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Bring Your Own Device: 24/7 learning?

Ruth Wollacott finds before implementing BYOD, schools need to do their homework

Posted by Rianna Newman | August 23, 2017 | Teaching

Before launching BYOD, network managers need to integrate the IT system to enable simple, fast on-boarding and easy management of any number or type of device on the Wi-Fi network. Shane Buckley, CEO of Xirrus Wi-Fi Networks explains that cloud-managed Wi-Fi networks are the strongest solution as they eliminate complexity, are very easy to install and manage, require no dedicated resources or training to implement, and can deal with increasing numbers of disparate devices connecting to Wi-Fi networks.

de Ferrers Academy in Staffordshire launched a pilot BYOD for the teachers and sixth form in 2012. Since 2012, the project has been rolled out to all students. Steve Allen, Principal of the Academy, is enthusiastic about the wide-reaching potential of BYOD, saying: “We are committed to providing our students with the best education possible and preparing them for higher education and employment.”

Prior to the initial launch, extensive discussion and trials were undertaken with students and staff, and meetings held with all stakeholders, including parents.  Following positive feedback, schools which had already installed BYOD were visited to discuss successful strategies and how to avoid pitfalls.  

The managed wireless and infrastructure was audited and reviewed and a new server installed.  iActivate was used to link iPads securely onto the Academy network and a list of ideas and apps distributed to all staff. All sixth form staff were trained, a pilot group was set up, and a pedagogy guide was produced.

Greg Hughes, Assistant Principal and New Technologies Director at de Ferrers says, “an iPad is a tool, a ruler is a tool; neither does anything if you leave them on the table and don’t use them. It will only impact results if it is used in the right way and in the right context.”

With extensive use of flipped lessons using BYOD since the roll-out, there has been a significant impact in A-level and GCSE students achieving above their target grades. Teachers use Showbie as a free tool to collect and mark work on iPad and provide multimedia feedback. They can give more rapid and effective feedback and devise more useful scaffolding for students, leading to better challenge in lessons and greater student confidence and independent learning.

The director of IT Support at de Ferrers, Paul Mennell, says, “with 1,000+ iPads it would be impossible to manage them without using a mobile device management system.” de Ferrers uses Lightspeed MDM system, which sets the parameters for apps on students’ devices, depending on the age of the student. Sixth form students have lighter restrictions while years 7–11 have more stringent controls and apps are removed centrally for misuse.

Greg Hughes explains, “We are using things like Edmodo and the VLE as a way to set, mark and return homework to students. We are using Dropbox and iBooks as a way of managing study materials. The other big area is AFL where we use Socrative to quickly assess student understanding.” Future lessons are directed by the students’ responses.

Teachers at de Ferrers integrate peer assessment and class tasks to encourage collaborative working. Students complete a task individually, which is then marked anonymously as a group. All students can contribute by offering suggestions as to how the answer can be improved. Students with special needs are able to fully engage by accessing the same materials at their own pace which, as Greg Hughes explains, has “improved their performance markedly.”

English teacher Chantell Eccleshall says, “students have better resources available to them and easier access to them; we can put all our materials in one place and it makes me think a lot more about the lessons I’m doing and what the students are actually getting out of it.” de Ferrers students enjoy using BYOD in lessons, commenting: “using an iPad, you can determine your own success”; and “it helps a lot, you know where you’re going wrong and how to improve.”

Sandringham School in Hertfordshire successfully introduced BYOD in 2014, where students in years 7–11 bring a suitable device to school each day. Although no particular device is specified, there are minimum stipulations for different student years. Although about 70% of Sandringham’s students use iPads, other Android tablets are also compatible, and there is a loan scheme for students unable to afford their own device.  Students have unlimited cloud storage on Google Drive to reduce storage issues on the device itself. 

Their website, MySandstorm, provides apps for different subjects, including My Maths, Kerboodle and SAM learning, as well as a range of online resources and revision tools. 

G Suite for Education is the main tool used for communication, submission of work and receiving feedback, and parents have full access to homework through the website or app, which is set through Show My Homework.   

Students must use the school’s filtered internet, and social networking is available only to the sixth form. An acceptable use policy specifies appropriate use of the device, which is reinforced through the disciplinary system.

Fergal Moane, Assistant Headteacher, explains the advantages of BYOD: “Our students are able to access resources online to supplement their learning, to stretch and challenge them, and this supports them in developing.” 

Sandringham’s students are enthusiastic about using BYOD in lessons, commenting, “it helps broaden our research”; “I really like my device because it helps me research stuff I don’t really understand”; and “it allows us to carry on learning without the teacher’s help.” As Steve Allen of de Ferrers says, “BYOD means learning at any time, any place; on the bus or in the shopping centre.”

The results of a survey conducted in 2016 by RM Education show that 29% of secondary schools in the UK have already installed BYOD, and the trend suggests that, ultimately, most secondary schools in the UK will follow suit. Despite the initial costs of setting up a BYOD scheme, BYOD alleviates the increasing constraints on school budgets, as well as improving student engagement and results. 

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