“We had the kids teach us BYOT, because we didn’t know what to do,” said Michelle Ostot, the school’s principal.

At the time, the school did not have wireless internet on the campus–a situation that was quickly rectified.

After developing responsible use agreements with staff, the school worked with students to teach them about digital citizenship–how to stay safe online, how to interact online, and what is and is not appropriate.

Data revealed barriers to the initiative’s success: educators felt unsupported due to lack of PD, teachers said they didn’t have enough time to use the tools for teaching, and they didn’t know which resources and apps to use to suit the different devices students brought in.

To address some of those barriers, the district implemented the iE3 Project, which is a collaborative apprenticeship model that pairs early adopters with beginning teachers who are still hesitant to adopt the technology.

The educators teams focus on mentoring and support, shared planning time, exchange of resources, opportunities for observation, and authentic PD.

“From the iE3 Project, we found student-centered learning starting to happen,” Ostot said. “The kids were using technology and digital resources across content areas.”

Based on school data, about 40 percent of school teachers were using devices in the classrooms in 2012, and in 2014, about 90 percent of teachers used mobile devices in their classrooms. Recently, the school logged about 900 devices in use on its campus.

Lessons learned from a large deployment

In 2008, the district participated in the state-wide initiative called Classrooms For the Future (CFF), which provided 114 classroom laptop carts in high schools. One cart was shared across four classrooms.

Before that, technology initiatives varied widely.

“The real infusion of technology as a classroom tool was school by school–if you had a principal who believed in it, you were fortunate. But if not…there was no centralized vision of technology being a classroom device,” said Fran Newberg, deputy chief of the Office of Educational Technology in the School District of Philadelphia.

The CFF initiative changed that, she said.

The School District of Philadelphia has 218 schools and 143,000 students, making it the eighth largest school district in the country.

The district realized a shared cart model hampered teachers’ efforts to integrate technology, because they didn’t have the carts in their classrooms each day.

“In hindsight, we thought we had shared vision,” Newberg said. Though administrators and state leaders were excited about the initiative, teachers were left out. “We needed the teachers from the ground up,” she said.

“It was not a great model for teachers who were excited and changing practice to have to plan to have the tool some days and not others,” she added.