Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Future is Here: Take Advantage of It

At New Milford High School we have begun to leverage technology that many students possess.  This has led to a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative, where students are encouraged to bring in their mobile learning devices, which include cell phones or personal computing devices (laptops, tablets, iPod Touches, eReaders, etc). Students that bring their own computing devices have the ability to connect to our secure wireless network.  Check out the recent story CBS New York did on our initiative below.

We highly value equity in terms of access to technology.  In the case of mobile learning devices (cell phones), if a student does not have a device my teachers have been instructed to pair or group them when using polling sites like Poll Everywhere or conducting research.   Students that bring their own computing device primarily use them in the cafeteria during their 48 minute lunch to conduct research, work on homework/projects, or for organization.  It is at the teachers' discretion whether or not to allow a student to use their personal computing device in class.  Many times students that have brought their own devices will us them in lieu of school-provided options (laptop carts, computer labs).

The mobile learning revolution is upon us.  Isn't it time schools and some educators stop making excuses not to move forward and leverage the technology that our students already possess? How mobile learning devices are adopted in each school will vary as there is no one-size-fits-all approach due to the uniqueness of communities.  If you have pondered or are against BYOT at least engage your students, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders in a conversation to elicit their thoughts.  If you do I am willing to wager that you will take advantage of mobile learning devices as well.


  1. Eric- so fantastic that this is occurring at NMHS. Hopefully it opens doors for the rest of us. Policy, regs and AUPs get in the way of bringing these options to our schools. What is the key to getting district admin to open their eyes to these possibilities? While I am unsure, I do know your work has have an influence. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Eric...question for you. If a student has a laptop of their own, they are in high school, and they tell you that THIS is the best thing that I use for my own learning (for example, I could barely read my own notes in high school nor was I comfortable organizing my work; digital changed that), why would we not allow them to bring that into the classroom? If it is up to the teacher, does that not totally discount what the child says about their own learning? I can see if there is abuse of the privilege then a conversation obviously needs to be had, but I am not sure we would be too happy if we went to a conference and we were told that we were not allowed to bring a device into the room.

    I am curious your response as I totally believe that we need to allow our teachers professional judgment, but I also believe that we need to provide student some responsibility and accountability over their own learning as well. Post-secondary is the next step for many of these students and I would be surprised to see a university that has students paying for their education saying that they could not use the tool that they wish to learn with.


  3. Eric...Thanks for sharing. Poll everywhere is a great free program as long as your class size is less than 30 students, and it really helps the teacher have statistical data as to if the students really "get it."

    I notice that many of your students have a MacBooks. Is this something that the school provides to some students that do not have a laptop, or do many of the students at your school just happen to bring a macbook to school as part of BYOT?

  4. George: At this stage in the initiative, which is very early, we are extremely cognizant of equity in terms of student-owned devices in the classroom. In a situation you described above with the hand writing we encourage our students to advocate for themselves in terms of using their devices in class. My teachers are fantastic, so most of the time they will allow it. I want this to work and most importantly for my teachers to embrace BYOT, but as a leader I feel that I must grant them a certain level of autonomy. As they become more comfortable with this shift I think this will change in a way you described above.

    Jim: The Mac Books are property of the District (we have one mobile cart). Additionally, we also have 4 computer labs. Some students will bring their own Mac Books as part of our BYOT.

  5. Eric,

    Bravo! Charge on! I wish you much success as you scale BYOT to all teachers, students, and stakeholders.

    Nick Hobar

  6. Eric
    Thanks for sharing this post. We are embarking on the same initiative at my school and have essentially taken the same approach as you guys. George's question is a good and one I struggle with still - however I also believe that given where we are at - it is important to give teacher autonomy. I would also add that there are good pedagogical reasons to give teachers this autonomy. I think as teachers we need to be mindful of when "screen time" is appropriate and when it becomes a potential distraction. I am always reminded of the "brain based learning" expert who stated that the human brain - when required to engage in deep concentration, can only focus on one thing at a time.

  7. Do you have this written up in a policy? If so I would love to see it. Thanks!