This year has seen the launch of BYOD across our school after a successful trial in term 4 last year. So far it’s been a huge success. We currently have 139 of our 311 students with registered devices and most students bring them regularly. This equates to 45% uptake, which is much higher than we expected. Based on trial estimates, we expected about 30% uptake.
To be honest, I didn’t expect the roll out to be as easy or as smooth as it has been. On the whole we’ve experienced very few teething problems, and I can only put this down to the planning that we put in before we started BYOD.
In 2014 we had major investments in our infrastructure – we got N4L we were SNUPped, we had a new server, and new wireless routers throughout the school, we increased the number of IP addresses allocated to our school, and we became a google school. All of these things have made it easier to get students online and using their devices to support their learning.
However, while these have supported our implementation, they aren’t the things that have made the real difference. In 2014 we started our digital citizenship programme. This began as a way to address core aspects of digital safety and citizenship – including safely shutting down devices, making logical choices about which devices to use for each purpose, creative commons and basic computer skills. At the end of 2014 we redeveloped this to focus on skills for e-learning (which includes digital citizenship). We linked the passport with Guy Claxton’s Building Learning Power theories and language which we use extensively in our school and we built in a lot of reflective and creative components. This gives us a planned programme to work through to increase our students’ capacity to use technology effectively in their learning.
Students work through 4 levels, gaining badges for their passport along the way. Once they complete all of the badges for their level, they are recognised at assembly as they level up. The kids seen really keen to be recognised and complete the passport and they love the badges.
The other important thing we have done is to take time to develop the protocols around using devices:
  • Devices cannot be used during break times – these are times to prioritise social interactions and physical activity
  • Devices are to be used to support learning in the classroom
  • Devices can be used in the morning before school for social purposes – i.e. sharing the weekends photos etc.
  • Our school network blocks all social media except Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ which our teachers use to connect with others online
  • Devices are locked in a cupboard in each classroom when we are not in class – break times, visiting the library etc.
While we have a really tight framework for how devices can be used at school, there is considerable freedom within that framework for teachers to set expectations about in class use. For example, my approach is that students should assume they can use their device unless I say otherwise. This has been great for getting the students to think critically about their resources and start making choices around what is the best way to complete a particular activity. Every morning we spend 10 minutes writing – some students do this on the device quite happily, but some students with devices still prefer writing by hand. It’s awesome to see them starting to make these choice and think critically about the role of their device in supporting their learning.
All our students sign a BYOD Agreement along with their parents and they must register which device(s) they are bringing to school – this not only mitigates any liability for devices on our part (as per Ministry guidelines) it also holds the students accountable and gives us a shared understanding to fall back if students break the terms of the agreement or use their devices inappropriately. We do have restorative consequences in place for serious misuse but we haven’t actually had to use them yet, fingers crossed we don’t have to!
It’ll be interesting to see how BYOD develops over the next year (and the coming years after that), but for now we’re really happy with how things are going.

GAFE – 3 Weeks In

Three weeks ago we launched Google Apps for Education across our school. Our teachers have been using it for about a year now, but in week 5 we went universal with it. Every student now has their own GAFE account including Gmail, Drive, Blogger and Calendar.

This feels like it has been a long time coming. We’ve been taking about it and looking at it seriously since around term 4 last year, but it wasn’t until we had an external provider come and say “You need to get GAFE for your students” that we had enough momentum to overcome caution and take the risk. Though to be honest I don’t really think it is much of a risk. GAFE is well established and widely used. With support structures like Teacher Dashboard in place it is a very easy and safe way to enable student e-learning.

As one of the TICs (there are two of us) of E-Learning, this week has been awesome seeing our vision finally come to life. However, I’m also aware that this is just the beginning of the journey and there will need to be continual professional learning for staff and support structures in place to help this roll out effectively. We’re lucky that as a relatively small school, it is easy to see how everyone is working with GAFE and who is struggling and find time to support those who need it. I can only begin to imagine how much harder that task would be in a bigger school.

We also need to provide spaces for innovation and idea sharing. Already there are teachers experimenting, trying new things, asking questions and pushing the boundaries of traditional pedagogy, and we need to foster this, but also makes sure it is being shared.

We’ve also received responses from a few parents expressing concerns over the fact that their children have emails, cyberbullying and internet safety despite having explained the precautions taken, so clearly we’ve got a need there in terms of helping our parents understand our vision for digitally-savvy students who can interact with confidence both online and offline spaces.

As a classroom teacher, I love the practicality of GAFE, I love that I can email my students important notices and share docs with them. I love using blogger with them for our class blog and I’m looking forward to getting them underway with their own blogs. We’ve only had it for a few weeks (and we’ve just finished writing reports) so I haven’t really had much of chance to play and start imagining the possibilities but I’m looking forward to having more time to really wrap my head around everything.