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Supporting students’ transition to a BYOD high school.

The transition to high school can be a wobbly one for some young people.

While there they're a range of high school transition resources and orientation programs around, no two schools manage this process in the same way and even from year-to-year -- sometimes with new year advisors starting with the new cohort, the process can change (or the handover not flow smoothly).

Some students might be going to a high school where they don’t know anyone, they might be travelling further and more independently from their primary school or some might float along with a majority of their classmates to a building across the oval.

Transition to high school is much more than getting used to changing classes and having 8 teachers’ names to remember. It’s a time when social groups are disrupted, and many students need to rebuild peer groups and dynamics.  There is a spike in bullying issues during this time which couples with the other changes to make the experience a difficult and daunting one.

One of the most important additional complexities that young people (and their parents) encounter is the shift into the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) use of technology – the expectation that families will provide a device for learning with specifications outlined by the school, and that students will carry this with them as a modern-day replacement for textbooks (but not note books and paper entirely – kids will still need to write at times!).

While many schools don’t start their BYOD program until later grades, many kick off in Year 7 and many are not effectively combined with teaching the social-emotional and digital wellbeing skills that come with the responsibility of having your own (relatively expensive) learning device. One-off lessons or lectures aren't enough to realistically and meaningfully build these either, the process is most effective when the young people have authentic (ie: real life and relevant) opportunities to practice these.

BYOD is a significant change from most primary schools which have access to banks of tablets or laptops that are shared around classes and used more intentionally (even if only because of logistics) and with more direct supervision.  Perhaps too in younger years kids are less likely to break-rules and have more fear/respect(?) for authority.  By year 7 many young people have their own smartphones and this too regularly comes full access granted almost overnight.

Transition to high school is sometimes also the point at when problematic technology use kicks in. The confluence of a new school, peer group and access to technology might mean a young person dives head first into the digital pond with few swimming lessons.

I’m heartened to hear that increasingly often primary schools are using the final weeks of year 6 to create mock high school environments and give young people more exposure to their new school settings.

What high schools can do to support transition:

  • Build close partnerships with feeder primary schools and understand what preparation programs they provide – weave orientation into these.
  • Create a consistent program that is run (reviewed and improved) annually that supports the emotional, social and academic needs of children as they move into high school.
  • Address technology use and BYOD policy compliance more meaningfully with explicit teaching programs to help build self-regulation skills BEFORE the BYOD device is purchased and used
  • Write BYOD and tech-use policies that are more than a list of ‘Do not’s and misdemeanours, enlist the collaboration of students on creating a catalogue of skills that young people need to develop to 'obey' the rules and scaffold lessons in developing these. You can try the resources at DQ Institute.
  • Talk to me about programs and lesson to teach the healthy digital habits, digital citizenship and social-emotional skills that will help young people be effective digital learners.

What parents can do to support transition to high school:

  • Access these resources from the NSW Department of Education about the transition to high school.
  • Talk regularly in the lead up to starting year 7 about the change, your expectations, their worries or concerns about the transition.
  • Set up the transition as a new adventure and opportunity (rather than something scary and onerous).  Even though they might not feel ‘ready’ for year 7 in the last term of year 6, that 5-6 week holiday break over summer can be a time of growth and maturity and they're quite different once day 1 rolls around.
  • Set up or review any technology use guidelines you have at home.  The summer break is a long one and kids will naturally nag parents for additional screentime and relaxed limits on gaming, watching YouTube and other online activities and this can make it difficult to get back into routine when the school year starts.

// What programs does your school have in place?  What suggestions do you have on supporting young people as they enter the BYOD environment?  Comment below.

About Jocelyn Brewer

Jocelyn is a Sydney-based psychologist and the creator of Digital Nutrition. She is an accredited teacher and has been studying cyberpsychology for a decade.

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