Thursday, March 1, 2012

Moving Schools Forward With BYOD

The following is a guest blog post by Dr. Greg Farley.  Greg is the Director of Technology at Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District and an Adjunct Professor and course developer at the Graduate Schools of Education at Monmouth University and Drew University.  Greg also conducts workshops at K-12 schools and universities and mentors doctoral students and administrators in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Check out his blog Embrace, Adapt, Enhance.

I visited Eric’s High School on February 24th to observe Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and his implementation of a contemporary learning environment.  I was impressed.  I was most impressed at Eric’s reflection that he was once part of the problem, banning devices from his school rather then embracing the use of the technology.  That has changed and Eric trusts his students to interact responsibly with media and communication tools.  These expectations are being met by staff and students. 

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I visited New Milford High School with Media Specialist Zach Gross (from Matawan Regional High School) and was immediately brought to a math classroom hearing the teacher say “OK everyone, bring out your phones.”  Students brought out a variety of devices including Blackberries, iPhones, and Smartphones to answer multiple choice questions.   These multiple choice questions were accessed through the website to assess student understanding via an instant audience feedback system.  The activity progressed seamlessly and the students were engaged. 

We then went to the cafeteria where students were allowed to use devices during their lunch period and to our surprise, most students were eating, chatting (face-to-face), and just hanging out.  The stereotype of the teenager texting impulsively, ignoring the physical presence of people around them, was shattered.  Some students were using laptops and devices for class assignments or to text, but most were sitting at tables together, talking.

Students described their use of devices for educational activities and took personal responsibility for using the devices appropriately.  I attribute this to Eric’s leadership and the team’s foresight, for embracing the learning environment and adapting their understanding of the tools used by the millennial generation.  This structure allows the staff and administration to enhance learning activities and school climate through trust and responsibility, rather than banning new technologies for fear of what the students could do with them.

After my visit to New Milford I met with the Superintendent of Randolph Township Schools Dr. David Browne (a friend and former colleague), and his Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Fano to discuss their implementation of technology to create a rigorous and relevant learning environment.  Both of these educational leaders follow Eric’s blog and tweets.   They described “meeting” a 1st grade class via Facetime using an iPad and Apple TV.  The administrative team promotes creative uses of VLOGS, numerous apps and many other technologies to improve learning.  Innovation is a common practice in Randolph Township Schools and is led by the district administration. 

It is evident that creating a contemporary learning environment begins with educational leaders embracing new opportunities for using technology rather than relying on what has worked in the past.  Technology needs to facilitate student collaboration, problem solving, and communication to enhance learning, rather then a “smoke and mirrors” approach like providing electronic worksheets. Administrators in 2012 must understand how to implement new technologies, not just “infuse” technology the easy way.  Equipped with a critical eye for evaluation, administrators, as evidenced at NMHS and RTS, can improve the delivery and impact of instruction.    

The administrators in New Milford and Randolph Township get it, and understand that to be successful, they must be life-long learners.  


  1. Good post Eric. BYOD provides many challenges to schools and education systems. However the focus must be on students and learning. I would add creativity to your list "Technology needs to facilitate"

    1. I agree--creativity is important and likely the most difficult for teachers to facilitate--The 3rd C in the trifecta of Competence, Confidence and Creativity!

  2. Hi Greg. Could you give details on what challenges BYOD brings to schools? And how you know this (heard of it from a friend, because you were responsible for a BYOD environment in 1 or more schools etc)?

  3. Raoul--The challenges I am dealing with now in my district (Matawan-Aberdeen Regional) are changing policies and regulations to allow student to use their devices. Also, staff needs to be trained on managing their classrooms as students use devices--teachers must accept the fact that this is how we are moving forward. We are fortunate to have teachers in the High School that understand the benefits of BYOD and will be creative in their implementation of the initiative. In conclusion, our infrastructure has to be able to handle 1,100 students possibly using devices. This could impact our bandwidth, and could require additional funding. Our Systems Manager said this could be an additional charge per student--per license--per year if we provide access to network folders and district resources.

  4. Hello there, I am planning to attend a Post secondary Audio Institute in British Columbia Canada and one of the admission requirements is to pass a general knowledge exam. I was wondering what subject areas or matter can I expect would appear in the exam?

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