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How BYOD helped a school district and its 14,000 students improve learning
Starting in 2004, high school students in the district, which is in northern Kentucky not far from Cincinnati, Ohio, were given the choice of bringing their own laptops to school to do their schoolwork, but few students did so due to concerns about theft and the cost of the machines.
Over the next few years, school district officials discussed how laptops and related technologies could affect the students and their families, particularly how some students bringing in the devices could potentially create an unwanted divide between those who would have access to laptops and those who wouldn't, said Vicki Fields, the district's CIO.
So to promote the use of laptops in the classrooms, some teachers created small groups in their classes, particularly in high school, to encourage students who did bring their laptops in to work on projects in teams with other students who didn't have their own devices, said Fields.
A funny thing happened soon after. "Those other kids went home and said they wanted to have and use laptops, too," she said.
Then in October 2010, a large corporate sponsor, Duke Energy, donated brand new Apple iPads to 28 students in a suburban fourth-grade class in the district as part of a well-meaning experiment to see if using the devices would significantly raise students' science scores.
"It went wonderfully," said Fields. "By the time we saw their scores in the spring, we saw a 15 to 20 percent increase in science scores compared to another classroom in that school."
Six weeks after putting those first iPads into students' hands, school officials realized that more children could be helped by bringing in more such devices, she said.
"We were visiting the class on a daily basis. We were talking to the children. At the end of two weeks the children were sitting down and teaching us how to use our iPads. What I saw in that two weeks was the fastest bell curve, as far as skill levels, that I'd ever seen."
In the spring of 2011, the district began getting iPads for teachers and administrators so they could directly experience what the devices could do for their students, said Fields. Then the teachers and administrators were brought into the initial fourth-grade classroom to see how the iPads were making their mark with the children in that first class.
The difference in the work of the students was palpable, she said. "We realized that we needed to bring every school up to the same level."
It would have been fabulous to buy new iPads for all of the district's 14,000 students but it wasn't feasible financially, said Fields. "We thought we wanted to put one into every child's hand but then we looked at the price and decided we couldn't do it for all of them."
So instead, the district took a different tack. The decision was made to upgrade the wireless capabilities starting at the high school so that more students could begin to bring in their own wireless devices and connect to the district's network so they could do their school work.
That's when the district realized that a BYOD approach could encourage more students to bring in their own devices, which could then spread the use of such technologies to others.
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