DAILY INSIGHT: Pulling the trigger on the next generation of choice

By JD Ferries-Rowe, CIO Advisor

After a successful pilot for almost a year on top of three years of planning and preparation, Brebeuf Jesuit announced two weeks ago that next year we would be a 1:1 BYOT school. Whew.


Brebeuf Jesuit is thrilled to announce that beginning with 2012-2013 school year, Brebeuf will be expanding its technology offerings by becoming a 1:1 BYOT school. Families who have had multiple students attend Brebeuf Jesuit over the years will recognize that this is the next step in our technology integration. From the implementation of Edline in 2004 to the creation of the wireless network and student laptop carts in 2007, to this year’s BYOT pilot, Brebeuf Jesuit has been empowering students and leading technology innovation.

What does this mean?
A 1:1 learning environment means every student has a personal device to use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Each Brebeuf student will be expected to carry a personal device of their choosing. This device needs to be capable of the following:

  • Accessing the web (wireless provided by Brebeuf_IT) for research and other activities.
  • Creating:Word Processing, Spreadsheet design and computation, Presentation tools, Basic film and photo editing, Communicating and Collaborating bia Google AMDG or Edline

For more information about BYOT, please see Brebeuf’s BYOT page.

After two weeks of reaction and response, it has been interesting to take a few minutes to reflect on this decision, the reactions, and the next steps in our IT world. Often, the big moments get muted by the white noise of everyday life (“What do you mean my iPhone doesn’t have SIRI?”) that it is important to take the metaphorical step back.


The number one question that reporters have been asking us...well the number two behind “Seriously? so, not iPads?”...is how long we have been preparing for this. The @40ishoracle put together this rough timeline:

2004-05: Edline/GradeQuick purchased [LMS and Electronic Gradebook...to the cloud]

2007-08: Faculty 1:1 mobile program in place. Student Carts purchased.

February 2007: Jen LaMaster [the @40ishoracle] hired with interview questions surrounding educational technology in a 1:1 learning environment [not joking – she had to ask what 1:1 was].

2008-09: Blogs, educational gaming, online simulations and other interactive tools beyond Edline grow in popularity and use.

October-November 2010: Departmental brainstorming sessions on “what do you need to work your classroom magic?” 24/7 & PRT student access, more stability, device for all students

Student roundtables and survey on f"what do you need to be a successful student at Brebeuf?" 24/7 access to files, email, personal devices, more bandwidth

December 2010: Report on “Bring your own technology” to Department Chairs

Summer 2011: New wireless_N network with faculty and student access created, new firewall purchased, cloud printing to library enabled, partner with Google Apps for Education, increased bandwidth to the building

September 2011: Voluntary BYOT program begins

December 2011: 900 devices hit the network in one PRT

January 2012: MBS announces 40% of books will be available in electronic format for 2012-13

January 2012: Grant money for professional development approved

February 2012: Board of Trustees approves budget supporting BYOT financial aid

Reaction from Parents

I think it would be unfair to call it a mixed bag. An overwhelming number of parents have reacted positively to the move, particularly in the context of a conversation. We have been very used to the light bulb going on about three sentences into the talk:

“So, students can bring in whatever they like?”

“Yes, the key is that it should be able to access information, be used to create basic documents, and be used to communicate?”

LIGHT BULB 1: “So, my child’s INSERT_DEVICE_HERE will work?” (Smile)
LIGHT BULB 2: “So, you aren’t forcing them to use INSERT_DEVICE_HERE?”
LIGHT BULB 3: “Well, that is pretty much how college/my work/the real world is”

We have had some concern about the additional cost to families. The school is providing technology grants to more than 25% of its student body in order to help offset the cost of tools for those on financial need, but there is a real additional expense that the program entails.

The number one question from parents has been “will there be discounts offered through the school?” It is not surprising how hesitant major vendors are to give generic discounts when there is no guaranteed quantity or uniform model.

Other questions have come up from parents about teacher training, battery life, loss/theft of devices, etc. Many of these seem to have the underlying “have you really thought about all of the aspects to this?” and it is a pleasant feeling that most of the time we can say “yes, we thought of that.”

Reaction from Teachers

More of a mixed bag here, but still very positive. Teachers have been toying with the BYOT environment for more than 6 months and really like the impact on the classroom. By far, my favorite anecdote was the teacher who let us know that he would be rewriting his final since students using electronic devices and keyword searching could blaze through the traditional open-book final exam (no more paging through the book to find that one perfect quote/post-it).

Most of the concerns that have been raised have been one of expectations and measurements. Some of this is a symptom of the world we live in now, teacher evaluation and assessments by paranoia makes everyone look for the ethereal “box of behavior” to be checked.

  • “What exactly are we supposed to do?” → Focus on teaching. The kids will take care of tech
  • “When do we get trained on all of these tools?” → Come play around. Kids know how to use their own devices.
  • “How will they INSERT ACTIVITY THAT CAN BE DONE IN THE BYOT ENVIRONMENT?” → Set the expectation and watch them go to work. Call us if you need backup.
  • “What if I want to INSERT ACTIVITY THAT CANNOT BE DONE BYOT?” → Sign out a lab. They will still be there (although in reduced numbers).

As more teachers attend our technology petting zoos, sit down for some one-on-one time with our edtechs, and mark out their lessons for BYOT vs. still-need-a-lab, many of these concerns begin to go away.

Reaction from Students


Students are ready for this. More than any other group, they are looking forward to technology being the norm. There has been some discussion about what can and cannot be done with various types of devices and the decision making process among those planning on new toys is intense.

Reaction from IT crew


Honestly, we built the system ready to handle the crowds, so this step is nowhere near as stressful as building the wireless and infrastructure last summer. If anything, the tweaking and playing with devices is more fun. You should have seen the day a student came in with her brand-new Transformer Prime -- queen for a day.


  • As with all good educational programming in IT, make the educational objective the core and build from there. Take the time to plan, play, and do it right.
  • BYOT is empowering. It empowers the students to choose the device with which they are most comfortable; it empowers the teachers to return to the subject matter and skills they know; it empowers families to make decisions that are best for their unique situation.
  • Discussion about what devices and apps and programs can and cannot do, teamwork as the best devices and best skills are matched and leveraged, and reflection on tools is natural and makes for a more vibrant classroom
  • The negativity, demoralizing as it can be at a particular moment, is a whisper compared to the positive reaction.

Feel free to comment, share your own experiences, or ask your own questions. We will keep you posted here and at Ed Tech Reflections.

JD Ferries-Rowe is chief information officer of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis.

See this and other blogs by JD at Confessions of a Jesuit School CIO