By Keith Loeber, Director of Academic Content, Microsoft Corporation (originally published on the Microsoft in Education blog)
If you haven’t heard of it, BYOD (bring your own device), is the organizational practice of allowing—even inviting—networked users to use their own devices for work and school.
In the early days, BYOD was regarded mainly as a technical, security and managerial quagmire, but positive results in worker satisfaction and productivity have changed minds. Not only businesses but nonprofits and public-sector organizations have embraced it as an opportunity to save costs in hardware upkeep and, in the case of schools, to lend efficiency and support 21st century learning methods.
Meet LaSalle College High School, BYOD-in-Education Believer
Located just outside of Philadelphia, in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, La Salle College High School, a flagship Microsoft IT Academy, runs a rigorous technology program; including student tech-lab and web manager programs, a media center, and a computer club. This year, the all-boys’ prep school has decidedly taken on BYOD by equipping its freshman class of 300 with Microsoft Surface RT devices running Windows 8 to call their own.
Results have exceeded administrators’ expectations. Following an October 2013 interview with Microsoft IT Academy, La Salle Principal Michael O’Toole, technology teacher Kurt Schollin and others have provided the following accounts of the Surface program.
Microsoft Surface Devices Produce a Visible, Quietly Persistent Change in College Prep Instruction at La Salle
Instruction has already become more efficient: student assessment, whether via brief quizzes or more extended writing assignments, are more easily administered and evaluated. Students readily use their tablet devices to access La Salle portal resources, both in and out of class. This all adds up to even greater time for personal interaction with course materials and greater mastery of required course materials.
Students take readily to the use of the Surface as a personal research resource. Trips to the bookshelf, the library and even the computer labs are less frequent, resulting in more teacher-student interactive time.
Principal Michael A. O’Toole at La Salle explains: "Instruction has already become more efficient," and adds, "Students are assembling via their Surface tablets a robust personal portfolio of their learning, a digital portfolio that gains added power from the depth and variety of personal materials, from assigned digital texts to student research to student writing."
With the Microsoft Surface RT device and a wireless network, students and teachers at La Salle are no longer limited by the boundaries of the classroom walls or school hours. For LaSalle, the Microsoft Surface become an integral part of the freshmen experience, and transformed the way teachers deliver information and the way students organize their daily lives. On any given day, as you walk through the school, you will see students working with their Microsoft Surface device to complete assignments, study for tests, and collaborate with classmates.
"The Surface has… transformed the way that teachers deliver information and students organize their daily lives.” – Kurt Schollin
The La Salle College High School Portal serves as a central hub through which all teachers disseminate course materials and manage their classes. With the Surface, students log in to the Portal on a daily basis to access resources, submit assignments to Dropbox, participate in online discussion boards, take quizzes, and more.
Office 2013 is one of the main focuses of the Information Literacy course here at La Salle, and students use the Surface to complete assignments from the IT Academy curriculum to better understand Office and become competent, at minimum, with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Activities are posted on the portal, and students pull them down onto their Surface to be completed in class or at home. Students also have access to the IT Academy E-Learning modules, which provide self-paced, interactive lessons related to Microsoft Office.
"The Surface has become an integral part of the freshmen experience, and has transformed the way that teachers deliver information and students organize their daily lives," explains Kurt Schollin, Technology and Learning Specialist and Surface program supervisor.
At the start of the school year, students were introduced to Microsoft OneNote and the many ways that it could support their school work. It now serves as a digital binder for many students, where they have the ability to organize their classes, take notes, annotate on top of teacher PowerPoints (with the file printout option), and even import pictures taken with the Surface during class activities and/or experiments.
"In addition to Microsoft Office 2013, collaborative projects have pushed students to Office.com, which allows students to work together on documents, spreadsheets and presentations in real time. All of this is then synced to the cloud using OneDrive, which allows students to access their work from anywhere and at any time, whether it be on campus, at home, or on the go," explains Kurt Schollin, technology and learning specialist and program supervisor.
Teachers Note Several Pleasant Surprises to Classroom Routines, including Less Wasted Class Time
No need to write out the homework on a whiteboard, because it’s already posted on a calendar on our internal online portal. No need to take time to distribute photocopies, if a resource can be uploaded to our portal or a link to it can be posted.
Communication between students and their teachers has increased significantly. The communication is mostly driven through our internal portal. Emails are still used, but discussion boards, chats and blogs are increasingly popular. Assignments are exchanged digitally too.
Communication and collaboration among students are enhanced as well. Students rave about working collaboratively on PowerPoint projects in Microsoft Office 365. According to Nicholas Coggins, Director of Curriculum and Assessment at La Salle, "Communication between students and their teachers has increased significantly."
Nicholas Coggins, Director of Curriculum and Assessment shares specifics of engagement and productivity:
Our Advanced Placement Human Geography class requires students to be able to identify icons from world religions. In a short amount of time in class, the students were able to search for images online, choose one, post it and blog about it on the portal. The students left class that day with 35 different icons and their peers’ reflections on them.
In a Spanish 1 class, students record their oral responses to real-life interviews, are able to replay their audio files for self-critique, and submit them for assessment.
In a social studies class, the students learned about formulas economists used to predict population growth in the 19th century. In groups, they researched online current data on population growth and compared that data to the outdated formulas. That exercise led to many thought-provoking questions and valuable connections.
OneNote is really becoming popular for organization… [Students are] sharing the pages with one another when a peer is absent and even sharing their pages with their teachers.
What’s Next for La Salle
According to CIO Peter Sigmund, La Salle is planning to extend the successful Surface program next year by issuing Windows 8 devices to incoming freshmen and increasing staff professional development.
Additionally, the school will augment its Microsoft IT Academy networking certification classes by using cloud-based, hosted virtual servers using Windows Azure, allowing students to work with real-time virtual machines on their Surface tablets.
"This experiential learning has always been a hallmark of our IT Academy classes," Sigmund says. "The [Microsoft Surface] tablets will allow us to teach them more efficiently in a non-lab setting."
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