Rogue IT in Education and the BYOD, DIY model.

Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann) of The Sci­ence Lead­er­ship Acad­emy and founder of EduCon, said of technology:

“Tech­nol­ogy must be like Oxy­gen: ubiq­ui­tous, nec­es­sary, and invisible.”

I couldn’t agree more with this state­ment, but, as a Direc­tor of Tech­nol­ogy, I also need to worry not only about the man­age­ment of the tech­nol­ogy itself, but also the expec­ta­tions that come with it.

A recent arti­cle from CIO mag­a­zine titled “Embrace Rogue IT” talks about the var­i­ous issues fac­ing cor­po­rate IT, includ­ing: shrink­ing bud­gets, cloud com­put­ing, cheaper more pow­er­ful mobile devices, and of course, the iPad.  Addi­tion­ally, the arti­cle reports that peo­ple are bypass­ing tra­di­tional IT chan­nels and imple­ment­ing their own “solu­tions.”  Put more sim­ply, they are bring­ing a do it your­self (DIY) model to IT.

The arti­cle goes on to dis­cuss how IT work­ers can put them­selves in a bet­ter place by say­ing “Yes” more often, yet still find­ing a way to exert a mod­icum of control.

Fur­ther, the arti­cle sug­gests that the fol­low­ing actions can con­tribute to bet­ter mod­ern work envi­ron­ments: (1) estab­lish­ing com­mit­tees where employ­ees have a voice, (2) cre­at­ing tech­nol­ogy liaisons to help depart­ment intact with IT, and (3) empow­er­ing users so that they can help them­selves.  Hav­ing peo­ple under­stand the risk(s) and value(s) allows every­one to have a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the IT deci­sions that are made.

“It all comes down to explain­ing the con­se­quences of each deci­sion and hav­ing them choose, [because] telling them what to do just leads to the opposite.”

It’s this last quote that caught my atten­tion.  If there is any sure way to get some­one to do some­thing, just tell them they can’t – stu­dents and teacher alike.

So what are the key take­aways for edu­ca­tion?  For schools?

At the Lap­top Insti­tute, an annual con­fer­ence held at the Lau­sanne Col­le­giate School in Mem­phis each sum­mer, the topic of a bring your own device (BYOD) model of  1:1 imple­men­ta­tions was a very hot topic in 2011.  In this model, a stu­dent brings a 1:1 device that meets a min­i­mum tech­ni­cal cri­te­rion that will allow him/her to pro­duce arti­facts, con­sume media, and col­lab­o­rate with his/her peers.

The idea of imple­ment­ing such a 1:1 pro­gram has me ask­ing a num­ber of ques­tions about instruc­tion, pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment, train­ing, and sup­port.  How do you get every­one work­ing together, get every­one shar­ing, when every­one is doing some­thing dif­fer­ent?  It turns out, the same issues that face cor­po­rate IT depart­ments face IT depart­ments in schools.

In my school’s 1:1 pro­gram, we have issued every stu­dent (Gr. 4–12) and fac­ulty mem­ber a stan­dard pack­age.  Every­one received a Mac­Book Pro, suite of soft­ware tools (Office, iLife, iWork, Adobe Cre­ative Suite, Ever­note, etc.), and a 500GB exter­nal drive for use as a Time Machine backup.  We spent a great deal of time pro­vid­ing pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment and plan­ning for dis­tri­b­u­tion and use.  We engaged stu­dents in the process and devel­oped a “Driver’s Man­ual” and “Driver’s Test” as a teach­ing tool for the care and feed­ing of laptops.

But what if some­one wanted to bring some­thing else in to use in con­junc­tion with his/her school issued device?  A dig­i­tal cam­era? A video cam­era? An iPod Touch? An iPhone? An Android? As the devices we carry in our pocket become more and more pow­er­ful, the line between that and what we have on our desk and on our lap will blur.

School poli­cies may put up road­blocks to this change ini­tially, but for how long can we turn a blind eye to the ways in which we live our own lives?  How often have we walked through the halls of school, jogged across the fields, or watched an assem­bly and taken our pre­ferred device out of our pock­ets and started to “work”?

Andrew Shelffo (@shelffan) wrote a great piece on just this issue.  In “It’s Not You, It’s Me” he gives this example:

I flashed back to our com­mence­ment a few days ear­lier. We web­cast the cer­e­mony, as we’ve done for the past few years, and this year, I decided to tweet the occa­sion as well.  As I was tweet­ing from my posi­tion near the cam­era, and in full view of the rest of the fac­ulty who were sweat­ing in their black robes under the warm June sun, it occurred to me that it prob­a­bly looked as though I was act­ing rudely and tex­ting dur­ing the cer­e­mony, when in fact I was doing my job.  And then it hit me: not only are the mixed mes­sages we send our stu­dents about the use of tech­nol­ogy a poten­tial bar­rier to technology’s fullest and best adop­tion on cam­pus, but the atti­tudes we have about how other peo­ple use (or mis­use) tech­nol­ogy is a bar­rier as well.

What is it we are mod­el­ing?  Why is a tool we find so use­ful, not some­thing we empower our stu­dents to use as well?

I’d like to say I have the answer to this prob­lem.  I wish the words that fol­low would give you the ammu­ni­tion you need to have con­ver­sa­tions at your school that allow your insti­tu­tion to embrace rouge IT.  At my school, we are in the process of try­ing to answer these ques­tions as well.  How do we give up con­trol yet still meet our goals for teach­ing, learn­ing and sup­port?  How do we keep peo­ple mov­ing in the same direc­tion when we are all choos­ing dif­fer­ent paths to get there?

What I can offer is what we try to do when we are pre­sented with any prob­lem: we look at what the end goal is and work back from there.  If we want stu­dents to com­mu­ni­cate, does it mat­ter what tool they use to get the mes­sage out?  If we want stu­dents to col­lab­o­rate should it mat­ter if they are doing it on Face­book from their lap­top, Smart­phone or tablet?  If we can just as eas­ily shoot, edit and pub­lish a movie on an iPhone or iPad, should it mat­ter what we use?

If tech­nol­ogy is to be like oxy­gen – ubiq­ui­tous, nec­es­sary, and invis­i­ble – the next log­i­cal thing to think about is breath­ing.  We must breathe it in, allow­ing it to come at us from all direc­tions.  I invite you to share your thoughts, strug­gles or solu­tions and to help me and oth­ers shape our conversations



About William Stites

Currently the Director of Technology for Montclair Kimberley Academy, "Blogger in Chief" for, husband and father to two crazy kids who make me smile everyday.
This entry was posted in 1to1, EdTech, Schools, Teaching & Learning, Technical and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Alex Inman

    We are test­ing var­i­ous solu­tions, includ­ing to offer enter­prise resources to stu­dents regard­less of the device.  I work at Sid­well Friends School, in Wash­ing­ton DC, and we have had a more tra­di­tional lap­top 1:1 pro­gram in the mid­dle school for years.  We are con­sid­er­ing a BYOD pro­gram for the upper school given how ubiq­ui­tous devices are.  Those devices offer tremen­dous oppor­tu­nity.  Now we are look­ing into how to pro­vide com­mon tools, print­ing, stor­age, etc and con­sid­er­ing cloud resource aggre­ga­tors to help with this.  Great post!

  • Gary S. Stager, Ph.D.

    For what it’s worth —

    • William Stites

      All appre­ci­ate your insights! That’s a great piece (“BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Cen­tury?) and your points on inequity, price/planning and teacher anx­i­ety are spot on.  I am not sold on a BYOD (BYOT) pro­gram or a com­plete DIY model. Each school needs to look at what makes sense for them and given the fact that fund­ing is what it is for many school they need to make the best choice possible. 

  • Hiram Cuevas

    Just fin­ished read­ing your post and you are on to some­thing that I am
    expe­ri­enc­ing first­hand.  Our Open model in the US is in many instances
    much eas­ier to man­age from an IT per­spec­tive. Our stan­dard­ized approach
    in the MS is off to a great start, but we still have to touch every
    machine on deploy­ment and break fix has been a chal­lenge. If I can get
    all of our apps onto the web then I think we can move BYOD to the MS but
    there are some key apps that we use that are not web based yet.

  • Der­rel Fincher

    I worked with the mid­dle school prin­ci­pal and teach­ers to imple­ment a 1:1 BYOD model at my last school–we went from con­cept to grade-level pilot in 11 school weeks and then roll­out to two grades a semes­ter later. A cru­cial fac­tor was that we required net­book or bet­ter. Due to inter­nal issues, we were not able to pro­vide the PD we felt was nec­es­sary, which stressed many of the teach­ers. How­ever, while the issues we had could fill a book, hardly any of the issues had to to do with the tech­nol­ogy or par­ents or stu­dents. The teach­ers who under­stood inte­gra­tion and how their classes fit into life were com­fort­able with stu­dents with many dif­fer­ent devices and oper­at­ing sys­tem lan­guages. Oth­ers were not so comfortable.

    But one thing became quite clear–BYOD allowed teach­ers who were ready to make full use of the power in their class­rooms, even with­out the PD we felt was nec­es­sary. Other teach­ers who were not as ready did not use them as much as we did not require min­i­mum use. But every teacher used them more than if they had to book mobile or fixed labs. And every teacher made progress.

    So, in order to meet ISTE essen­tial con­di­tions and build a guid­ing coali­tion, should we have gone through a school-wide study, taken two years to plan and test and pro­vide PD, and pos­si­bly be derailed by other issues, or should we just have done it so that stu­dents and teach­ers could have power in their hands now? The answer was obvi­ous for a whole num­ber of reasons–we just did it.

    Schools tend to con­fuse 1:1 pro­grams with 21st cen­tury learn­ing, so they want to cre­ate 21st cen­tury teach­ers who will use the tech­nol­ogy effec­tively when it arrives. The fact is, teach­ers need the pres­ence of the tech­nol­ogy to improve or oth­er­wise they are only doing mind games. Get the tech­nol­ogy and help the teach­ers with PD while the tech­nol­ogy is there.

    • William Stites

      Der­rel — I think the point about PD is one that can’t be under­stated and that can hap­pen in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ways depend­ing on the school and it’s cul­ture. My only con­cern in the sce­nario you describe (which seems to have worked very well) is that with some teach­ers using the 1:1 device and oth­ers not is there a uneven learn­ing expe­ri­ence?  You always have teach­ers that do things dif­fer­ent… “I want teacher X because…” but is this prob­lem big­ger in a 1:1 of any kind or is it the same problem?  

      Many of the issues faced in a 1:1 are uni­ver­sal and not tied directly to a 1:1: dis­trac­tion, bul­ly­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, etc.

      • Der­rel Fincher

        While we were unable to sched­ule the amount and type of PD (such as con­ver­sa­tions focused on class­room man­age­ment) that we felt was nec­es­sary and that other schools found to be suc­cess­ful, teach­ers did work together to sup­port each other. The teach­ers also devel­oped a “have a go” project where a teacher more expe­ri­enced with tech­nol­ogy worked with a teacher less expe­ri­enced to help that teacher try “some­thing.”  Those results were quite suc­cess­ful and pro­vided impe­tus for teach­ers to do more. 

        As for uneve­ness of stu­dent expe­ri­ence, that always hap­pens and it did not seem any big­ger with the BYOD. Since all teach­ers allowed stu­dents to use the devices at some point, lack of use was not an issue for parents. 

        Were all lessons model 21st cen­tury lessons? That wasn’t the case either, even for the most inte­gra­tive teach­ers. Teach­ers start where they are. They don’t mag­i­cally start at some higher plane because stu­dents now have tech­nol­ogy. That may seem obvi­ous, but I real­ized that some schools tend to con­found 1:1 and mov­ing to a more student-centered, col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing expe­ri­ence. They want all expe­ri­ences in a 1:1 class­room to be model lessons, so they devote two years to dis­cussing and plan­ning. And what hap­pens? The kids finally walk in with their shiny new devices and Mr. X, who always lec­tured, still lec­tures to the class. In the mean­time, teach­ers who could have suc­cess­fully inte­grated the tech­nol­ogy and stu­dents who would have ben­e­fited from those expe­ri­ences miss out for two years. And those capa­ble teach­ers have not had access that would have allowed them to improve their prac­tice and demon­strate value to other teach­ers who were less sure of how to use them.  

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