Category Archives: BYOT

The Educational Importance of BYOT

Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) is critical in the digital evolution of schools, when normalising whole school use of the digital, and when shaping digitally-based school ecosystems.

Ideally, young people should be trusted in the classroom to use the digital technologies they are already using in the ‘real world’ to enhance their learning.

While the young, parents and, invariably teachers have normalised the use of the digital outside the school walls and have expectations of the digital, few schools globally have normalised its use and are yet to reap the myriad opportunities and benefits.

The reason is simple: it is very hard to do so. It requires each school to move from its traditional paper based operational mode, culture and mindset to a mode that is digitally based, where the mindset is digital and the school culture actively supports change, risk taking and on-going organisational evolution and transformation.

The move to BYOT is fundamental to creating the ecosystem that enables that to happen.

It is reality few as yet appreciate.

To read the full article go to – http://teacher.acer.edu.au/article/the-importance-of-byot

ACER Teacher Digital Evolution Series

Mal Lee has written for ACER’s online Teacher magazine in a series of brief research papers on the digital evolution of schooling. They include:

The Changing Role and Purpose of the School Website

Mal Lee

The role, purpose and importance of the school website is changing at pace in those schools globally that have moved to a digital operational base, are on track to normalise the use of the digital throughout and which are rapidly creating their own, unique, tightly integrated digital ecosystem.

The digital evolution that is transforming every facet of these schools is profoundly impacting those school’s websites, moving the website from its traditional peripheral position to being core and critical to the school’s everyday operations, its teaching, growth, evolution and enhanced performance and productivity.

The time has come when all schools and education authorities need to recognise that change, and the profound implications that flow at both the school and education authority level.

Moreover they would be as well to grasp the critical reality that with society normalising the everyday use of the digital, digital transformation and the movement of the digital schools away from the loosely coupled, segmented, almost silo like, organisation to a form that is evermore tightly integrated the part played by the school website fundamentally changes, both in nature and standing.

In the traditional highly segmented, insular paper based school the website has been viewed as but one of the many largely discrete parts of the school, largely peripheral to the everyday teaching. In many instances it has been window dressing, sometimes very high quality window dressing but in the main it has done little to enhance the pedagogy or student learning.

Crucially the online experience has been viewed as separate from and lesser than the physical.

In marked contrast within digitally based schools an apposite, dynamic, ever evolving, working website is central to virtually every operation, including the school’s 24/7/365 teaching.

Indeed without that website schools cannot create their desired digital ecosystem and successfully realise their shaping educational and digital vision.

Try and imagine how organisations like Apple, Amazon, News Ltd or the Tax Office could operate without their websites and you’ll begin to appreciate how critical they are to the workings and growth of digitally based schools.

That fundamental difference needs to be understood and the discussions begun at the school and system level on what is required to move forward.

As Westerman and his colleagues observe (Westerman et al, 2014) societies that have normalised the use of the digital no longer differentiate between the online and physical experience.

If, as some appear to be doing, the school wants to remain as a traditional paper based, silo like organisation focussed on readying its students for paper based external examinations those discussions on the website are not needed.

If however your school’s desire is normalise the use of the digital and create an ever evolving digital school ecosystem that will educate each child for today you do need to have the conversation and decide what is to be done.

Interestingly ask any school leader or educational administrator why an apposite website is critical to the successful whole school embrace of BYOT or the evolution of the school’s ecosystem and it is likely only a handful could tell you why.

Moreover ask a software house to create a website for a digital school and it is likely even the best and more prescient will still prepare a polished offering for the traditional mode of schooling.

The desire with this article is begin remedying those shortcomings and to highlight the core, multifaceted role of the school website – and its associated digital communications suite – in the digital transformation and evolution of schooling.

The Traditional Website

For the last 15-20 years the school website has been largely peripheral to the school’s everyday workings and in particular its teaching. It has been primarily a static source of information, a marketing tool and possibly a gateway to the inner, seemingly secret teaching of the school that necessitated password entry. The closed classroom door was retained when the school went online. In many education authorities globally the websites have been ‘cookie’ cut’ with their operations tightly controlled by the central office bureaucrats and the external ICT experts. The schools were invariably given little say in their form even at a time when schools were being given greater decision making and obliged to shape their own growth. Even today at least one Australian education authority still prohibits schools having their own website, while other authorities and their ICT controllers continue to micro manage the nature and workings of the ‘school’s’ site.

Invariably within the school an individual has had responsibility for maintaining the school site, ensuring it was not ‘spoilt’ by other staff, although that said one will find schools where the different operational units, like the library or student support services, also operate their own website, separate to that of the school.

In many schools, particularly the independent the site is maintained by the school’s public relations/marketing unit, ensuring the desired image, with the apposite Pepsodent smiles is always to the fore.

Do a quick scan of a cross section of school websites, primary and secondary, state and independent – including the award winners – and you’ll likely find most are still primarily sources of information, some very polished, some very dated. Undertake a Google search of the ‘purpose’ or ‘importance’ of school websites and you’ll find even the more reasoned such that by University of Florida – http://fcit.usf.edu/websites/chap1/chap1.htm– still underscore the largely peripheral, information providing role.

The choice of the award winning sites appears to have far more to do with looks, design finesse and interactivity than functionality and how the facility contributes to the realisation of the school’s shaping educational and digital vision.

Significantly most will also be closely ‘guarded’ sites with community access to any teaching materials invariably restricted by password.

Emergence of the ‘working’ website

From the mid 2000’s as the first of the schools globally moved to a digital operational base and began their digital evolution one has seen in all those schools the on-going transformation and evolution of the school’s website, that as indicated by Lee (2013) mirrored the school’s evolutionary path, and which saw its shift from a peripheral to a core role.

The website, like those in all other digitally based organisations, plays a central, multi-faceted role, assisting enhance the school’s culture and ecosystem, furthering the school’s growth and evolution, enabling the school to interface with the networked world, being used integrally in every facet of the schools’ 24/7/365 teaching, the integration of all school operations, educational and administrative and the on-going enhancement of the school’s efficiency, effectiveness and productivity.

The website increasingly became the interface for the school’s community and a medium that facilitated the integration of all the school’s operations in and outside the school walls.

In contrast to the largely constant peripheral offerings these are dynamic working sites that are being updated and added to virtually every minute of the day by all within the school’s community, be they the children, the teachers, the parents or community members.

The focus is very much on the work to be done, educational and administrative and using the site – and the associated digital services – to do that work as expeditiously, simply, effectively and productively as possible, and where apposite to have the technology simultaneously perform multiple roles and to automate the tasks at hand.

While rightly concerned to project a professional image these are 24/7 /365 worksites where sections might at any times appear as messy as the physical classroom. If that is so, so be it.

Look for example at the websites of The Gulf Harbour School (NZ) – http://www.gulfharbour.school.nz – or that of Broulee Public School at – http://www.brouleepublicschool.nsw.edu.au – and you’ll soon appreciate what is meant by ‘working’ websites. These sites, like those in the other schools that have normalised the use of the digital, employ a template service that makes it easy for all the teachers and students and indeed interested parents and community members to publish to the site. Long gone is the sole publisher controlling all uploads, but not a quality controller astutely ensuring unnecessary mess is removed.

They are moreover multi-purpose entities where the website provides seamless access to a plethora of online facilities and services, removing the divide between the school’s physical and online offerings. While reference has been made to the ‘website’ that is partly a misnomer because as apparent in both the above mentioned sites there are links to an ever evolving digital communications suite that includes such diverse services as an emailed school communiqué, an online survey facility, advice on new teaching programs or resources, the online advisement of student absence, Twitter, Facebook and the facility to instantly inform parents of a critical incident, like a death. Indeed as a colleague has suggested it might be opportune to find another term to describe the role played by the website in a digital school.

The sites are modular in nature with the schools using a mix of free and leased online services, able to quickly discard superseded ‘modules’ and replace them with a new more apposite ‘module’.

Critically both these sites are open for anyone to view. The parents, grandparents miles away, interested educators, education authorities or prospective parents all have open access to the day’s teaching, being able to readily view and if they wish comment upon the work. Yes the schools have had to do their homework and have permission to reveal the children and the work but that is just part of operating within a digital and networked world, collaborating with one’s community.

The closed doors are opened and the teachers and children can with pride reveal the work done.

Simultaneously, and without any extra effort by the teachers or students the school are using the website – through the medium of the likes of blogs and wikis – to enhance the teaching and learning, to daily enhance the school’s ecology, to collaborate with and inform the student’s homes, to account for the school’s work, to receive instant and continual feedback and vitally to automatically promote the school.

Of note is the number of parents globally who now make their choice of school after scrutinising the open working websites of the digital pathfinders; Net Generation parents who can explore the natural workings of the school without the PR spin and experience first hand the unique digital ecosystem the school has created. Going is the need for the specialist Web/PR unit.

They very much appreciate the school website provides an invaluable actual the insight into the school’s thinking, aspirations and daily workings that can not be replicated by even the best marketers.

The website affirms by virtue of its intimate ties with the school’s total operations, that the school and its teachers are working within a higher order tightly integrated digital ecology that is simultaneously addresses the many variables that enhance student learning.

Conclusion

This type of school ecology and culture, and the use of a website that will further its growth takes, as the many previous articles underscore, years of astute concerted effort to create.

That said if you want your school to create that unique, ever evolving, digitally based ever higher order ecosystem your school too will need to build into your planning from the outset the creation of the apposite website and complementary digital communications suite.

The Changing Role and Purpose of the School Website

Bibliography

  • Lee, M (2013b) ‘School Websites as Indicators of School’s Evolutionary Position’. Educational Technology Solutions No. 55 2013
  • Westerman, G, Bonnett, D and McAfee, A (2014) Leading Digital. Turning Technology into Business Transformation, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press

 

BYOT Savings

Mal Lee and Martin Levins

October 2014

BYOT can save schools and governments considerable monies and hassles forever on, while enhancing the quality and appropriateness of the schooling provided.

In brief BYOT, and the natural next step, digital normalisation forever removes the onus on the school funding, selecting, maintaining and replacing every student’s rapidly evolving suite of personal digital technologies.

It recognises the reality that the young of the developed world have long normalised the use of the digital in their everyday lives, have in their hands a suite of digital technologies they will continually attune to meet their ever evolving needs and wants, and as a consequence have a set of universal expectations and practises they and their parents will increasingly expect to see respected in the classroom.

With BYOT and digital normalisation the school funds simply those students who can’t afford to buy the requisite kit, the network infrastructure, bandwidth, the classroom digital presentation technology, the staff’s personal choice of digital toolkit, the website and linked digital communications suite and if required any specialist instructional technologies.

The students provide, use, maintain and update their choice of digital technologies.

Significantly BYOT will likely save many families, particularly those in non-government schools considerable monies. Their children will use in class the technologies they are already using 24/7/365, and the families will not be obliged to duplicate technology simply to appease the school.

We’d stress ‘can’ and underscore that we are talking BYOT of the form that we have defined (Lee and Levins, 2012. P11) where the school collaborates with the student’s homes and actively encourages and trusts the children to use astutely the suite of personal technologies the children are already using in the 80% of learning time outside the classroom.

Our research, particularly now we have schools that have moved beyond the BYOT phase and normalised the whole school of the digital and the student’s choice of kit, underscores the importance of the school readying itself to successfully take advantage of BYOT and having an eco-system, a culture where there is genuine collaboration with the students and their homes, and which trusts, respects, recognises and builds upon their teaching and resources.

To realise the full financial benefits of BYOT one needs a teaching environment where all the teachers, and not merely a percentage make apt use of the digital technology in their everyday teaching. The research reveals not surprisingly that if teachers don’t use the digital technology in their teaching and vitally in a way that encourages the children to use theirs the students will not necessarily bring their kit to those teacher’s classes.

The ‘activating’ of all teachers and students takes time and astute and concerted effort, requiring the simultaneous addressing of near fifty key variables.

One will thus only accrue the fuller financial savings only when there is normalised whole school use of the student’s own technology.

BYOD, where the school specifies which technology the children must acquire and use can save some money but invariably the approach carries with it a reluctance to trust, and invariably the mandatory use of procedures to control the student usage, such as expensive virtual desktop systems, the buying of specific software and the continuing purchase of proxy services.

Moreover as a ‘top down’ model imposed on the parents, that invariably duplicates the preferred technology already in the home BYOD is unlikely to be tolerated very long by increasingly digitally empowered parents watching nearby schools embracing BYOT.

In calculating the financial savings for your school look at the

  • Cost of the personal digital technology the school does not have to acquire,
  • Insurance on the technology not required
  • Cost of the software, software licenses and apps not needed
  • Reduction in the staff time spent on the help desk, equipment support and maintenance

Consider also the considerable staff time and effort spent on seeking budget cover, the selection of gear and software, the configuration of each child’s kit, troubleshooting, the provision of back up gear and the eventual upgrade the technology.

Give thought to the savings and efficiencies that come with digital normalisation and the movement from a paper operational base. For example, consider the approximate savings in:

  • postage
  • purchase of paper
  • photocopying, photocopy and print technology
  • staff time wasted on paper based 
administration/communication
  • the efficiencies and economies made possible with the digital and ever tightly organizational integration
  • staff time spent preparing and producing paper-based teaching materials
  • adopting a highly efficient inexpensive digital communications suite and opting for electronic communiques.

Many new to the BYOT concept make the claim that the school has to spend considerable money readying the school’s infrastructure.

The experiences of and research with the pathfinder schools doesn’t bear that out. Yes if a school succeeds in getting every child and teacher to use the suite of digital technologies naturally across the school it will need ample and increasing bandwidth, ever denser campus wide Wi-Fi and apposite support technology but any school wanting the all pervasive use of the digital technology will need that anyway.

Tellingly by every child having in their hands the technology they use 24/7/365 the school positions itself forever to

  • provide an ever higher order mode of learning and teaching, and continually enhance learning
  • better individualise each child’s learning, teaching and assessment
  • teach anywhere, anytime, 24/7/365
  • achieve ever greater efficiencies, economies and synergies in the teaching, assessment, communication and administration
  • accrue ever more savings
  • remove the burden on the school of providing the apposite current suite of digital technologies for each child.

Tellingly the genuine collaboration with the school’s community that accompanies the successful uptake of BYOT invariably brings with it considerable unintended additional ‘riches’. Many of those riches will be in the form of markedly increased social capital but in virtually all the schools studied the school received unanticipated material windfalls. One state school for example had an ex student give the school $30,000 in case there were students in need of support.

While rightly one can say the ‘savings’ came from the collaboration rather than BYOT per se but the point remains that when schools are prepared to genuinely collaborate with their communities, to pool resources, to trust, respect and recognise the parent’s contribution they position themselves to forever acquire significant additional resources.

BYOT reflects a historic shift in the financing of the student’s personal digital technologies and in removing that burden from schools people will in a few years ask why didn’t we make the obvious change earlier.

BYOT Savings