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.
  • 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 –

    • 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. 

  • 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.

    • 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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