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BYOD Case Study: Sheffield High School

Sheffield High School is a private girls’ all-through school, ie ages 4-18, in the urban setting of Sheffield, England. It has around 1000 pupils.

Girl with phoneThe school makes for an interesting case study in that it has not yet actually implemented a BYOD programme. The groundwork has been laid, with the school working with its parent organisation, the Girls Day School Trust, to ensure that its networking infrastructure is robust enough to support the intended developments.

As for the devices themselves, Ian Guest, ICT Development Manager, says:

“We are now considering the 'soft' aspects of the project, exploring the issues this will have for users (both staff and students), how we might address concerns (of staff, students & parents) and how we might best provide support. We are also developing a roll-out plan, most likely with phased access to the services.”

Although the scheme is very much in its infancy, it is interesting to look at the thinking behind it.

Ian again:

“As an independent school, we're fortunate that the level of access to digital devices owned by students is high. This is an amazing potential resource bank, but one we're not currently making the most of.”

The potential benefits identified are that students will be using technology with which they are already familiar and, crucially, the potential for taking advantage of unplanned, serendipitous learning opportunities.

As is usually the case, none of this has happened in a vacuum. The school already has a strong technology basis, describing itself as “Early networked”, ie the staff has normalised the use of the digital in their everyday teaching and are beginning to use the networks to operate outside the school walls and the normal school hours and starting to ‘teach’ more collaboratively with the students and their homes – educationally and/or administratively – and the wider networked community. All teaching staff have a school-provided and managed laptop.

Also, critically, many people have been or will be involved in the discussions about BYOT that have taken place.

This all reflects the school’s overall vision, which is about fostering the development of creative, independent individuals.

There are, of course, challenges in implementing a BYOD programme:

  • Developing a shared (staff/students/leadership team) understanding of the potential benefits which could be realised.
  • Addressing staff reticence/resistance together with developing their appreciation of the potential benefits of a BYOT scheme.
  • Developing learning opportunities which are as inclusive as possible i.e. don't exclude certain types of device.
  • Assuaging parental concerns.
  • Striving for equity of access.

Although this appears to be a daunting list, there is much cause for optimism. Many teachers are keen to bring in their own devices themselves, and the parents of daughters already using their own devices for Special Educational Needs, but unable to connect to the internet at home, are in favour of such a scheme.

As the saying goes, watch this space!

Fuller details on the school can be found at: Sheffield High School

Stop Press!

Soon after I’d written the above, Ian emailed me to say:

“You might like to know we’re up and running with our first twenty or so students … as they bring in their AUP signed by both them & parents, we enable their access. Also wishing we’d called it a Responsible Use Policy like some have, but there you go. Our philosophy always was if we wait until conditions are perfect, we’ll never get started.”

I think that is a great point. Heraclitus said that you can’t jump into the same river twice. Actually, you can’t even jump into it once: because by the time you’ve thought about it and, literally, decided to take the plunge, it’s moved on!

Ian very kindly shared the school’s AUP/RUP with me, and I really like it. It’s full of positive, “I-centred” statements, which lay down the ground rules, pulls no punches (for example it includes a sentence stating that people online may tell lies about themselves). But the sentence I like best of all is the one that says that if anything worries a pupil she can discuss it with her teachers without fear of being blamed.

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