This is Day 5 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: This week the students have begun to construct an online presence through their collaborative work in Wikispaces, Edmodo, and Edublogs with the combined use of school, home, and personal technology tools. By designing their online profiles in these digital habitats, they have personalized their learning experiences. By discovering and recognizing the abilities, interests, and strengths of themselves and of the other members of their learning community, they are positioned to develop a brand, reputation, and digital footprint that can lead to future academic success and someday maybe even to new career opportunities. Rather than to deliver a standardized curriculum that is assessed with traditional multiple choice tests, the vital role of the teacher is to guide the development of these individual and collaborative pursuits and passions.
Activity – Spark a Passion
This week, Shelly Terrell wrote a post entitled 10 Kids Transforming their World through Social Media. That well-written post describe the efforts of 10 children and teens who are making a difference with the use of digital skills and tools about their particular passions. One young teen, Adora Svitak gave a Ted Talk called What Adults Can Learn from Kids; she is an author who has written books, maintains a website, and speaks at educational conferences. According to her website, “Adora believes that everyone deserves the opportunity that comes with literacy and a good education.” In her efforts to accomplish this endeavor, she believes that learning with teachers and children should be “reciprocal,” and a major feature of this learning environment is “trust.”
Likewise, trust has to be a focal element in the BYOT classroom. There really is no way that a teacher cannot empower students to learn with so many different devices and use so many web tools without developing a learning community that is founded on trust for everyone in the group. As the students begin to explore and develop new interests and practice digital age skills, the teacher should model high expectations that sustain trust in the learning community.
Here are some ways to model high expectations:
- Celebrate diversity. Appreciate the differences among your students and recognize that those differences are important to the strength of the learning community as everyone has the potential to add something unique.
- Challenge everyone. A way of increasing rigor in the classroom is to expect everyone to achieve and complete high quality work that includes in-depth reflection and practice.
- Believe students want to do the right thing. This is a big issue. Some teachers are suspicious that their students want to break rules or view inappropriate content. Engage your students in their learning by empowering them to make choices and use their devices as needed.
- Follow the teachable moment. Don’t get so attached to your lesson plans and standards that you miss great teaching opportunities. Many of the best lessons in the BYOT classroom happen just in time at the moment they’re needed.
- Share your interests with the students. The students will be more willing to share and discuss their passions when they realize that their teacher is a real person with personal interests and aspirations.
Steps to spark a passion:
Share the stories of the students given in Shelly Terrell’s post and have them listen to Adora Svitak’s Ted Talk. As students get older, they often get more accustomed to being told what to do, and they need to understand that they are expected to get involved and make choices. Hearing about what other young people are able to achieve through their passion and dedication can be motivating.
Another great post to motivate students is Caine’s Arcade – What Happened During a Summer Freed From Texts, Tests, & Teachers coauthored by Lisa Nielsen and Lisa Cooley. That post relates the story of Caine who followed his passion and utilized his creativity to accomplish something amazing!
The following activity was inspired by a suggestion by Jeremy Angoff. Have students brainstorm ideas about current issues or events that they think should be addressed. Use one of the community’s online spaces for this discussion. An option is to use the short answer question in Socrative to generate responses and then host the discussion within Edmodo. Another student could accumulate all of the different options in one page in the class wiki in Wikispaces. The page could be called, Issues that Concern Us or Ways We Can Make a Difference.
Students can work independently or in groups to choose and research an issue. This is a good time to discuss safe searching, and what type of search engine to use depending on the age of the students. Have the students draft what they learn about that issue or concern in their student blogs in Edublogs. This activity also provides an opportunity to explain how to provide credit various online sources of information. The students should then reflect on what they could do to make a difference regarding their issue and develop a plan in their blogs for putting their ideas into action.
Homework (Post this assignment in Edmodo.)
Now that you are empowered with your personal technology tools in BYOT, social networking tools, and an idea you are passionate about, begin putting your plan into action. Document your strategies and activities in your blog so that you can share them with the rest of your learning community.