Personalizing Learning in High School with BYOT

  A Note from Tim: Forsyth County Schools in Georgia is beginning its sixth year in implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT).  In this post, Instructional Technology Specialist at South Forsyth High School, Carla Youmans, shares her experiences of facilitating BYOT in the SFHS Media and Instructional Technology Center.

Guest Post by Carla Youmans @cwyoumans
Instructional Technology Specialist – South Forsyth High School

SFHS_BYOT4Many school systems and businesses have started to permit students and employees to use their own computer devices within school or at work.  It saves money, allows for a certain level of comfort, and ensures that more individuals have the capabilities of working digitally.  Many people refer to 21st Century Learning in a BYOT/BYOD environment.  Perhaps we should begin saying BYOT/BYOD in a digital, personalized learning environment.   Our educational system, parents, and society expect high rigor for and from all students. Since more students are taking AP or IB courses than ever before, more students must be capable of high performing work. Therefore, in a BYOT/BYOD digital learning environment we must create a space where students learn and develop skills that set them apart from each other (creativity, problem-solving, innovation, etc).

Steps in the Process

SFHS_BYOT1We follow five simple steps in our Media and Instructional Technology Center.  The first step is to read. We want students to read for information — to understand, to question, and to infer.  As they read, the next step is to collect valid, accurate and reliable information.  Many students immediately want to create a new product; however, they have no data or research to support the reasoning for the new product.  So, once they have read and collected information, we want them to critically think — What have I learned?  What more do I want to know?  What can I share? What do others know? How could we together build something greater? This is where the fourth and fifth steps come in:  to collaborate and to create.

When we can help students understand this process and follow it then we believe we have pushed them out of their comfort zone where great things can happen.

Magic Happens

Empowering Students to Drive the Learning

Encouraging teachers to use BYOT/BYOD in our digital learning environment is best achieved through a project-based learning approach.  We teach with a “use what you have to show what you know” mentality that empowers students to drive their assessment by encouraging student choice and student voice in as much of the projects as possible. What does this really mean?  It means: possibly having 30 totally different projects submitted by 30 different students to assess the same exact standard.  WOW!  What a shift from the much discussed “differentiated” classroom to a “personalized” classroom.  Imagine all of the students in your classroom learning the way that is best for them?  AMAZING!SFHS_BYOT3

Transforming the classroom may be scary for some teachers.  First of all, teachers are known for writing great directions that explain “exactly” how they want a project to be completed. When we give students packets of directions to create a project, we take away all of the problem-solving, creativity, and innovative pieces that they may add.  Secondly, high-achieving students who typically receive a 99 on an assignment and ask “why didn’t I get a 100?” may be caught off guard when they “use what they have to show what they know.”  Our current system has molded them to be step-by-step direction followers rather than inquisitive problem solvers and creators.

We never stop learning.  Surprise yourself and your students.  Allow them to create their own assessments and watch your project based BYOT/BYOD turn into a phenomenal student-centered digital learning environment.

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