I recently participated in the Family Online Safety Institute’s (FOSI) Annual Conference in Washington, DC. My 13 year old son was fortunately able to go along for the trip, and as a history buff, he was eager to tour the notable sites in DC. I arrived the day before the conference and was able to explore the city with him and my wife. We took the DC Metro, and he immediately searched for a possible app for his iPhone to make navigation easier. He discovered that there were several mobile apps for that purpose, and he decided on DC Rider. With that app, he was able to see the arrival times of the different trains and to compare possible routes for each trip. He owned this whole adventure, and I found myself following his lead as he directed us along the path to each destination. Sometimes he selected some clever and creative ways for us to arrive at a site, when I might have chosen the direct route, but the journey became as essential to him as the final, planned location.
Later I reflected on this experience through the lens of the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom. It is necessary for teachers to know when to make suggestions in order to guide students, but it is often more essential to understand when to get out of the way and encourage students to lead. Students usually know more about their own technology than their teachers, and with BYOT they can use these tools to access all of the information that exists in the world. They can explore authentic problems and discover creative solutions and design innovative products. It is fine to have a destination in mind, but there really is no end of the line in the process of learning, and teachers and students should enjoy exploring all of the alternative paths along the way.
Finally, I realized the next day, as I had to navigate the DC Metro without my son’s assistance, that I had become dependent on his leadership and skills. I floundered for a little bit until I was able to orient myself. I decided that next time I would try a little harder to learn from and with him as he used his technology instead of just being a passive observer and follower. Then we could both be learning from the journey with BYOT!