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Bring Your Own Device in Fairfax, VA

Jan-Marie Fernandez, Principal of Mantua Elementary School in Fairfax County, VA, has established policies that nurture and endorse the use of technology in her school. Jan-Marie is also a CEI Advisory Board member. She responded to several questions in the February 2014 Wow! ED newsletter

Mantua Elementary is a preK-6 school in a well established neighborhood, serving a diverse population. Mantua provides ESOL and special education services, operates an Italian Immersion program, includes a Total Communication Program for students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, has an Advanced Academic Program for students in 3rd-6th grades, and incorporates brain-based programs (including Dr. Bruce Wexler’s Activate program) into instruction. On a routine basis, most of the students at Mantua score at or above expected cut-points on standardized tests.  In 2013-2014, the students per computer ratio was 2:1.

Here are a few more points that Jan-Marie discussed in our interview with her.

CEI: You have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. How is that working? 

Jan-Marie: It is working very well.  When a student brings a device to school for the first time, he/she registers it with our Technology Specialist.  This ensures that the device is protected by the same firewalls that are in place for all technology in the school.  Students also sign and understand the acceptable use policy for all technologies used at school. This program allows students to use the device they are very comfortable with for many or all academic assignments.

Schools always have difficulty having enough technology available to support students, so the BYOD program helps schools have more resources available when they are needed to work on curriculum projects.  On any given day a student might be using his/her device to write, read, conduct research on the internet, access class Blackboard site to complete an assignment, or utilize  online textbooks.

CEI: CEI was an early advocate for BYOD. It has always made sense to us — technology surrounds us, and children like the rest of us, when they have access to good technologies probably prefer using their own devices. From our perspective it has always been more a matter of “technology use” policies, effective guidance about technology do’s and don’ts in the classrooms, and sufficient access to devices at school so that all children have access.

Next question. As a busy principal, how do you stay up-to-date regarding technologies?

Jan-Marie: I do my best to stay up-to-date with teaching and learning strategies, which certainly includes some information on new technologies.  Then, I surround myself with staff members who are very knowledgeable in regards to the newest technologies as well as providing time for teachers to collaborate on best practices in the use of technology for improving teaching and learning.

The technology itself is always just a tool, which may or may not make a difference in supporting students’ learning. It is the teacher’s use of the tool that makes the difference. Our school system has extensive professional development offerings in this area, and teachers make it a point to attend them and implement what they have learned in their classrooms.

CEI:  Jan-Marie, your answer makes sense.  Teacher collaboration and leadership is critical, and the support at the district level is also essential.

Thank you! We look forward to following the continuing innovations and progress at your school over the next few years.

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