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School systems moving toward BYOT

Elementary and secondary school systems across the nation are rushing to implement BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) practices into classrooms. In Georgia, the Forsyth County School System is beginning its third year of the program and is considered to be on the leading edge of the initiative. The Lee County School system recently initiated its own program for the new school year. The Dougherty County School System is currently putting together its policy.

Elementary and secondary school systems across the nation are rushing to implement BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) practices into classrooms. In Georgia, the Forsyth County School System is beginning its third year of the program and is considered to be on the leading edge of the initiative. The Lee County School system recently initiated its own program for the new school year. The Dougherty County School System is currently putting together its policy.

ALBANY — As personal technology continues its day-to-day creep into our lives, the latest enhancement, or intrusion, is occurring daily in our nation’s elementary and secondary school classrooms. BYOT is here, and it’s not going away.

The acronym “BYOT” stands for Bring Your Own Technology, a practice also sometimes often referred to as BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. It is an initiative that is coming soon to a school near you.

The epicenter of the BYOT initiative in Georgia is located in the Forsyth County School System (FCS), which is entering the third year of its ground-breaking program. Currently all 36 schools in the district of 41,000 students are WiFi capable with guest access. Nearly 60 percent of the system’s classrooms, from elementary to high school schools, are implementing the practice.

Loosely defined, BYOT means any privately-owned device that the student brings to school to assist learning. Personal devices are privately owned wireless and/or portable electronic hand-held equipment, which includes existing and emerging mobile communication systems and smart technologies, portable Internet devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), hand-held entertainment systems or portable information technology systems that can be used for word processing, wireless Internet access, image capture/recording, sound recording and information transmitting/receiving/storing, etc.

“We began implementing the program in earnest around three years ago,” Forsyth County schools Chief Technology and Information Officer Bailey Mitchell said. “We actually began putting in the infrastructure in 2007. The problem was that we really didn’t have much to compare with what we were doing. After we went live we began collecting a lot of good data and started to help our students begin the transition from social networking to using their devices as learning tools. As it turned out we created more questions than we had answers for, and I would caution any school system that you can’t assume an automatic easy switch for students. That is major the risk you run.

“Now we feel we use BYOT very effectively at even the elementary level and we are implementing a transition to a digital platform. We feel our students need to have digital literacy in order to compete in today’s world.”

The trend is catching on nationally.

This school year, the Lee County School System has implemented a BYOT policy and Deerfield-Windsor School also is allowing the use of personal devices in the classroom. The Dougherty County School System and Sherwood Christian School are currently putting together their respective BYOT policies.

“At Deerfield-Windsor School, we view technology as a tool rather than an end in itself. We realize the huge distraction that unlimited technology can be to students, and as such see unfettered use of personal devices as detrimental rather than beneficial.” Headmaster Dave Davies said. ” Our technology decisions are program-driven rather than convenience-driven. As with many academic policies and practices at DWS, the classroom teacher has control of technology use in his/her domain. Several of our teachers have BYOT policies, others recommend Kindles or iPads as alternatives to hard-copy textbooks, and still others have done away with textbooks in favor of online resources.

“Students are permitted to bring iPads, laptop computers, and other devices to school if it is age-appropriate to do so and if having such a device makes sense academically.”

Lee County Curriculum Director Gail Melvin was a bit more blunt in her assessment.

“As far as we’re concerned, we really didn’t have a choice. This technology will only grow and it’s not going away,” Melvin said. “Our biggest problems right now are who has their own technology and who does not, and how do we integrate it into actual instruction. We are headed in the right direction, we just have to figure out what we can do with it.”

DCSS Director of Curriculum and Instruction Ufot Inyang, who is in the process of writing a BYOT policy for the system, is enthusiastic about the possibilities.

“I am a huge proponent of BYOT for obvious reasons,” Inyang said. ” In a technological world, and instructing children who have grown up all of their lives with technology, BYOT affords both teachers and students the opportunity to maximize learning by fully integrating relevant technology into the classroom. It engages the learner in ways that are familiar, meaningful and purposeful. As a forward looking system, we embrace the concept of BYOT in the context of a larger technology integration initiative.

“In order to provide structure to it and guide against abuses and misuse, I am putting finishing touches to the BYOT policy for our system. This will expand technology integration into the learning environment in a variety of ways. The policy will be presented to the Instructional and Accountability Committee of the board and will then go before the whole board for approval. We should see this in place within the next month.”

Sherwood Upper School Principal Brian Dougherty said SCA is moving in the same direction.

“We are currently making needed technology upgrades including interactive classrooms with smart board technology throughout campus, Dougherty said. “Through this project, we will be making sure the necessary infrastructure and safeguards are in place including appropriate policies/guidelines to eventually include personal tech devices. We allow students to bring personal tablets, e-readers, and laptops to do school work though it is not a necessary component in the instructional process.

“Students, however, are currently not given access to the school’s WiFi when they are using personal devices though some carry personal data plans. Our goal is to soon have a more technology-rich environment which will include the use of personal tech devices.”