One Small District’s Journey to BYOD

Written by Karen M. Diggs, MIS, CETL
Director of Technology

Almost five years ago, a small rural school corporation located just west of Indianapolis, Indiana, started on a journey that would change the way they delivered education. The district, rated one of the top ten (10) in Indiana in testing, knew they had to do something to change the way they educated students. Following the CoSN (Consortium for School Networking) Framework of Essential Skills, the Director Technology challenged all stakeholders with a Given the Opportunity initiative. It was simple ~ To teachers - Given the opportunity, how would you change the way you teach? To students - Given the opportunity, how would you change the way you learn? To Leaders- Given the opportunity, how would you change the way you lead?

Because of the economic landscape of the community, the school district could not afford to pay for the devices needed to do a 1:1 initiative. Everyone knew, however, that the students needed to be prepared for the world they would face on the same level playing field as the bigger schools with more funding to provide these devices. The option quickly became evident to everyone. A BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) was the only way to accomplish a 1:1 initiative goal. While surveying, meeting, and talking with all stakeholders (teachers, parents, students, administrators), the journey began.

Before bringing the devices in, however, an e-learning environment needed to be built. As a district we knew that if we were bringing in devices, we needed someplace to bring them to. Training began with helping teachers learn how to build that environment of learning using an LMS (Learning Management System). The teachers were the experts in the room when it came to curriculum. What they needed help with was how to build their curriculum into an online e-learning environment. To accomplish this, teachers gave up summer hours to attend trainings provided by the District under an Every Wednesday Opportunity initiative. In addition, to ease the teachers fears of not knowing what devices students would bring, each teacher was given a device and sent home for the summer to play with the device and dream of how they could use it to change and enhance student learning. 

Three years ago, the Director of Technology challenged device vendors to change the way they do business by selling directly to parents during a Technology Vendor Fair that was set up during Student Registration/Enrollment days that take place every year right before school starts. It has been a win/win for both the parents and the vendors. Oh…the students are actually the biggest winners as you can imagine.

As the e-learning environment was being built, administrators were trained and given the opportunity to experience what teachers would need to do to build the environment and what students would need to do to learn in the environment. This helped them better understand the challenges that the teachers and students would face in accomplishing the District mission and vision in delivering a real, relevant and rigorous education.

Fast forward to 2016. Grades 6-12 are almost at the end of their second full year of a BYOD. The e-learning environment was successfully built and the devices the student’s chose to bring quickly were seen as a tool to learn and nothing more. Grade 5 will be joining the BYOD initiative this next school year. Every year another grade will be added until all grades have an e-learning environment to bring devices.

From this journey many more stories have emerged in the path we have chosen to help our students learn. From our computer science course at the high school to first and second graders doing coding, the education landscape in our small rural community is changing. But that’s a story for another day…

Karen M. Diggs is the Director of Technology for the North West Hendricks School Corporation. She can be reached at diggsk@hendricks.k12.in.us.

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