Archive for category BYOT Purposes
After spending the last week observing classrooms at various stages of implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), I reflected on how I could encourage the members of those schools to find new ways to learn with their technology tools. I turned to my own Personal Learning Network (PLN) in Twitter in #BYOTchat for suggestions regarding the components necessary for initiating and sustaining a schoolwide BYOT implementation. I’m sure that everyone has some different opinions about the order of significance of the following recommendations, but please share your ideas by commenting at the end of this post. This compilation is ordered in the way I received them from my PLN, and I added some of my own ideas about each of the following areas:
- Administrator Support and Expectations. I began the discussion by suggesting this item. From my experience, when an administrator relates that BYOT is important for students and expects that students should be using their technology tools for learning, then teachers are more motivated to encourage BYOT. I think that school and district leaders need to walk through their buildings and recognize effective uses of technology and offer support when necessary.
- Adequate Infrastructure. This area was noted by @mrvandersluis, and @ZinkEd_u argued that infrastructure should be number one. I agree that having a robust Wi-Fi network is essential to the effective implementation of BYOT. I have also seen students use their own devices without necessarily being connected to the Internet, and in my district, students also can use their personal data plans (if they can get a signal). I do recognize, however, that teachers and students will be frustrated with an unreliable network within their schools.
- Dedicated, Interested Teachers. @sr_tutor shared that teachers have to champion the implementation of BYOT. Teachers have to understand that they don’t need to know how to use all of the technology tools that come into their classrooms. They need to focus on the teaching and know how to ask good questions so that they can facilitate student discovery of new ways to learn with their personal devices. They also need to develop a responsive learning community and negotiate strategies for the use of BYOT. Teachers have to be resilient and understand that they will sometimes make mistakes, but they can model how to be digital age learners.
- Parent Support. @meghorsley made this suggestion, and it is vital that parents understand the new role of BYOT in learning. Many parents see their children using technology for gaming or communicating with friends, and parents often hand their own devices to children to keep them pacified in restaurants or in the back seat of the car, but they usually haven’t seen children learning with technology. There are many ways to help parents understand BYOT. Use a polling app during a PTA meeting so that parents can participate with their own devices. Invite parents to a Technology Night at the school when students can explain to parents how they learn with BYOT. Finally, share out suggestions for apps and tools in newsletters or provide links to successful BYOT lessons and products so that parents can realize new learning opportunities with BYOT
- A BYOT Policy. @EmLeacy noted that there should be an agreed upon plan for use by all parties: administration, teachers, students, and parents alike. I don’t think she was specifically talking about a policy for BYOT, so I broke up this idea into two different strategies (numbers 5 and 6). Everyone needs to understand how the technology tools will be used and how issues will be resolved if the technology is used inappropriately. We never really experienced nightmare scenarios with BYOT in my district, and over time, we developed a new Responsible Use Policy that focuses on nurturing trust among teachers and students. Of course, as professionals, the teachers still monitor the use of technology tools in their classrooms just like they monitor other behaviors.
- A BYOT Purpose/Vision. @EmLeacy followed up with the notion of a sense of purpose, and this idea seems more related to the goals and vision for BYOT within the school. There are several reasons why a school may choose to begin a BYOT initiative. One reason is that so many students may have devices that a school needs to find ways (other that outright banning them) to deal with all of these forms of technology. In addition, digital age skills can be taught and facilitated with students own technology tools. Furthermore, students can be more engaged in learning when they become producers of original content rather than solely consuming content. The vision for BYOT needs to be understood and shared by all of the members of the learning community.
- BYOT Capacity and Equity. @mrvandersluis explained that this capacity addresses whether or not students have their own technology tools to bring to school and what the school will do for those that don’t have devices. BYOT equity can be a challenge to understand and accomplish. I prefer having different devices because those differences help provide more personalized learning experiences and more opportunities to transform learning within the classroom. Is it equitable when a parent chooses not to send technology to school because of fears related to screen time or when one teacher utilizes technology but the teacher in the next classroom doesn’t use it because of his or her fears related to technology use? A good blend of school technology resources and personal technology tools seems like the most equitable solution, and a school district also needs to consider the issue of home Internet access.
- On-Going Personalized Professional Learning. I added this final component to the list, and I think that there is no final resting place for professional learning in BYOT. The tools and applications continue to evolve over time, and a certain mindset is required for teaching and learning in the digital age. With so many different opportunities for engaging student learning with BYOT, a teacher has to receive support just in time and usually that support comes from the students in the classroom. Again, a supportive learning community encourages teachers and students to be risk-takers – willing to try new approaches and able to learn from successes and mistakes.
Having a great PLN like #BYOTchat in Twitter helps me to make my professional learning personalized to my unique challenges and interests.
I’m grateful to all of the educators who contributed to my understanding of the needs for BYOT implementation. I definitely suggest that you follow each of them on Twitter. If you think that there is an item missing from this list, or if you think of a creative way of ordering these suggestions, please leave a comment.
Also, join #BYOTchat in Twitter each Thursday night at 9 PM EST for an exciting discussion regarding an aspect of BYOT! This chat is moderated by @SteveHayes_RB60, @nathan_stevens, @MyTakeOnIt, and me. We also have many guest moderators who lend their various areas of expertise.
A Note from Tim: Forsyth County Schools in Georgia is beginning its sixth year in 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. In this post, fourth grade teacher, Brooke Hagler, shares her experiences of facilitating BYOT within the framework of the Thinkers Keys.
When I began the journey of implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) in my classroom, I wanted to make sure it had a positive impact on student learning, rather than just for presenting information or playing games. Don’t get me wrong these aspects of BYOT do have their time and place in a classroom. I just did not want them to be the only ways my students used their technology. With the potential of technology for engaging students and preparing them for the future, I wanted to make my students truly think beyond what our culture tells them is possible. This capacity creates the future adults who test, question, and invent for the next generations to come.
In order to create deep thinkers in my classroom, I use a resource called the Thinkers Keys developed by Tony Ryan. The keys are twenty strategies that can be used to help students think critically and creatively. As you learn how to implement each key it becomes very clear that they are an easy resource to use in all areas of learning. You can find more about the Thinkers Keys and Tony Ryan at his website.
The Thinkers Keys with BYOT
I began to integrate the Thinkers Keys by introducing the students to one key at a time as it fit into the curriculum. I modeled the key with students by using Socrative or join.me. The students participated and collaborated using BYOT, school technology resources, whiteboards, or paper. By using Socrative and join.me, I was able to model a key for the class as a whole group or in a small group and receive instant feedback about who understood the content we were studying at a deeper level. Another reason I used these websites is because the person answering could be anonymous to the other viewers, so the students who would never answer before felt free to take risks and give answers.
Once students became familiar with the key I incorporated it as one of their centers with any content. They could choose how they to turn something in. They often chose to use technology to complete the assignment and either printed out their work or emailed it to me. Not all of the keys involve writing down answers; however, sometimes students had to build models and then used their devices to take pictures to explain what they built. Other keys encouraged students to conduct research, and students would use kid friendly websites on their technology tools to find more information. After conducting research, students created presentations. I did not limit the students’ choices about how they chose to show what they had learned, and they often chose to use ActivInspire, PowerPoint, Prezi, or Wixie. My rule for presentations was as long as students knew how to use the technology and could meet all requirements of the rubric for the assignment, then they were encouraged to create with whatever medium they liked.
Thinking Differently with Thinkers Keys
Here are some Thinkers Keys that I used regularly in my classroom. I used the Consequence Key during our class meeting time and with our ecosystem unit. During our class meeting time, we discussed possible scenarios and the students had to respond with their own consequences. For example, I asked them how bullying affects everyone when a student picks on someone on the bus. They continued giving consequences until they saw that not just the bully and bullied student are the only ones affected. Then, I carried this same thinking into our ecosystem unit. After students learned about different ecosystems, they used BYOT and school technology resources to go to Discovery Education for science explorations and virtual experiments. They were asked to explore what consequences population growth and decline have on a desert environment. Once they viewed the explorations, they presented their group’s findings. Then the group completed a virtual lab and predicted what the consequences for a fish population would be by placing a hiking trail, parking lot, or playground around a pond. The students wrote a lab report at the end of their experiment that explained if their findings agreed or disagreed with their prediction. The simple fact that students understood that consequences can have a ripple effect could them academically and also socially.
Another key that I implemented was the Question Key. It caused students to think backwards through a process, which I found out for my fourth grade students was not easy. I used this key in all content areas, but I liked using it the most in math. It let me know quickly if students truly understood a concept or if they just went through the motions of completing the math process. I gave the students an answer like seven thousand, three hundred forty-eight and asked them to write five problems that reached this answer. To make it more challenging, I set guidelines. They had to have at least one addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problem. Three of the problems had to be written as a word problem. And finally one problem had to have multiple steps to get to that answer. In the beginning, this assignment blew my students away, but with repeated modeling and practice they were able to write and solve word problems more easily by the end of the year. Not only could they solve math problems with more ease, they were using their ability to think backwards in all academic areas. To think backwards through a process is a hard but valuable skill that we, as adults, take for granted, but it can be taught to students and then they will have that skill for life.
The keys can be taught in isolation, like above. However, they are ultimately designed to get students to work with them in connected sequences. I do not recommend beginning with sequencing the keys until you as a teacher have a full understanding of what each key is designed to do. When students use the keys in sequence, they are designed to help them solve problems, analyze, etc. I have been working with the Thinkers Keys for two years now, and this past year was the first year that I used the keys in a sequence. Here is the first rubric I created and used this year with sequencing the keys. It was a very powerful learning experience for my students and me, and I still have much to learn and experiment with this step myself.
The Thinkers Keys allow you as a teacher to tweak them and make them useful for your classroom. Just stay true to what they ask the students to do so that they keep their power. I could go on forever about how powerful the keys in combination with technology are as learning tools. They don’t just help the students learn the content in the classroom. They help them prepare for life in our competitive society. They prepare them to be our future leaders and thinkers of the digital age.
A goal of the BYOT classroom is to develop resilient students who own the learning process, just as they own their personal technology tools. Resiliency is the ability to overcome challenges and bounce back, and it is essential to a person’s long term success and happiness. One way to develop resiliency is to cultivate a learning community or a community of practice that includes the teacher as well as the students.
What Is a Community of Practice?
According to Etienne Wenger, “Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”
There are three components of a CoP – domain, community, and practice.
- Domain – the shared interest and expertise of the group
- Community – the relationships and norms among the members of the group
- Practice – the interactions of the group while solving problems and developing resources
Communities of Practice with BYOT
In the BYOT classroom, teachers and students work collaboratively to learn new concepts and explore innovative ways to show what they have learned with their own technology tools. The students are already personally attached to their own devices because they use those tools to make sense of their world by connecting to their friends and families; publishing photos and content; playing games; and consuming a variety of information. In this way, a technology device begins to acquire new meaning since it is an extension and a representation of a student’s sense of self. Possibly, that is why students are so angry when they are told to turn off their technology and put it away or when it is taken away from them.
By integrating student-owned technologies within the learning environment, teachers can transform their classrooms into communities of practice. Here are seven strategies for facilitating the components of a community of practice with BYOT to develop more resilient learners.
- Trust – Teachers and students may be unused to a learning environment where they are able to learn alongside each other discovering new ideas. It is impossible for a teacher to be able to see what is on the screen of each student’s device or for a district to block all inappropriate content. Trust has to prevail within the BYOT classroom to encourage the responsible use of technology.
- High Expectations – When no student is undervalued as a member of the learning community, they can find new ways to achieve, succeed, and contribute. By maintaining high expectations for every student, the teacher is able to begin trusting that the students will become engaged in learning and will want to use technology responsibly. Those expectations can nurture the desired behaviors.
- Open Access – Students should be able to use their technology tools, as needed, in order to research new concepts and to participate. There shouldn’t be special technology times; rather, it should be an integral part of digital age learning. Also, when they go home at the end of the day, most students will have unfiltered Internet access. They need to learn what to do when they encounter spam messages or inappropriate content. In public schools, we are legally required to filter the Internet, but over-filtering gives students (and teachers) a false sense of security.
- Sense of Belonging – When they are able to explore their interests and passions without the fear of mistakes and failure, students find new strengths and opportunities to share their expertise with the other members of the learning community. In a community of practice, members begin to be recognized and appreciated for their differences. Because they have different devices, teachers have to encourage students to use them in innovative ways to show what they know.
- Flexibility – The logistics of the school day mean that there are time constraints, but there has to be freedom to pursue the teachable or “learnable” moment. Standards and curriculum can’t be so locked down that there is no room for the community of practice to naturally evolve or to explore new ways to use personal technology tools to create and communicate. Now, projects don’t have to be so planned by the teacher that they leave little room for student creativity.
- Coaching – Just as the coach of a sport recognizes the need for practice for new skills to become habits, the teacher and students can mentor each other on the use of technology, on particular topics, and areas of expertise. There is no way that a teacher can know how each device or application works, so they have to be willing to learn alongside students and model inquiry.
- Persistence – Everyone makes mistakes, yet this realization can be difficult for many of us when it comes to BYOT. A student may access something inappropriate or send an unkind message, but that shouldn’t mean that the technology or the application should be banned. Instead, the members of the learning community should develop new goals for working on the problematic behaviors and realize that they are not technology issues.
The resiliency learned as a child within a nurturing community of practice could have long term implications on their success as adult learners and contributors within future work environments. By learning responsible ways to use personal technology tools in a BYOT learning community, hopefully students will be able to develop good digital footprints that can last a lifetime.
Wenger, Etienne (June, 2006). Communities of Practice: A brief introduction. Retrieved on May 22, 2013, http://www.ewenger.com/theory/.
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!
I woke up yesterday to a hectic morning as my wife was rushing out the door to go to work. She couldn’t start her car because the key wouldn’t turn in the ignition. We took turns wrestling with the key and steering wheel without budging them when I decided to search online to see if anyone else had posted their experiences with the same problem and listed a possible solution. Luckily, there were several discussion posts in a couple of different forums about such a problem, and I tried a few suggestions before I found the one that did the trick. I eventually unlocked and locked the car door manually with the key in order for it to reset. When I inserted the key again, it turned, and I heard the best sound in the world at that moment – the engine thundering into action!
I considered how awesome it is to have that immediate access to information when it is needed, just in time. Similar situations happen in the classroom. Students need ready access during the process of learning, but that access is controlled by the content obtainable in the textbooks, the availability of school’s technology resources, and the opportunity students have to make choices. When students bring their own technology to facilitate their learning in BYOT, they can utilize more independence in finding necessary information and answers to their questions. They can collaborate to build the body of knowledge with the other students in their learning community by posting content that has relevance and meaning to the rest of the group. Teachers can also encourage students to search for new ways to learn with their own technology tools and to create original products and projects.
It’s time to turn that key for BYOT from LOCK to START and accelerate learning for all students – just in time!