Spotlight on BYOT Teacher – Tracey Abercrombie

A Note from Tim: Forsyth County Schools in Georgia is in its fifth year of implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT).  The first year was spent on developing the infrastructure, and the last four years have focused on piloting the initiative, developing personal and professional capacity, and eventually spreading the practice of encouraging students to learn with their personal technology tools throughout the district.  I have been so impressed with the dedication of our teachers to transform their classrooms with BYOT!  In this series of posts, I am sharing some of their experiences from different grade levels in their own words.

Guest Post by Tracey Abercrombie @TraceyAbercromb
Fifth Grade Teacher – Coal Mountain Elementary School

One Teacher’s Journey

I always wanted to be THAT teacher, the one that actually caused a child to walk away with more than he came in with.  I wanted to do more than just present material and hope for the best.  I like to think. I want my students to enjoy it too.  In my 18 years, I thought I did this well.  Except, from time to time I would notice certain students struggle to pay attention or periodically lose focus.  I always worked to keep those kids engaged.   A.D.D., Special Education, gifted, A.D.H.D, and painfully shy.  Those kids were my challenge-daily.  The million dollar question was, HOW? How could I keep these students engaged at a high level?  Sometimes we would spend entire lessons on a knowledge level activity, like vocabulary. How could I bring lower students up, while making sure I push my gifted students to new heights?

Times are changing.  Now, not only do I still have the same types of learners; that hasn’t changed.  But, the distractions have.  Kids seem to have more distractions than ever.  Social media, smart phones, texting…As teachers, we have two choices. Embrace the distractions or fight them.  Our county decided to embrace the only thing that seemed to be holding ALL kids’ attention.  If these devices could hold the focus of any type of learner, why would we fight it? Why not learn to use this for good?

Project-CreationI was petrified.  A year ago I didn’t know how to use any of these devices.  But, my students did. That’s all that mattered. My students couldn’t wait for the opportunity to use their device in class.  I saw something in their eyes that told me I could do this.  We tried one website together and were amazed at how it joined my computer with theirs, while showing it on the board.  My mind went wild with ways I could begin using just this website to make our content come alive.  Then, we tried another website.  Before long, the kids were telling me about great apps they could use to produce the same things we were already doing.  My classroom had evolved from direct instruction with me leading every angle to a fresh, new student centered place my kids wanted to be. The answer to my never-ending question of “how” to reach every learner was unfolding right before my eyes.   I was changing…one website and one app at a time. I felt like a kid again and began to really enjoy my content.  I watched every single child engage.  The playing field was leveled for every learner.  The A.D.D child, the special education, the gifted, and yes, even the painfully shy was freed to speak, even if only through texting.  I was quickly learning that my job was no longer to be the giver of information, but to help students use the information at their fingertips to discover, to analyze, to create and to problem solve.

Embracing BYOT is helping me to reach ALL learners, where they are, not just the easy students.  It’s a tool.  A tool meant to add to what we are already doing, not to replace it.  I’ve learned to keep the art projects, and allow students the choice of how they create their final product. Yes, some kids still choose markers and poster board, and that’s okay. 🙂  BYOT provides immediate differentiation.  It encourages collaboration, while building community and fostering real growth.  I honestly believe that my journey is helping me to become “THAT” teacher…the one I have always wanted to be.

See more from Tracey on NBC News At One School District, the Motto is BYOT – Bring Your Own Technology.

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