged in using BYOT on a regular basis.
Has the school system upgraded your internet connections?
During the summer of 2011, FCS upgraded Internet access to a total of 1.25 Mbps. For redundancy the district aggregates 3 circuits from different providers. The school system was able to increase bandwidth for basically the same cost it had been paying. Most schools have dual 1Gbps connections to the WAN. 1 via Comcast and the other through AT&T.
How does the school system secure the network from viruses and other possible issues with users bringing in their own devices?
The school system has two SSIDs that are accessible. One is secured by WPA2 and as well as certificate on the client network. This is for district provided computers that authenticate through a radius server and are connectd to the client Vlan. The other is open, but sequestered on its own VLAN with ACLs restricting internal access to DHCP and DNS on the public network and is accessible by devices brought into the school system by teachers and students.
Did the school system have to upgrade the wireless network?
Through special purpose funding approved by the Forsyth County Voters, the district installed a wireless network in every school in 2007. Even then, the district was already planning ahead for the time when students would bring in their own technology. Since then, the district upgraded that infrastructure to the 802.11N protocol.
What professional development did you provide your teachers? Students?
The district began its initiative with professional development (PD) for 40 teachers in our district who came from 7 schools of different grade levels. Their principals were on board with exploring the implementation of BYOT. That training focused on the use of Web 2.0 tools and the use of centers to facilitate instruction with BYOT in the classroom. That was three years ago (before the preponderance of smartphones and iPads/tablets) , and now we also implement PD of BYOT with a focus on Project-Based Learning and the use of BYOT to build learning communities for our teachers and school leaders. We try to model the types of practices and pedagogy that we want the teachers to adopt in our PD. We are also focusing on levels of use of BYOT within our PD. we use Bernajean Porter’s Grappling’s Technology and Learning Spectrum to differentiate between Literacy, Adapting, and Transforming uses of technology. We have the teachers work to create projects collaboratively about subject areas or areas of interest and share those with each other. The next step is for them to strategize how they would implement that type of activity within their classrooms. Student training is on-going within the classroom on an "as needed" basis depending on the types of activities they are completing with their devices. This training is conducted by classroom teachers, school-based instructional technology specialists (ITS), media specialists (MS), and district-level personnel; however, students also offer support and training to each other in the use of their technology tools.
Are content lesson examples for teachers outside of your district available to view?
We have veered somewhat away from developing lesson plans for BYOT because we are shifting our concept of what a teacher does in the BYOT classroom. For example, we are trying to lead the teachers into handing over the learning standard to the students. It is the responsibility of the students to learn about that standard either individually or collaboratively and then to develop an original project/product to show what they have learned. We also want the students to be involved in the design of the rubric to evaluate both process and product resulting from BYOT. This is of course the ideal. We are also providing our teachers with a suite of tools to help give them additional strategies to use within BYOT - namely, Edublogs, Wikispaces, Socrative, and VoiceThread.
How do you build BYOT into instruction for math and science classes?
We have seen a variety of levels of use in all areas. Students can use their devices as calculators, but we have also seen them make tutorial videos using the video cameral tool on a smartphone or the ShowMe app to show how to solve particular problems. Students and teachers have made QR code activities and links for remediation and content delivery. Students take photos during a dissection in biology and later label each photo with descriptions and characteristics. They have photographed steps in a process and used these photos in a slide show to present to the class. And of course, they use their devices to access sites for research and the class wiki to access resources. Also, we have observed students working in collaborative groups to solve problems and then submitting group answers to the teacher (to present on the IWB) using Socrative. The discussion of how to solve problems has lead to greater learning experiences for the students, and they've received immediate feedback on their problem-solving.
What hurdles have you faced since implementation?
Many secondary teachers are used to direct instruction, yet the differentiation, collaboration, and inquiry results from the implementation of Project-Based Learning (PBL) with BYOT. We have had to make a large paradigm shift among our teachers with this endeavor, and we have seen that the expectations of the school leaders and continuous visits to their classrooms offers the support needed for change. Furthermore, many high school students are not used to learning from their devices - they have used them for personal uses, and they need to have teachers facilitate use by asking the right questions. For example, the teacher often has to know how to give suggestions of different activities and projects. The teacher has to ask students how they think they can learn with their devices; however, the teacher doesn't need to know how all the devices work - the students can lend their expertise in technology to assist with instruction. The district has provided each school with an instructional technology specialist and a media specialist who are both high-quality educators and experts in the integration of technology in the classroom to facilitate learning experiences in BYOT and PBL.
Is classroom management an issue? What strategies are used?
We have used the phrase "Devices Down" to signal when the teacher wants the students to put the devices down and listen for instructions. Actually, the teachers who already complete projects with their students and have a great sense of community in their classrooms often have a seamless transition into BYOT because the strategies are the same, and the devices just give them more tools to complete the work of the community. We have noticed that disciplinary issues regarding technology have gone down since the implementation of BYOT. It is surprising in some ways how normal it seems with the devices in the school.
How did you tackle communication to parents and students about BYOT?
FCS developed a standard draft of a policy that we encourage administrators and teachers to modify regarding BYOT in their schools. The rules are basically the same at the schools. We have given presentations at school council meetings, PTA meetings, and schools usually send letters home. At PTA meetings we model some activities with devices, such as polling. Parents sometimes just don't know how devices are being used at school. They often purchase devices to entertain their children, and they see them texting or gaming on devices in a solitary way. At school, the devices actually lead to more collaboration and discussion. We let parents know that our students are competing for jobs and education on a global scale, and they need to have more access to the necessary tools to be equipped to be successful now and in the future.
Why is BYOT in Forsyth County Schools successful?
Our board and local community are very supportive of instructional technology and have high expectations for its use. Early on, each board member was issued an iPad to do their work, and they became users of the technology. From our Superintendent to individuals across departments and school levels, our educators are excited about implementing BYOT. We also do not force anyone to implement BYOT - because we realized that every learning community needs a different amount of time to adopt the initiative. Also, we have school-based Instructional Technology Specialists and Media Specialists in every school to help model instruction with BYOT for teachers and to assist in developing new strategies for the use of devices. We also decided that we were going to plunge into our initiative and learn from our experiences with our trailblazing schools.
What advice would you give teachers? Students? Administrators?
Teachers have to empower students to own the learning and ask the right questions. They need to challenge students to become experts with their own devices to improve their learning experiences. They need to utilize more project-based learning in their classrooms. Teachers also need to learn how to become users of social media - try Twitter or Pinterest - to learn how to find new ideas for implementing BYOT and other instructional strategies by networking with others. Students need to be willing to teach each other and their teachers how to use their technology, and they need to become more accustomed to learning within a collaborative learning community. They need to have discussion forums for the sharing of apps, strategies, and completed projects. Administrators need to encourage teachers to try new approaches in their classrooms. Students will continue to excel in all areas when they are connected to learning with each other and their devices, and they are constructing new meanings with the personal technology tools.