Posts Tagged communication
Almost two years ago, I wrote an article for eSchool News entitled, “The Advantages of the BYOT Classroom.” At the time, I was the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County Schools in Georgia, and the advantages that I listed were the qualities that I had observed in classrooms that effectively utilized Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) to transform teaching and learning opportunities with students’ personal technology tools.
Now, I’m collaborating with several schools and districts around the country that are beginning to implement Personalized Learning to better connect students with engaging academic content; to facilitate the development of digital age skills; and to utilize technology to provide access to anytime, anywhere learning. These benefits occur as districts, schools, and teachers recognize that students have unique strengths, needs, and interests that must be considered within the design of instruction. The methods for addressing student individuality may differ, but they include the same hallmarks of the BYOT classroom. In the illustration above, I refer to these as building blocks, as they collectively construct a firm foundation for personalized learning.
Over the next several weeks, I will focus on the concepts included within the illustration of building blocks to highlight why they are essential, foundational components for personalizing learning. I will also include strategies for encouraging the development of each building block within your own personalized learning implementation plan.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills identified 4 critical areas of learning for students that include creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. In Forsyth County Schools, we’ve been working hard with parents, teachers and students to embrace learning with student-owned technologies; something we call Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). What we know for sure is that BYOT is really more like Bring Your Own Learning because we’ve discovered that it is NOT about the technology – it IS about the learning.
The video, Above and Beyond, by Peter H. Reynolds and produced for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, is a wonderful illustration of what is possible when students are given the freedom to personalize the learning experience for themselves.
As you watch the video, you might consider the following questions:
- What happens when designers of learning recognize that students are always volunteers in learning?
- How can designers of learning create a “kit” and still allow students the freedom to produce individualized results?
- In a world where we feel pressured to cover everything within a given time frame, how do we schedule innovation and deeper learning?
- How do we honor each child’s strengths and still nurture collaboration?
- How would the meaning of the story change if Maya and Charlie were to lose the race?
We have spent a great deal of time watching BYOT unfold its wings in the classrooms around our district. And we’ve seen so many great strategies that support the 4 C’s of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. These strategies are ageless and cross all content areas. We teach them in our professional learning sessions and coach teachers to consider these as they begin to incorporate BYOT themselves:
- Backchanneling while watching a video: In this way the teacher is able to foster collaboration and communication by having students answer questions and post observations as the video proceeds.
- Take a picture or create an image which demonstrates understanding of a concept: This is a powerful way to encourage creativity as well as critical thinking. A variation on this strategy is having students annotate on the image using an app on their device.
- Arrive at consensus and submit one answer per pair: It’s not necessary for every student to have a device. In fact it’s preferable that students are forced to collaborate on their thinking and agree on the answer that will be submitted via a student response system like Socrative. This strategy enhances critical thinking as well as collaboration.
- Sharing tools for learning: There is a magical thing that occurs when BYOT is first introduced in a class. If a teacher encourages students to share their devices with each other while talking about the ways in which the apps and device can be used to support learning, the great ideas flow and student excitement about learning blossoms. And meanwhile students are thinking critically, collaborating, communicating and getting creative.
- Demonstrating how to do something: We’ve seen some fantastic examples of critical thinking where students are using screen sharing apps to demonstrate how to solve math problems. We’ve even seen some examples where students have to incorporate a mistake into the problem and show why that mistake is incorrect and how to fix it – requiring some creativity to communicate as well.
- Turning a standard into a driving question: When teachers gain some comfort with implementing BYOT and have begun to give up some of the control in the classroom, this strategy works very well. The teacher will share a particular standard with students and together they will write a question that is compelling, asks “so what” and results in a product that useful and beneficial beyond the classroom. This strategy definitely addresses all of the 4 C’s in the process!
- Finding a new way to show what you know: Another great strategy to use once students have become comfortable in the BYOT classroom is to ask them to demonstrate their learning in an innovative way. Students cannot repeat any of the previously used strategies as a way to represent learning. Students are forced to think critically about ways that they can demonstrate their mastery and to do so creatively.
- Building a community bank of ways to show what you know: The teacher has to utilize the ingenuity and critical thinking of the students in the classroom for instructional and technical support. By suggesting ways to learn with their technology tools, students begin to own their learning. Teachers can posts these ideas throughout the classroom or online in a wiki, so students can use them as creative resources and communicate with each other for additional expertise.
Implementing the above strategies can strengthen the learning community of the classroom. The real transformation begins to occur as teachers realize that they can and should learn alongside their students to explore new ways to utilize personal technology. Not only do students strengthen their digital age skills, but they also feel more connected to each other, their teachers, and their learning. As shown in Above and Beyond, our students will one day truly take flight, and hopefully their experiences today will successfully pilot them in their different directions.
This is Day 4 of a series of posts this week to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom. These ideas are my suggestions for developing a learning community during the first five days of school. Hopefully, this sense of community will lead to an effective BYOT implementation for the rest of the year as students learn and practice the digital age skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Please modify these activities to better suit the needs, interests, and abilities of your students.
Scenario: Throughout this week students have been empowered to utilize their own technology tools for a variety of instructional uses. A synergy is developing between their online collaborative activities and their face-to-face classwork. As they work together more online, the more they collaborate and communicate in the face-to-face classroom. One fear of many teachers is that they feel as if they are losing control of their classes when students experience the agency to use their devices as needed and begin to share their ideas with each other so readily. However, this shift represents the students taking ownership of their learning experiences, and it should be encouraged.
Activity – Nurture Communication
There are many ways that the digital age skill of communication can be facilitated in the BYOT classroom. This week, it has been practiced through the use of Wikispaces, Edmodo, and Socrative, yet another way to promote further communication is through blogging. A blog provides students with the opportunity to reflect on their learning, share ideas and responses with others, and highlight their academic successes. Blogging enables students to develop their own personal portfolios as they post and document the artifacts of their learning – their writing and projects. Although there are many types of blogging tools, my district has subscribed to Edublogs for all of its students and teachers.
Edublogsoffers free blogging for students, and this use of social networking is an authentic way to teach and practice responsible use. There is an Edublogs app for iOS devices, or students can use other devices to participate in blogging. Students are able to begin drafts of their writing within their blogs and when the draft is finished, they can easily publish each post. This week, the students completed their profiles within the other web tools at home. After the students have signed up for their blogs, they should complete their profiles and customize their blogs in class. I advise students to use the same photo or avatar for each of their profiles in order to develop an online presence in the class that represents them and their personal strengths and interests. Edublogs offers several themes so that students can choose designs that complement their profiles.
The following list explains just a few reasons why I think that it is essential for students (and teachers) to blog:
- Blogging causes students to make connections to what they are learning as they reflect.
- Blogging stimulates critical thinking as students take a stand on an issue and explain supportive reasons for that stand.
- Blogging provides opportunities for on-going debate and discussion as students respond to each other’s posts.
- Blogging showcases and documents student work and creativity.
- Blogging helps students discover their strengths and share their expertise with others.
Branding through Blogging
Throughout the year in the BYOT classroom, the students will continue to develop and practice digital age skills, and this authentic work can lead to an appreciation for individual differences and strengths. This recognition is influenced by several factors. First, the students already have personal interests, and they have the agency with their devices to further refine and perfect those capabilities. Second, BYOT can be the great differentiator in the classroom, Students who have mastered particular skills and concepts can move ahead more easily, and students who need additional practice can receive that support with the use of their own technology tools. Third, when students are empowered to make choices and encouraged to work collaboratively on relevant topics, diverse sets of skills are needed by the learning community for it to be successful. Finally, since the teacher is unable to know every device or every online tool, they have to learn alongside students, and this transformation helps everyone to assume the role of a learner.
As students discover their talents, they can offer advice and support to other members of the learning community. They are often branded as the student you can go to when you need an effective speaker, a videographer, an artist, or a technician. Through blogging, students are able to highlight their individual areas of expertise and this brand becomes further aligned to their personal identities.
When students have finished personalizing their blogs, have them write autobiographical drafts that will be posted in their blogs. There is usually an “About” or “Bio” tab in the blog’s theme where the students can write this information. The teacher will need to review with the students the importance of maintaining online privacy, so the students will need to use critical thinking (along with the guidance of their teacher) to determine what types of information is appropriate for publishing on the web. They should not include actual photos of themselves; provide their last names; or give other identifying information (address, teams, or neighborhood). This will become their first post, so they need to begin thinking about the possibilities of their brand!
Homework (Post these assignments in Edmodo.)
- Publish your first post. Today you completed an autobiographical post that included some of your strengths and interests. Share that post with your parents. What do they think about what you have shared? What qualities do they think you should include? Revise your post if necessary and publish it.
- Discuss in Edmodo. What other ways do you think we could learn with blogging this year? Discuss this question in Edmodo by posting your suggestions as a “Note.”
This is Day 3 of a series of posts to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom. These ideas are my suggestions for developing a learning community during the first five days of school that can hopefully lead to an effective BYOT implementation for the rest of the year. Please modify these activities to better suit the needs, interests, and abilities of your students.
Scenario: Through consistent collaborative work with their technology tools, students are learning and practicing new uses for their devices. Even though it is still early in the year, they are developing into a community with a common vocabulary regarding expectations for online communication and for the responsible use of technology. Although every student may not have a device, the school’s technology resources are being used more than ever to facilitate instruction. However, the students still need to learn additional ways to scaffold the use of their tools for a variety of learning activities.
Activity – Encourage Participation
On Day 1 of this week, the students began a wiki page about ways they could learn with their devices. Continue to add to this list by having the students brainstorm specific activities they could complete each day with their devices. For this brainstorming activity, have students use the Socrative Student app (iOS, Android) to encourage the participation of all the students.
Socrative is a student response system that works on all web-enabled devices (including many e-readers), and students can download the free app for both iOS and Android devices. At this time, teachers can sign up for a free account, and with the free teacher app (iOS, Android), they can lead the student response activity from their teacher laptop/desktop or from their handheld devices. Socrative enables teachers to pose multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions. The other activities that teachers can conduct are pre-made quizzes, exit ticket activity, and a space race game where students can engage, either individually or collaboratively in a game using a pre-made quiz. Teachers can also manage and share their quizzes with other colleagues.
Students do not need accounts to use Socrative; they just select the link (on the Internet) or the app on their handheld devices. Then they enter the room number that the teacher provides them from the teacher account and then join the room. They are directed to wait until the teacher begins the activity (by asking a question or starting a quiz), and then they enter their names and begin.
For this activity, log into Socrative and select a Short Answer quiz. Ask the students what ways that they can use their devices at school to complete tasks they already do without technology. Instead of raising their hands to answer the question, have students submit their suggestions using Socrative and their devices. If they do not have a device, they can use the Internet-based Socrative application from a school technology resource, or they can collaborate with a peer and submit an answer with one device.
Using Socrative is a more effective way to encourage participation than just raising hands because this models the expectation that all students have valuable insights to be shared rather than only the students who are more comfortable with speaking in front of the group. After the students submit their suggestions, Socrative enables the teacher to have the students vote on the answers. This polling can help to generate further discussion. Another student can also be involved by entering all of these suggestions in Wikispaces within the class wiki page – Ways to Learn with Our Devices.
Here are some possible ideas for additional ways that students can use their devices to enter into the class wiki page:
- Solve math problems with a calculator app
- Use an online thesaurus or app during writing assignments
- Define unfamiliar vocabulary words
- Take notes during lessons
- Enter due dates on a calendar
- Research new concepts
- Read eBooks
- Participate in online discussions
Another suggestion for using Socrative is to have students submit their own questions (using the Short Answer option) that the teacher can then use in pre-made quizzes or as follow-up questions. These questions can be based on new content or topics, and they encourage the students to think about what they are learning. Try this activity by having the students submit questions about Responsible Use and then pose those questions to the class. Their questions and answers can also be uploaded to the class wiki page – Our Responsible Use Guidelines – if additional recommendations are generated.
Homework (Post these assignments in Edmodo.)
- Develop your Wikispaces profile. Yesterday, you created your profile in Edmodo. Tonight, you should also develop your profile in Wikispaces. Again, this personalizes the experience of working within a social network. As part of your profile, you should upload an appropriate photo or avatar that represents you. As always, if you do not have a computer at home to complete this assignment, you will be provided time to complete it at school. Try to come to school tomorrow with a completed profile in Wikispaces.
- Download these apps: Research and download apps that help you complete the different class activities listed in our class wiki. Recommend these apps to the other members of the class in our Edmodo group.
This is Day 1 of a series of posts this week to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom. In order to begin this series, I made three assumptions:
- The principal supports BYOT (see 5 Leadership Strategies for Implementing BYOT).
- Some background communication has occurred with parents and community members to achieve support for BYOT in the school.
- The school has some type of wireless infrastructure and access for supporting BYOT or permits students to bring their own data plans.
Scenario: The students are entering the classroom, and some of them are bringing devices to school. They have already visited the class during Open House, and learned about becoming a BYOT school, and the reality is that, as Jill Hobson, Director of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County Schools, has stated, “You’re already BYOT, but you won’t admit it.” Therefore, many students already have devices in their pockets and backpacks and just need to know how to use them in new ways to facilitate their learning experiences.
Activity – Build a Community
In any strong community, members know the rules and expectations for how they should learn and work together. Educators and schools often just give students the list of rules for students to follow, but BYOT provides greater opportunities for student participation. Expectations for responsible use will be more meaningful to students if they help create them. This process increases student buy in by make the guidelines relevant.
- Discuss Responsible Use. Have students provide examples of how devices should be used appropriately at school and what could happen when devices are used irresponsibly. I would begin this as a class discussion because although many students know how to use their devices, I wouldn’t assume that they know how to use them appropriately within a school setting. Remember, many students are self-taught or peer-taught in how technology should be used.
- Facilitate the Discussion. Guidelines for responsible use need to address the following issues: Netiquette, Cyberbullying, Plagiarism, Security, Maintenance of Devices, Privacy, Passwords, Appropriate Content, and Safe Online Searches. As the moderator of the class discussion, the teacher can help to ensure that these topics come up during the discussion. There may also be some additional issues that should be discussed that are relevant within your particular learning community.
- Share Out about Devices. Have students take out their devices and share them with each other by discussing with a small group or the whole class how they already use their technology. There are several reasons why this sharing is important:
- It acknowledges the expertise of students in their technology tools, and it shows that you trust them to be responsible with them at school.
- Students are usually eager to share what they know about their devices, and this time to share helps them to make connections between personal uses of technology and educational purposes.
- It helps students express the excitement of bringing their technology to school so that they are able to focus and work with their devices more constructively in later activities.
- It allows you and the other students to help distinguish between all of the different devices so that everyone can assist with securing the technology and finding the experts on particular devices.
- It helps you and the students to learn more about all of the different capabilities of the technology available within the classroom.
- It is sometimes easier to talk about your technology tools in a new group than it is to talk about yourself, so it is a good way to begin communicating with others.
- Begin a Wiki. Go to Wikispaces, and sign up to begin a new wiki for your class. I like this tool because the wiki is free, and I can add students into it even if they don’t have email addresses. It is really easy to use, and it tracks each change that is made to a wiki. If a student accidentally deletes too much content, I can revert the wiki back to an earlier edition. Wikis encourage collaboration by empowering all of the students to produce and edit content that can be shared with the entire class.In your class wiki, develop two pages:
1. Our Responsible Use Guidelines
Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki. Based on the earlier discussion on responsible use, have students develop the guidelines and expectations for how they should use their devices at school. They should at least address all of the topics that were suggested regarding responsible use.
2. Ways to Learn with Our Devices
Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki. From the sharing of devices, they should explain how the tools can be used at school for learning about new things, and students may even share new ideas and strategies through the wiki that they did not express during the discussion.
These pages can be revisited throughout the school year as often as needed. Students are continually upgrading and getting new devices, and the wiki can be a source of good collective information.
- Have students share the wiki with their parents. It encourages good home/school communication, and it is reassuring to parents that their child is learning responsible use.
- Have students download these apps: Edmodo, Socrative-Student, Comic Touch Lite (these links are for iOS devices – iPads/iPhones). Some of these same apps are also available with Android devices, and encourage students to look for them with their parents. For a more comprehensive list of apps look at this list: Apps for Mobile Devices. If students do not have a device, reassure them that they can use the school’s technology resources, and many of these activities can also be completed with a variety of technology tools.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has developed a Framework for 21st Century Learning that identifies key learning and innovation skills, otherwise known as the 4 C’s: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration. In the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom, facilitating the 4 C’s becomes a logical extension of classroom instruction as students are connected to their learning and each other with their personal technology devices. With their own tools, students are able to practice and develop the 4 C’s as the teacher coaches, scaffolds, and models the learning. Of course, the students are the experts in their own devices, but the teacher has to create an environment that is conducive of exploration and inquiry so that students have the opportunity to learn how to learn with their technology. One way the teacher can encourage this type of environment is by learning alongside the students.
Another strategy for implementing the 4 C’s within instruction is to promote them with the use of web tools and project-based learning. Although there is some overlap among the 4 C’s depending on how the tools are being used, I have provided some specific examples below:
Creativity – VoiceThread
A VoiceThread is an online slide show that enables students to upload and present images, documents, and videos and then share comments by writing or recording messages. They can also draw on the slides in order to annotate them during the presentation. Although VoiceThread is a great tool for supporting all of the 4 C’s, it can encourage creative expression with the students’ devices. Students can take their own photos and create presentations to demonstrate what they have learned, and the other students can provide creative comments. For example, in a study of similes (comparisons using like or as), a student can take a photo of an object with an iPod Touch and optimize it in a free photo app (one of my personal favorites is Pixlr-o-matic). The student then saves the photo and uploads it into VoiceThread. The other students can then provide interesting similies in their responses that involve the object in the photo. There is an app for VoiceThread that can be downloaded on the iTunes store for iPods and iPads, or VoiceThreads can be created online on Macs or PCs.
Critical thinking – Socrative
Socrative is a web-based student response system that enables teachers to ask multiple choice, true/false, or short answer questions that students answer on their own devices. Teachers can also create and save quizzes ahead of time for students to complete, or they can begin ad-hoc sessions during class discussions with students. One aspect of Socrative that promotes critical thinking is that after asking an open-ended short answer question, the teacher can easily choose to have student vote on their answers. Teachers can also have students participate in an activity in Socrative called Space Race in which students can compete in random or assigned teams to complete a teacher-made quiz and be the first to get their team’s rocket to the finish line. I have seen this activity increase collaboration even in a high school AP Calculus class as the students worked in groups to solve problems and answer the questions. It works effectively even if every student does not have a device because the students can take share a device to answer questions and the new concepts are more likely to be retained as the students learn them in groups. The short answer option can be useful for the students to text in their own questions, and the teacher can then pose these questions back to the class or use them in a future quiz. Socrative also provides a preset Ticket Out the Door to assess student understanding of the learned content. There is a teacher app for Socrative (iOS, Android) as well as a student app (iOS, Android), so teachers are able to conduct the session from their smartphones or laptops, and students can participate via smartphones, laptops, or desktops.
Communication – Edublogs
With Edublogs, teachers and students can develop blogs for education that help to provide opportunities for communication in the classroom and in a global community. When students have their own blogs, they are able to publish the results of their project-based learning and collaboration and share what they have accomplished with others. Writing becomes more authentic as students have a purpose for their writing assignments, and students are able to customize their blogs according to their personal learning interests and styles. Although a blog is useful for publishing creative writing, it can also be used to communicate technical concepts like the steps in a scientific process accompanied with photos of the activity. Edublogs also publishes an annual list of the best blogs in education as well as additional web tools and apps on The Edublog Awards Blog. This list can be a useful resource for teachers and students as they begin developing their blogs. A teacher can sign up each student in the class for a blog, even in elementary grades, because an email address is not required. There is no app for Edublogs, but blogs can be edited through the Internet browser on smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops.
Collaboration – Wikispaces
A wiki is a collaborative space for teachers and students to construct their learning experiences together. Teachers can develop class wikis in Wikispaces and easily upload all of their students, even if they do not have email addresses. In the wiki, the teacher and students can encourage a sense of community in the classroom by sharing files and creating content. As the students edit their work within the wiki, the teacher can track who made all of the changes to determine student participation. Like a blog, a wiki makes a good launchpad for encouraging BYOT. Since the students are working independently or in small groups, the wiki gives them a place to continue their projects or assignments while the teacher is learning alongside and coaching other students in the class. One example of how a wiki was used in a middle school math classroom, is that the teacher divided the students into groups to explain particular problem solving strategies and mathematical concepts. In this manner, the students in the class actually produced their own math “textbook” as an on-going project that they were able to use as a resource. Although, there is no app for Wikispaces, the students are able to edit text on the browser of their handheld devices, and they are able to use tablets, laptops, and desktops to complete all of their other editing in the wiki.
Some final thoughts…
The above resources are currently free, at least for individual teacher accounts, or a district may choose to subscribe to them in order to receive analytics or more customization. Their use in the BYOT classroom can be a good way for teachers to begin implementing BYOT and encouraging students to bring their own technology tools to school to facilitate their learning.
What other tools and strategies can be used to promote the 4 C’s in today’s digital age classrooms?