As we were tasked with sharing a technology policy, there was one that instantly came to mind. The policy that has had a major impact on me as a teacher is called, “BYOT: Bring Your Own Technology.” This policy has been created by Regina Catholic Schools for students in grades six and higher.
Our educational technology department describes it as, “The Regina Catholic School Division Bring Your Own Technology policy is designed to give each classroom teacher options in how they implement and utilize this opportunity in the classroom.” As all of my teaching experience has been in grades 5-7, I have experienced many successes and a few issues with this policy. As technology integration can be very complex, there is a lot to learn about technology usage in our schools. Here are the following elements of the BYOT play.
Students: These members of the cast play the largest role in our play. Once they have reached grade six, they now that have the opportunity to bring their phone to school for “educational purposes.” But these cast members are very young, most 10 years old when they are finally given this privilege. These cast members slowly begin to realize that there are many valuable ways to use their phones for educational purposes. At the same time, they realize that they can now access Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube using the school wifi. Unfortunately, they realize very quickly that some other cast members, such as the teachers don’t like when the phone is used for non educational purposes. Most cast members do an amazing job in their role and realize that educational purposes is the main reason for their device. As in many things in life, there are a few members of the cast that make a bad name for everyone else. In certain situations, a few bad apples ruin the experience for the rest of the cast.
Teachers: These members of the cast have a very important role in the play. From the very beginning, these cast members repeat themselves about how we only use phones for educational purposes during instructional time. The teachers talks about some ways in which the students can use their phone, such as: Using the calculator, Google translate, researching for a project, looking up images, and creating visual representations. This cast member is also aware of the reality of 2019 and doesn’t try to fight the device usage in the classroom. This cast member has the power to take away a device from the students when they see him/her using it inappropriately. As the year goes on, the teacher will probably take away a phone or two and send a student to the office regarding inappropriate technology usage.
Parents: Parents play a major role as they supply the students with the cell phone for school. Some parents will say they provided the phone for safety, and others will say they were pressured to get their child a phone. There will be times when a parent will text a student during instructional time and distract their child. Mr. Kerr will remind that student that the parent can contact the office if they need to communicate with their child.
Principal/Vice-principal: These cast members have the most power out of all the mentioned cast members and can make significant changes if they feel the need. They must fully support and trust their staff to properly implement BYOT in the classroom. They will generally consult with the teachers about how to implement BYOT in the common areas of the school, such as the playground, hallway, bathrooms, and gymnasium. This cast member generally has to deal with the most severe cases of inappropriate technology usage at school and at home.
Classroom: During instructional time, the students and teachers utilize the BYOT policy for educational purposes. In one corner of the classroom, a group of students are filming their Rube Goldberg machine to discover where it is failing and find ways to improve it. In the other corner of the classroom, a student is using their phone to code the Flappy Bird game for his Genius Hour project. Sitting at his desk, another student is using his calculator because he lost his on the third day of school and Mr. Kerr has already given out his three extra calculators, which have also magically disappeared. Somehow the phone doesn’t seem to go missing though…
In the hallway, we have a group of students recording a Flipgrid response video to a classroom from another country. There is also a group of students connecting via Skype with another classroom in the city that is mentoring them with a project they have been working on. There are also a few EAL students using the immersive reader function on their phone, which has helped them learn to read in English.
As you can see, when this scene plays out perfectly, there are many amazing examples of the students properly using the BYOT policy.
Library: Down in the library, we have a group of students reading the book reviews completed by other students on their phones. They’ve also been introduced to a new app called Sora, which allows them to download digital books from our library and Regina Public Libraries. There is also a group of students using their phone to record the connections they made to the book they were reading as a class.
Playgrounds: This is one of the few scenes where the students are able to use their phone for reasons other than educational purposes. At one end of the playground, we have a group of grade eight girls recording a Snapchat video to send to their friends. There are also a few boys who are sitting around playing some sort of video game. For the most part, there are very few students actually using their technology on the playground.
Home: This scene plays out very differently for students. For some, they use this technology to record a video on SeeSaw or finish reading the Science textbook on OneNote. There are also some who will send their teacher an email regarding a visual art research assignment they just started. For others, the use of technology at home only entails watching hours of YouTube videos or snap chatting their friends.
The main props used in this play are phones, tablets, and laptops.
Inappropriate Usage: As students are very young when they are allowed to bring technology to school, there is inevitably going to be a few students who choose to use technology in an inappropriate. There are going to be some students who frequently go on social media, watch useless YouTube videos, play games, or spend countless hours searching for songs on YouTube. In the classroom, teachers must use these experiences to teach students what is appropriate and inappropriate technology usage at schools. Students need to learn the proper skills to differentiate when they should be using technology for education and when they can use it for pleasure. I think this skill is important for students to learn as they will need to utilize this in the workforce. In my experience, I have always framed technology as something that students are privileged to use at school. I explain to the students that learning can be achieved in many different ways, and technology is just another way in which students can learn. I also never shy away from these potential problems and address them head on. Overall, the appropriate usage quite heavily outweighs the inappropriate usage in my experience as a teacher. I have been able to see so many positive things come from the BYOT policy.
I don’t think this would be possible without very strict routines and procedures regarding the technology usage in the classroom. Students benefit from having very clear guidelines of when it is appropriate, where, and why can they use the technology in the classroom.
Infrastructure Constraints: I see major problems with educational technology infrastructure as we move forward with the implementation of more technology. In my school division, Regina Catholic Schools, there is an amazing program called Connected Educator. This program has put thousands of laptops directly into the classroom. Mix this program with shared technology and student devices, there is a large amount of technology being used in our schools. At my school, if all six connected educators are using their technology, there is significant issues with bandwidth usage and creates very slow internet speeds. This leads to less productivity in the classroom, frustration from students and teachers, which could lead to less technology being used based simply on the poor infrastructure. Another potential conflict is that replacing large numbers of laptops and tablets could prove to be very costly moving forward. In a time where education funding is not increasing, it will be interesting to see how school divisions will tackle this problem.
Overall, I think there are many positive things about schools that allow student to bring their own technology. For one, there are many valuable resources and tools that the students can utilize to improve student learning. There is so much potential if the students are taught to use these tools appropriately. At the same thing, it would be very naive to think that it is all positive and there will be no problems. There will be problems. Students not using things appropriately, saying inappropriate things to others, or damaging the technology. I believe that educating and preparing our students for what lies ahead in the future is far more important than outright banning technology. As we live in a world of evolving technology, it’s very clear that this will have a very important impact on the lives of our students.