Thursday, May 7, 2015

Why Our BYOD Club Didn't Work And It's OK

Earlier this school year, I was eager to be in the process of preparing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Club for our upper elementary. I was reading article after article and processing what to do during it. What I failed to consider were the steps to set it all up beforehand. I was extremely focused on the school acquiring Wifi, since it still doesn't have that, and simply moving on from there. (Sadly enough, our elementary office has more hot spots than the 3 buildings of our private K-12 school has routers combined.)

For some reason, in the meetings I held with administrators at the school, the solutions never came for how the school operates on ethernet providing kilobytes per second, the internet itself turned off in every classroom, and our school of 700+ students and 80+ teachers having one IT guy (who doesn't know Apple products while Google would be useless too since it's blocked by the Great Firewall.)

A couple of the previous issues were mentioned by the elementary principal to me, but we never took time to work out how these and other problems were going to be handled. This was all late last winter toward the end of the first semester. The break in between semesters, Chinese New Year, was when I took serious time to reflect on a culture where digital learning prospers by Eric Sheninger. It was at this time that there wasn't any communication from the admin to me about what was being worked out or what was going to happen when the next semester came. Therefore, I decided not to follow through with the idea before chaos or any constant, unconsidered situations would arise.

Upon our first workday of this spring semester back, I went to the elementary principal and informed her of my decision. She was surprised, and her surprise surprised me. To me, it was obvious how this club was not near the possibility of succeeding. How could it? It moved all too fast for it to do more good than harm. I rushed it.
One of the many lessons I have learned is this: Have a team of professionals dedicated to working out solutions (along with plans B & C) take the necessary time to prepare an action plan, follow it through, and reach a point where outcomes and positive collaboration can happen between students, teachers, administration, and the school's stakeholders.

Through it all, I felt the worst for the result I gave my students. They had been a part of this, so much so that they helped me make a video asking earnestly for wifi and resources other than books on their desks. I really wanted this to happen, obviously since I had rushed it. I went to each of the students I originally had planned to be part of the club, apologized, and reminded them how we can still work together via Minecraft and other media. Thankfully, every single one of them understood, while a couple asked questions about why. I explained the technicalities of it and how it couldn't work for now and not even for some time here. For the students and me though, moving forward isn't going to stop.

It's OK. I've been doing what I can this year with my 5th graders outside of the box. I now look forward to where I will move on to next, and I'm preparing for that adventure.


  1. Wow!! That sounds like it must have been very frustrating to not have WiFi and have students excited to be connected through their devices.

    Is there a plan to update the network for next year?

    1. It was quite the dilemma, but things worked out that year and the following one since steps were taken to improve. This fall, I'll be at a new school where the network will be much better, but that's not the end of it. I need to maintain good communication with our IT to keep things running and planning smoothly. Any tips or suggestions?