George Spencer Academy is a mixed secondary school in Nottingham, England, with 1350 students aged 11-18. Although it is located in a large town, it has only a small proportion of students who are eligible for free school meals.
The school decided to go down the BYOD road in order to be able to explore the potential of personal devices without incurring costs of purchase, training or technical support. The idea also fits very well with the school’s vision, which is concerned with giving a personalised learning experience to all students.
To facilitate BYOD, the school made an open wireless network available for free, with filtered, high-speed internet access from any capable device.
The main benefits have been the relatively low cost of implementation, and the varied usage of the devices in different subject areas. For example, in science students often use their smartphone as a camera, in geography it is used for geocaching, and in languages it comes into its own for audio recording.
Another benefit has been that technology has been integrated into lessons and started teachers thinking creatively about its potential uses. Students like the scheme because they appreciate being trusted and given personal responsibility – although not surprisingly the school has ensured that its Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) has been updated to accommodate these recent developments. But the AUP has not been simply a top-down imposition: the students have developed it and it has gained parental approval. As Paul Hynes, Vice Principal, says, students tend to come up with tougher sanctions than the teachers!
So what has been the biggest challenge so far? Paul Hynes says it’s finding good learning uses of devices that are 'better' than traditional methods.
It’s too early to say how successful the scheme has been in terms of hard evidence, but a lesson that has been learnt already is that it’s useful to ask the students themselves how they use their devices, and to try out different ideas and solutions.
Fuller details on the school can be found at: http://www.george-spencer.notts.sch.uk