At the end of June last year we sent a letter home to all of our grade 5-7 parents notifying them that Ridgeview Elementary was initiating a Bring Your Own Device program and that all students in these grades were expected to have a personal device to start the school year. Within the first week of September we had 92% of our students bringing laptops and tablets. In the second month of school we are at about 95%. To be honest, this rate of participation was greater than I had expected but it demonstrated to me that parents saw value in the initiative because of the foundation that had been laid before moving forward.
Over the past two years our classroom teachers have preached the benefits of students having their own devices as digital access has become more incorporated into classroom lessons (Cari Wilson our grade 7 teacher has done this for even longer). We are fortunate at Ridgeview to have a laptop cart that was shared between our intermediate classes but as they became a greater part of the learning it grew more difficult to access them for that “just in time learning”. Along with that, the school laptops have aged and become more troublesome. Though our district IT team is excellent and responsive, the laptops having been moving past their prime for a number of years. As student engagement and excitement for integrating the digital world into their learning grew, so too did the number of student-owned devices. Both the students and their parents saw the value in having a device they could count-on and access when needed. What we also saw was the connection between school and home learning. No longer were excited students forced to wait until the next use of the school laptop to further delve into an interest, they could further explore what they wanted to learn at home.
Ridgeview’s Digital Access Plan – Formalizing BYOD
This year we have our digital access and student learning structured in the following manner;
Primary classes – thirty iPads provided by the school/RPAC are shared on an agreed upon schedule.
Grade 4 – the intermediate laptops provided by the school/RPAC that were shared amongst a number of grades are now shared between our two grade four classes. Each device is assigned to one student in each class. The hope being that less users logging into one device over a day will make the laptops less troublesome.
Grades 5-7 – students are asked to bring their own devices. For any students unable to bring a device, school provided laptops are available. We have seen a real mix of laptops and tablets brought in by the students.
We structured our plan this way because it creates a sense of meaningful steps in digital access that the students proceed through over their time at Ridgeview.
There were four pillars that I considered key to the success of our BYOD initiative.
1. Providing financial assistance to those families who needed it through leasing opportunities and software discounts.
2. Holding a Parent Information Night showcasing students work and educating parents on the power of digital access. Our Technology Boot Camp for Parents was well-received by those in attendance as they learned about:
Virtual Classrooms and the district Dashboard, the Power of Digital Access in Research, Social Media, Mathletics/Dreambox as well as a Back to Basics session where parents could ask anything of our IT department.
3. Ensuring the safety of student devices through lessons around the proper handling of devices, use of security carts and reinforcement of our Technology Contract.
4. Professional development for teachers so they may personalize their use of technology into their classroom learning. This is being done through collaborative teaching with our District Innovation Teacher, grade level colleagues as well as use of in-school and district wide professional development opportunities.
This is the foundation of our success. We demonstrated a plan, we elicited parent concerns and addressed them, and most importantly our teachers have integrated the use of devices into their classroom learning in a manner that enriches student learning.