A few adjectives come to mind when a teacher thinks about their school making any drastic changes: exciting, challenging, thrilling, demanding, daunting, thought provoking, etc. These were several of the words running through the minds of my colleagues and myself when our small Catholic school decided to take a big leap of faith last year. For sixty years, our school has maintained an esteemed reputation where teaching faith and values always comes first. With that being said, we were never known for our utilization of technology. This all changed last year, when our administrators implemented a Bring Your Own Device policy (B.Y.O.D) for our middle school students. This rather radical change was greeted with a variety of emotions from teachers and parents alike. Many parents were opposed to this change; with concerns over the price of individual devices along with the worry that these devices would be a distraction from curriculum along with education in the Catholic faith. Our administrators were also faced with apprehension from our teachers, mainly but not solely of the elder generation. Needless to say, our administrators powered through, and we are now in our second year of successfully utilizing our B.Y.O.D policy with our middle school students.
When presented with the idea of B.Y.O.D, I was overjoyed and a bit overwhelmed as I thought of the world of opportunities this would open up for my 6th graders. Obviously there were many factors that needed to be put into place in order to successfully implement B.Y.O.D; one of these key factors was a Dual Citizenship contract between our students and the school. This contract, presented to students and parents in an assembly, outlined acceptable use policies for our students in a detailed manner. After discussing the contract with their parents and signing and returning their contracts to our administrators; our students were ready to begin working on their devices.
While this Dual Citizenship contract gave me a sense of comfort, I still felt that it was important for me to have these conversations with my students in my own classroom. Then it hit me, what a wonderful teaching opportunity; to implement the core values while exploring our newly found technological freedom. It started off slowly at first, as I explained to my students the importance of the trusting relationship we needed to have, along with the responsibilities that came with independently being able to work on their own device. I often utilize center activities during my ninety-minute block; and one of these centers almost always includes students independently working on their individual blog on Kidblog. Typically, during centers I am working with my own small group, making monitoring each student device a real challenge. This is where our trusting relationship comes into play, along with the values of respect, responsibility and integrity.
These are not one time conversations, but rather reminders I give on a daily basis to encourage my students to be Digital Citizens. We discuss the importance of having integrity while using our devices as well as being grateful that we have the opportunity to have them at all. It doesn’t matter if you are in a faith-based school, or if you have a B.Y.O.D policy; teaching the qualities of being a good citizen, digital or non, is always an important lesson. In an age of technology, where we have the world at our fingertips, we now have more resources, more reasons and even more of a responsibility to teach our students the art of being a good citizen.
Photo Credit: BYOD by AJ Leon; CC BY license via flickr