Enhancing learning and collaboration with BYOD

Lila Mularczyk is principal at Merrylands High School
Alice Leung is the head teacher science, and technology coordinator at Merrylands High School.

Background

The end of the Digital Education Revolution (DER) laptop program has presented high schools with the challenge of maintaining the momentum of integrating technology into teaching and learning. In this article, Lila Mularczyk and Alice Leung outline how the school community of Merrylands High School has embraced this challenge by implementing a highly successful Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program. Merrylands High School has been recognised at regional, state, national and international levels for innovations in leadership, values, quality teaching, social harmony, technology rich teaching and learning and community participation.

Developing the policy: the power of collaboration

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) at Merrylands High School is a student-driven, whole school community consulted initiative with an understanding of a post-DER (Digital Education Revolution) environment. Our school has always had a strong digital culture. Our electronic devices policy allowed students to use their personal devices such as smartphones and iPods under teacher instruction, before the introduction of the DER. Towards the end of the funded DER, we witnessed a significantly increasing number of students bringing their own laptops and tablets to school. As a school community, we formed a student advisory group for BYOD so that our students could benefit from using their own devices for learning.

Students played an active and inquiry-based role in deciding what types of devices would be appropriate to bring to school, what applications and software devices we should have, and how devices can be used to enhance and transform learning in all learning environments. This student advisory group worked closely with the school staff leadership team, parents and student leadership representatives on the informed decisions associated with BYOD.

The process of implementation

The student advisory group was formed in 2013 under the guidance of our science head teacher who was also the school’s technology coordinator. At the same time, student, staff and parent surveys were electronically distributed to determine the school community’s views on BYOD.

The school’s Parents and Citizens’ group was also consulted and articulated their full support. Based on the surveys, a student focus group was conducted. The data collected from literature reviews and support materials related to the department’s Student Bring Your Own Device Policy (BYOD),were used to inform our school’s BYOD trial in Term 4, 2013.

The teachers involved in the BYOD trial were from a range of key learning areas (KLAs) and were at different stages of integrating technology into their learning design. Weekly professional learning sessions were provided to the teachers in the BYOD trial, focusing on collaborative teaching and learning strategies using applications that were device neutral, such as Google Apps The substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition (SAMR) model of technology was used to drive learning design that used technology to redefine learning.

YouTube: The SAMR Model Explained by Ruben R. Puentedura

The trial was evaluated, and informed the full roll out of BYOD in Years 8 and 9 in 2014. A summary of the trial findings is available on the BYOD website, which has been developed to provide information for the school community.

Other information on the website includes:

Collaborative and cooperative learning

The BYOD program has enabled students to access a higher level of technology in the classroom. Just like DER, BYOD allows devices to be used in the classroom without students having to move to specialised technology spaces. This allows more flexibility in personalising and differentiating learning for students, enabling more opportunities for students to work at their own pace. It also has generated a fuller understanding by students and teachers of how technology can authentically enrich learning, resulting in student work of high quality.

BYOD has enabled more opportunities for collaborative learning activities including collaborative writing and brainstorming using online tools such as Google Drive, Padletand Stripgenerator to engage deeply with learning.

Year 8 science: video of soil experiment: video made on students’ own laptop instead of traditional written science report

Year 8 French comics: language classes created comics on own devices on Stripgenerator to practise writing in French

Connecting and learning

BYOD has also enabled our students to connect with other learners outside the school, state and nation and record these experiences for reflection later on.

Our students have also provided professional learning to teachers and education leaders at a state, national and international level, and our student leaders have represented this approach. to representatives of educational bodies from a variety of different countries.

Our students regularly use Edmodoto communicate with their teachers and with each other. They also use Edmodoon their own devices to communicate with students from other schools and experts from outside the school. One example of this is our Artist in Residenceprogram, where our students use Edmodoto collaborate with students from two other high schools and three professional artists about developing artworks.

Learning globally

We are also currently in the process of finalising a collaborative project with students from India, as part of the Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asiacross-curricular syllabus focus. In this exciting project, a Year 7 integrated curriculum class (all core subjects) will communicate regularly with a school in India to share information on a range of topics. This enables our students to gain insights into how students in other countries are learning.

Another benefit of BYOD is the increased capacity for feedback, which is one of the more significant influences on student achievement. Using Google Apps and Edmodo on their devices, students can easily review work and teachers are much more able to track student progress and provide timely and meaningful feedback.

Everyday issues

Overall, the BYOD program runs smoothly. Some students still prefer to use DER laptops as they are provided by the school and already have all the required software that both students and teachers are familiar with. Other students prefer their own devices as they have administration control over their own device and they can customise their device to suit their own needs. For example, they can choose a tablet rather than a laptop so it’s easier to carry or install Chrome to make working with Google Apps easier.

Our school technology team, consisting of students, teachers and the executive regularly review all aspects of technology implementation across the school, including BYOD. We regularly gather feedback from students, teachers and parents on the implementation of BYOD so they can inform the school’s future direction and meet the needs of all stakeholders. Our student technology leadership team provide some support for student devices. We also employ a technical support officer and access Technical and Further Education (TAFE) students who are seeking work experience. Generally, students who bring their own devices have a good knowledge of how their device works and if they experience difficulties they ask peers who have similar devices for help.

Each learning space has a wireless router designed to handle approximately 30 devices and so far, the wireless network is coping well.

Conclusion

BYOD has worked alongside the school’s current technology infrastructure to provide 21st century learning technology to our students. In our BYOD evaluations, students have indicated they have better access to technology in the classroom, a greater range of learning activities involving technology, and more useful and meaningful peer and teacher feedback.

References and further reading

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) 2014, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, accessed 20 January 2018.

Hattie, J. 2013, ‘Feedback in schools by John Hattie’, Visible Learning, accessed 20 January 2018.

Merrylands High School 2014, Merrylands High School: bring your own device, accessed 20 January 2018.

NSW, Department of Education and Communities (NSWDEC) 2013, Student Bring Your Own Device Policy (BYOD), accessed 20 January 2018.

Puentedura, R. 2014, The SAMR model explained by Ruben R. Puentedura, accessed 20 January 2018.

Stavert, B. 2013, ‘Bring your own device (BYOD) in schools: 2013 literature review’, accessed 20 January 2018.

Wittmann, J. 2013, ‘Laptop leaders offer a lesson in technology’, The Sun Parramatta Holroyd, accessed 20 January 2018.

Keywords: technology; collaborative project

How to cite this article: Mularczyk, L. & Leung, A. 2014, ‘Enhancing learning and collaboration with BYOD’, Scan 33(1)

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