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BYOD or 1:1 Computing in K-12? The CTO’s Weigh In…

Significant technology developments continue to hit the USA K-12 market.

With Apple’s digital textbook announcement last week, we are now likely to see more acceleration of the spread of new student devices. Is this major announcement by the company that rapidly transformed computing, music and mobility the boost schools need to drive toward the promise of digital technology for all students? And what’s the resulting impact on device and computing trends in K-12?

On the topic of devices, we asked two of our leading K-12 Chief Technology Officer (CTO) customers to give us their opinions. BYOD? 1:1? What’s the better course to pursue? The answer would make Nike proud. While both noted device and equity issues one way or another, all said simply” “Just do it!”. What’s even more interesting – it wasn’t actually all about the device.

Let’s talk about “BYOD” first. BYOD (bring your own device) hit crescendo levels late last year in K-12 technology discussions. Panacea or plan?

Cisco Point of View

Going in, here were four of our key assumptions on needed elements and considerations for any comprehensive K-12 BYOD plan:

  • Network infrastructure. Includes core network, connectivity between sites, Wi-Fi access points, and storage (capacity). Density needs to be considered. This piece of BYOD needs to be in place before schools even begin to think about devices.
    Needs lead-time of 12-18 months.
  • Services mix. What is the curricular change that will be ushered in by BYOD, and has the school thought this through? What new digital resources will the school use once BYOD is up and running (digital content, video files, accessibility, etc)? In other words, districts need to think through curriculum considerations and work to integrate technology into instruction in the classroom.
  • Measurable outcomes. What is the goal of this BYOD program on outcomes? Metrics? How to measure the success of the investment on test scores, graduation rates, remediation, etc.?
  • Policy for acceptable use. “Engage the student, and protect the district”. Need to also define acceptable list of devices, e.g. not a $9 flip phone.

Katy ISD Point of View

Here’s what KATY Schools outside of Houston, had to say about their recent successful BYOD experience regarding the four bullets, above:

  • Network infrastructure.  A strategy needs to be defined on how and what the personal devices will access.  It might be just a Wi-Fi hot spot with no log-on to internal systems. If you allow new personal devices to log into a school portal, virus protection, hacking, etc. will present new things to plan against.  On content, what will the devices have access to and when?  Will you have an application offering that can be delivered via the Web allowing for anytime, anywhere access?  This can also play into your access strategy.
  • Services mix. This may really be about “organizational readiness”.  BYOD is not about the device unless the delivery of instruction is changed and the content which you are delivering is changed.  BYOD will have no impact on learning unless this philosophical change occurs first.  Therefore, any organization thinking about a BYOD program must be able to answer the WHY question: Why do you want to implement BYOD?  Once they answer the why then they can begin to define the path forward to fundamentally change instruction. One thing to consider: Web 2.0 technologies — these allow for device neutrality, anytime, anywhere access.  The basic idea here is what other things must an organization do to prepare teachers for BYOD? Digital citizenship must also be considered.  This is such a diversion from the typical educational classroom or process, and brings inherent risks.  Teachers, parents, school boards, superintendents and students must become aware of the risks, understand why you are doing it, and support it. So, communications and stakeholders are key.
  • Measurable outcomes.   Attendance, discipline, engagement. This is where you can get veteran teachers who talk about the change they witness allowing kids to bring their own devices.  Higher level of thinking, creativity and most importantly openness allows for differentiated learning styles.  We all know kids learn differently, and by allowing these devices into the classroom, we are allowing kids to select the way “THEY” want to do their homework.
  • Policy: Think about device utilization policy changes such as when can students use the device? Will that will be the same for elementary, middle school and high school?
    • Different types of discipline issues will arise, so discipline management guidelines need to be reviewed.
    • District responsibility vs. parent responsibility on lost or damaged devices.
    • A “Parent Guide” should be created, explaining the changes in policy as well as high level explanation.
    • Device specificity really depends on the access policy defined above.
    • CIPA and COPPA laws and restrictions should be defined and explained.

And how did Katy ISD find these above considerations to be different than full 1:1 computing?

  • Variation: in BYOD, there is no district standard or district-supplied device.
  • Equity: not all devices will have same functionality.
  • Control: what is installed and when (greater control in 1:1 computing)?
  • Access: what can the devices access?
  • Philosophical taboo: in either case, we need to work to change the mental image of how education has always been provided.
  • Support: good news here is that in any given classroom, should a technical issue arise, you have 20+ support techs ready, willing and able.

Mooresville Graded School District Point of View

At the other end of the spectrum, we previously profiled Mooresville Schools in North Carolina. Mooresville is the site of the nation’s leading 1:1 computing program, called affectionately their “Digital Conversion” initiative.

Mooresville Graded School District (MGSD) continues to expand their successful Digital Conversion.  In 2011-12 MGSD expanded their 1:1 rollout to 3rd grade.  Whereas students at that level do not take their laptops home, all 3rd graders now have a laptop.

MGSD continues to explore opportunities for K-2 and is contemplating iPads for these early learners.  In addition, MGSD plans network infrastructure upgrades for the elementary schools to handle additional wireless devices. Professional development courses continue to be offered and improved for the key MGSD team and staff.

  • Network infrastructure. A vibrant, robust network infrastructure cannot be underestimated. “If you build a solid network, the users and applications will happen.”
  • Services mix. All the talk on BYOD is good – but the overriding concern here is equity. In a BYOD environment, oftentimes not all students will have the same “D”, and therefore the playing field is not level. Compatibility, OS and versions of software applications are also a common concern.  Security, or protection for the network from outside threats that may be brought in by my personal device, is another strong consideration. Finally, selecting the appropriate online resources (free and paid) will be critical.
  • Measurable outcomes.   Attendance, discipline, engagement all matter a great deal. But the District has to answer the “so what?” question – why are we doing this, will this in fact make a difference in generating better student outcomes?
  • Policy: In thinking about device utilization policy, many schools are moving to a Responsible Use Policy (RUP). At Mooresville and some of the leading 1:1 schools, there is a “required use” policy. Finally, what is the lowest common denominator for devices that any school can tolerate, that will enable the broadest and most effective learning?

Both CTO’s noted that financially, 1:1 computing can more easily happen in smaller (<6,000 students) level school districts where the investments, deployments and training can be more easily controlled and managed. Each noted the success of their own path, citing the undeniably strong test scores backing up their rollouts, and each indicated the “time is now” to begin driving these plans.

With more than $8B in education revenues worldwide and the news of a significant push into education last week, there’s a company in Cupertino, California that agrees with that.

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