Why did Les Quennevais School, in Jersey, pilot a Bring Your Own Device programme, what challenges have emerged, and how do students use their devices?
LQS describes itself as “early digital”, ie 60% -70% of its teachers are using the digital in their everyday teaching. The school’s ethos is to encourage teachers to experiment and try out anything that supports learning – not only in terms of technology but also in terms of approach, such as incorporating group work into lessons.
There were three reasons that the school decided on a BYOD approach.
First, that there is a limited amount of money available for ICT investment.
Second, students with their own technology have the tools they need available on demand.
Third, it means that students are able to work in their own preferred environment, eg browser, favourites and preferred programmes.
The BYOD approach has been fully implemented as a pilot scheme. The school is keen to encourage students to bring their own devices in in order to test the technical side of things (see below), and around 10% have registered their device on the school’s system.
There are three challenges facing the school as it seeks to implement its BYOD programme, and which indeed led to its consideration of BYOD in the first place.
First, the Jersey-wide contract for schools’ wired networks restricts the number of devices which can connect to the system.
Second, the obvious alternative, that of using a wireless infrastructure, is not an entirely practical option. This is because all internet connections have to pass through the Local Authority’s filtering system, and that permits only school-owned and managed devices to be used. Students cannot connect any personally-owned device to the school network.
Third, parents are not convinced of BYOD, at least as far as phones are concerned, because they tend to see them used at home for social networking, games and text messaging. In other words, they see phones, though not so much laptops, tablets or even iPods, as a source of distraction rather than a tool for learning.
Moreover, some parents don't believe their kids should be sitting in front of a screen in school. So the challenge is: how to help parents understand their value in learning. LQS has recently completed a consultation with parents on allowing their sons and daughters to bring in their mobile phones, but this aspect of the programme has now been shelved for the time being.
The pilot was set up partially to test the technical limits of what can be achieved, given the current limitations as described earlier. Although most students have chosen so far not to bring their devices to school, the results so far look promising, with students choosing their own uses for their device, which may be an iPad, netbook, iPod or notebook.
The most common use is research, but devices are used differently by different students, depending on why they're using it. For example, one student takes pictures of the teacher's whiteboard, then loading it onto Evernote for access at home.Some students scan articles for later reading. The school’s approach is to allow them to find own ways of using devices, and then share ideas amongst them.
For a flavour of how students use their devices, here’s what the Head Boy (in Year 11, ie 16 years of age) has to say:
“I mostly use my mobile device in lessons for the internet, to research or look up different things. In science I use it to look up what certain words mean or formulas to work out Velocity etc. I also use it in English to define words I don't know when I'm annotating a book.
In French, I use an app called AppBox Pro, which I use to translate English sentences into French and vice versa. This app also has different utilities such as converting different units like weight and lengths etc. I also use another app which helps with vocabulary based on the AQA exam board; which we are doing. It helps a lot when doing coursework or you are stuck on some work.
In Drama and in DiDA, I use the camera that is available on the device, to record videos for Drama and also take pictures. In DiDA, photos are necessary because they are given as evidence so I use my device to take them and then also connect to the computer.
In Maths and also Science, I use the calculator to work out equations and difficult sums if I don't have a calculator on me.
Another example of when I use my device in day-to-day learning, is using the Reminders app and Notes app. I set reminders to help me to remember homework or to organise me in school. It helps a lot because a sound goes off and instantly reminds me to do things which I would normally forget if I just wrote it down in my planner. I use the Notes app to write down specific details which I can take home and use.
Photos, videos from YouTube and other things which I can access on my device are very useful and can be a great tool for learning.”
Apart from the challenges already mentioned, Headteacher John Thorp has identified another:
“If mobile phones can be included, it is then about how you extend that in a more systematic way.”
But he also makes an interesting point about the pilot study itself:
“If you introduced a set of laptops for a class, it’s easier to evaluate as a class endeavour. With BYOD, you need a sufficient number to be able to draw any real conclusions.”
The pilot at LQS has only recently finished, so it is too early to say how significant has been BYOD’s impact.
“At this stage”, suggests Thorp, “we’re really looking for anecdotal evidence.”
But things are looking promising so far. As the saying goes, Watch this space!
For further information about the school, please visit the LQS website.