Last August, the Thomaston-Upson County School System began a new program called “Bring Your Own Technology” (BYOT), in which students were encouraged to bring their wi-fi capable cell phones, tablets, and laptops to school for use in their classes. Dr. Larry Derico, Assistant Superintendent and Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the school system, said last week that administrators feel the first year of the new program was a success.
“We think the first year went very well,” said Derico. “This was our pilot year, so we basically wanted to make sure that everyone had all the information they needed for successful implementation. Being a pilot program, it wasn’t a mandate; we weren’t requiring everyone to do it. We basically opened it up to any teachers who were willing to take this on – who felt comfortable with the concept. We assured the teachers that we would assist them by providing the guidelines and the resources necessary to execute the program effectively.”
The school system did not go into the program lightly. A committee of system personnel visited other school systems which were already using the program and discovered what was working and what was not. The system also held informational meetings for parents in order to answer their questions and concerns. Dr. Derico said two of the parental concerns turned out to be non-issues.
“When we had the Bring Your Own Technology informational forums for the parents at the beginning of this past school year, some of the concerns were the students getting on inappropriate sites and not having enough devices for students,” he said. “But we didn’t have any issues or problems during the first year. It all worked out very well.”
Dr. Derico said the system’s goal for this year is to have even more teachers using BYOT to enhance their classroom curriculum.
“It is still not going to be a mandated program this second year. Our goals during year two of BYOT,” Derico said, “are to have teachers who are enthusiastically utilizing BYOT help other teachers realize the advantages of exposing students to mobile technology as a classroom tool for learning. Teachers are not required to use BYOT the entire year; they can start using it anytime during the school year and continue with the integration of mobile technology into our learning activities.”
The Assistant Superintendent added that he hopes students will also encourage teachers to implement BYOT in their classrooms.
“We’re dealing with a different generation of students. Technology, to them, is engaging, empowering, and entertaining. It is a major component to their lives. This is their world and sometimes we have to adjust to reach the kids in their world. So we’re hoping students will encourage their teachers to use BYOT. It gives us, as educators, the opportunity to utilize the students’ personal technology devices to create valid classroom learning experiences that will reflect these students’ daily lives and prepare them for a technology-rich college and career environment.
“Our purpose during this first year of BYOT was to bring something exciting and innovative to the system, offer insight on how the Bring Your Own Technology program should operate, and provide teachers with the resources they needed to be successful,” Dr. Derico concluded. “And I think that is what we did.”
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.