Two district admins outline steps toward sustaining a BYOD program

BYOD-policyWith each new school year, districts across the country prepare to provide meaningful educational opportunities for all students. The Rocky River City School District in Ohio is no different.

However, Rocky River has been experiencing a three-year renovation of district facilities with goals to increase technology in daily classroom instruction and internet access by students through a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy.

The district’s improvement initiatives are the result of an effective and fluid strategic plan, stakeholder engagement on educational and co-curricular needs, and the approval of a $42.9 million bond issue. Each planning and action step was as important as the next.

Following the bond issue approval and after much planning, three years of construction projects began which provided many opportunities for district employees to learn and grow in the arena of construction knowledge. Heavy machinery operated outside the school windows while wings of the buildings were closed for complete remodeling.

As construction was ongoing, research into best practices and models for students to bring their own technology devices to school was well underway. District leaders facilitated research, planned for an environment that supported potentially thousands of devices working at once, and secured instructional applications for the new resources.

(Next page: Developing a BYOD policy)

The school district purchased technology equipment that can be used daily and/or checked out for extended periods of time by students. District leadership also knows and appreciates that students own, and often prefer to use, personal computers and devices for their educational experience.

The Rocky River Schools embraced this notion and developed a plan, including a policy, to welcome student technology into the schools as a complement to existing district resources. Thus the BYOD initiative commenced.

The BYOD policy planning started prior to the bond issue being approved because the demand for technology in schools was increasing while the district budget was not prepared to fully address student equipment needs. As the district moved forward investigating having students bring their own devices to school, policy questions arose.

The BYOD planning initiative unfolded in three parts.

First, stakeholders, including parents, students, faculty, and the Board of Education, gathered to discuss educational technology needs, and subsequently to assure interest and support for a BYOD initiative. The backbone of the district’s technology network had to be addressed; bandwidth, wifi, and secured internet access were needed. The final phase of planning was drafting and approving the actual Board of Education policy, which addressed the BYOD program.

The policy development phase included several necessary steps.

First, we needed to research best practices from schools across the country. We learned much from peer experiences. Next, consultations with legal counsel ensued to assure, as best as possible, clarity in expectations for bringing personal technology to school.

Access to the internet is not difficult in a wireless environment, but the district needed to assure parents that access would be school-appropriate while not limiting student research abilities. The final phase of this process was a three-step public reading of the proposed policy.

Key components of the BYOD policy include:

  • Kindergarten-8th grade students may possess wireless communication devices (WCDs) in school, on school property, during after-school activities (e.g. extra-curricular activities) and at school-related functions, provided that during school hours and on school vehicles the WCDs are powered completely off.
  • Students in grades 9-12 may elect to participate in the Rocky River High School BYOD program. In order to participate in this program, students in grades 9-12 and their parent(s) must read, sign and submit the Rocky River High School BYOD Agreement.
  • Students are prohibited from using WCDs to capture, record or transmit the words (i.e. audio) and/or images (i.e., pictures/video) of any student, staff member or other person in the school or while attending a school-related activity, without express prior notice and explicit consent for the capture, recording or transmission of such words or images.  The use of WCDs in locker rooms, classrooms, bathrooms and/or swimming pool is prohibited. Students are prohibited from using a WCD in any way that might reasonably create in the mind of another person an impression of being threatened, humiliated, harassed, embarrassed or intimidated (Bullying).
  • Students are personally and solely responsible for the care and security of their WCDs.

With thorough planning and research, the BYOD initiative was implemented this school year. The policy will change over time, as student technology resources and Internet access/opportunities continue to grow, and as they do the Rocky River City Schools will adjust existing policies and practices to suit student technology and research goals of the future.

Dr. Michael G. Shoaf is superintendent of the Rocky River City School District in Ohio. Dianna R. Foley, Ph.D., is the district’s executive director of communications and technology.