Friday, March 18, 2016

Bring Your Own Device: The Step Before One-To-One, or Is It the Goal?

As my peers sought trips to tropical paradises, I spent Spring Break in one of my favorite places, home. The place in which I call home is the suburbs of the Twin Cities known as St. Michael, Minnesota. During my break, I consumed my time pondering my blog topic and visiting my alma mater, Saint Michael-Albertville High School (STMA). In doing so, I heard a rumor that STMA had implemented a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, commonly known as Project Phoenix within the community. This quickly caught my interest as I had recently acknowledged that BYOD programs existed, so I took initiative of conducting an interview with the principal. The principal of STMA High School is Bob Driver. Upon his fifth completed year as principal, he comes equipped with a background of over a decade in English teaching and being voted the 2014-15 Central Minnesota Principal of the Year. In short, Mr. Driver possesses the qualities necessary to determine what is beneficial for the students of this decade. My concise interview with Mr. Driver may be reviewed by the following summary.

I opened up Mr. Driver to the conversation of how BYOD (Project Phoenix) had begun in STMA and if there have been any beneficial results. I also entertained the bold statement that BYOD may be more beneficial than going 1-1:
He explained that the Bring Your Own Device program had started with about 10 middle school teachers supplied with around 5 respective Chromebooks. After the apparent success, the move to the high school found 20 teachers with personal technology in the classroom and promising results. Finally, the high school stands today with around 40 teachers implementing the BYOD program and with no intentions of turning back. He mentioned that not all 40 teachers necessarily have access to 5 Chromebooks each, which leads to organization among subject area teachers to share a set of laptops. I may note that when speaking to a teacher who uses BYOD and shares laptops, he felt as if BYOD was essential with the two computer labs almost always in reserve for a school of 1700 students. As noted, the school assigns Chromebooks for those who cannot provide a source of mobile technology. For those of you unfamiliar with BYOD, the students are expected to bring a personal mobile device (to be used on the school’s wifi network), and those who are unable to do so will be issued the school’s Chromebooks for the class period. It was no secret that with the students being issued Chromebooks, the school was entertaining the effective emphasis of Google in the classroom. Mr. Driver didn’t appear to state many cons other than the fact that occasionally operating systems (Apple, Android, etc) may become an issue depending on the program being used. Also, if a cell phone is used it is nearly impossible to expand on anything more than a formative assessment, such as Kahoot, on the small screen of a smartphone. When discussing the results of BYOD and the future of technology in the school, Driver appeared to be pleased with his results. BYOD gives the teachers an option to use technology when they want it, not when they feel forced to use it. He commented that technology isn’t the clear-cut answer, but enables teachers to enhance the learning experience when used effectively. When asked to comment on the comparison with 1-1, he seemed to have a positive response. We agreed along the lines that the idea of 1-1 is expensive in not only providing every student with a laptop, but keeping up to date with technology and the repairs that come with it. As previously mentioned, BYOD is beneficial in the manner that teachers can use technology when they please; 1-1 works for a fraction of teachers, but forces great teachers who don’t use technology to do so. Overall, when asked about the future of technology in STMA, Mr. Driver was content with stating that his goal would be to provide the school with more Chromebooks that are currently being supplied.

The results? Other than recently being recognized as one of the nations “Best High Schools” (U.S. News & World Report) and repeatedly placing in the top five percentile in the state regarding standardized tests, the school conducted a survey on Project Phoenix specifically. One notable result was that 91% of students responded either strongly agree or agree to: When we use our mobile devices, I am more interested in class. The very stem of student success in the classroom originates from a student’s interest or curiosity of a subject. Also, the following are two (unedited) open-ended responses of middle school students regarding Project Phoenix:

I think that it is super cool that we get to use our mobile divices because its pretty easy because we use them almost every day out side of school and know how to use them effeciently so i think it is really cool that we get to use our phones and ipods ect

I don't have my own mobile device that i would choose to used in class so I like the fact that we have iPads and Chromebooks to use. :)

Does Mr. Driver have a case on BYOD being the goal for schools in the future? The provided links will lead you to the student survey results and an article comparing 1-1 and BYOD programs.