Posts Tagged byot
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). 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.
Many 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
We 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.
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!
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.
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.
When do you begin teaching responsible use? It should start at birth. Many parents begin creating the child’s digital footprint before the child is even born by posting the ultrasound photo on social media. Ideally when the child enters school you would expect a child to know how to share, take turns, listen to other opinions and know the difference between right and wrong and some understanding of social norms for public and private behavior. In reality we realize that some children come to school unprepared with some of those social skills and so we nurture and model and teach appropriate behavior until these become internalized.
For example,we live in an era where parents have some model for the “sex talk” because most people participated in such a conversation(s) as a child. There are multiple books and blogs and other resources to help parents with how to handle this issue. But who among us as parents has a model for ongoing digital citizenship conversation? Most adults have developed their knowledge of social media through experimentation without guidance, yet we wouldn’t want our kids to learn about sex in that way! So, this is an area where the school has a responsibility to step in and join with families in the work of teaching digital citizenship.
From the beginning of a child’s school career, learning about responsible must be an everyday, ongoing, just in time experience. Where would a school find resources for this kind of instruction? One powerful tool for schools AND parents that we recommend is Common Sense Media.
In addition it seems that when issues occur where a young person makes a mistake, the initial reaction leans towards banning whatever device, app or website was involved as a solution. While this is a quick way to deal with the immediate issue, it misses the larger need to educate students on how to live in a world of the open Internet. Students need to learn what it means to responsibly make use of these tools. And it means that we need to know what to do when we end up in the wrong place, when we mess up, or make a poor choice. How do young people learn to “course correct” without some guidance from the adults in their lives?
Forsyth County Schools has begun to address the way we deal with issue by moving away from the traditional Acceptable Use Guidelines that include a long list of “thou shalt nots” and has replaced them with the FCS Responsible Use Guidelines. These guidelines include 5 statements outlining behaviors all members of the FCS community will exhibit regarding digital citizenship. We started to recognize that we had been focusing on the 5% of students who might not follow directions and were making all of the “rules” to deal with their issues. Our goal in transforming the Acceptable Use Guidelines into Responsible Use Guidelines was to focus on the 95% of students who are going to do the right thing.
The district will begin its sixth year of its Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative in the 2013-2014 school year. At the onset of implementing BYOT, it seemed necessary to control the devices and applications the students were using in order to ensure safety. There was some concern about what would happen when students brought their own technology tools to school, and the district leaned heavily on its filtered network as a measure of control. The big A-HA moment came when students brought devices to school and generally used them responsibly and safely, and the few issues that arose were identified as behavioral concerns to be addressed rather than being technology problems. The district outgrew its one-size-fits-all Acceptable Use Guidelines and began its quest to develop the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines. Some goals of this effort were to have consistent home-school communication and support; to provide some flexibility to local school communities; to teach digital citizenship within the context of students’ personal devices,; and to encompass the growing diversity and different expectations of our learning community.
Here is a poster that we have developed to express the five traits and expectations of the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines embedded within the overarching concept of TRUST:
We TRUST that the new school year with the new FCS Responsible Use Guidelines will have a renewed focus on digital age learning and citizenship. To review the FCS Responsible Use Guidelines, please visit http://www.forsyth.k12.ga.us/responsibleuse.
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/.
As an Instructional Technology Specialist at a Title 1 elementary school, one of my roles is to coach teachers on how to integrate technology into the curriculum. In our current digital age, this is not optional. Classrooms must reform to prepare students to become successful for careers of the future. We are already 13 years into the 21st Century!
So how do we get all teachers on board? The first step is to build community within the school and within each classroom. This is the foundation to getting any program to work – especially something as new as Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). Everyone should be comfortable learning as they go, and knowing that mistakes are okay, as long as knowledge is gained from them!
The next step is to focus on instruction – technology should always come later! Providing professional development on higher order thinking, project and inquiry based learning, differentiated instruction, flexible grouping, driving questions, different levels of technology use, the 4 C’s of digital age learning, etc… is the most important step to ensuring that technology integration is being utilized to enhance instruction and take kids to places they’ve never been before! After educators have solid instructional skills, technology integration will truly be effective.
Providing professional development opportunities for teachers such as using the latest tech tools, doing walk throughs into other classrooms to see BYOT in action, and having people walk through their rooms and provide feedback are essential! Having administration, other teachers, and instructional technology specialists walk through classrooms and give honest feedback and suggestions has been a huge catalyst for change! Let teachers know it is okay to learn from the students. Encourage the students to show what their devices can do, while the teacher focuses on the curriculum. Teachers who focus on the devices and feel like they must know how to use it before allowing it into the classroom will always be swimming upstream. Devices and software change constantly. Teachers must accept that and let that fear go. Educators will be amazed to see how much easier t eaching becomes when control shifts and students are allowed to have choice to be the experts of their own devices.
Technology in the classroom is one of the fastest growing movements that have ever occurred in education. When it is utilized appropriately, children are truly becoming prepared for the real world, and isn’t that the purpose of school? The BYOT train is only going to go faster, so it’s time to jump on, or risk being stuck behind while everyone else has reached new places!
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. In this post, teacher of the gifted, Abby Keyser, shares her experiences with using BYOT to teach gifted students.
We are making a WHAT? With WHOM? These are the questions I was asked by my students after I explained our new project called the River Xchange. I registered my students to participate in creating a wiki with a high tech pen pal class in New Mexico. What was I thinking? I had never made a website, let alone used Wikispaces. Yet, here I was facilitating this project with my fifth graders, praying it wouldn’t turn out to be a disaster. The key word is facilitate – to make easier or help bring about. This word does not entail planning or leading through every step. It simply involves guidance along the way; nudging back towards the path, but not fearing a branch in a different direction that could lead to the same destination.
I took a deep breath and gave them the web address to the Wikispaces wiki. I gave them some freedom to try out the site while I monitored. They navigated with ease, figured out how to use all of the tools and even learned editing from an Apple device. This all occurred within about 20 minutes. All while I was imagining the hours I would have spent trying to make sure I knew how each tool worked and how to teach it to the kids. Pretty soon, my entire unit revolved around the Wiki. The students were in charge of their own learning. I would enter a few HOT (Higher Order Thinking) questions each week with related sites to use for research and they were off! I started to see improvements in the voice of their writing. Jaded, disengaged students started jumping on laptops to see how their pen pals had responded to their writing from the previous week. A few girls who were interested in photography created a photo gallery to share pictures of our local watershed with our new pals in New Mexico. Next, they were asking if they could upload crossword puzzles and Zondle quizzes to test their pen pals’ knowledge of our local watershed. My classroom was alive with excitement created by making connections to the world beyond our school walls.
Global Passions Unleashed
Projects like the River Xchange give gifted students a chance to expand their audience. So many of my students are passionate about current events or issues bigger than what’s being served in the lunchroom. School newspapers are a great idea, but if you really want to engage the hearts and minds of our gifted population, you are going to have to give them a larger audience. Try asking them to create a persuasive argument on their opinion of American soldiers in Afghanistan. Half of them will lean their heads on their desks and whine, while others will drudge through the task. Then try telling them that they could video their argument to post on Edmodo for their classmates and parents to view. A glimmer of interest shines out in a few. Better yet, tell the students they can post their argument on Teacher Tube and email the link to a few choice state and federal politicians. Now you have everyone in the room furiously trying to get their notes down on paper, so they can film . They want to get their point across to someone out there. They want their voice to be heard. Oral presentations to a class of 25 or 30 just aren’t enough anymore. Empower them; give them global access.
Teaching Gifted at a Title I school has its pros and cons. On one hand, you have access to many federally funded BYOT devices. On the other hand, you generally don’t see a high gifted population at a Title I school. Is it because the abilities just aren’t there? Or is it due to a lack of exposure to environments and experiences that higher socio-economic populations generally have? I believe the latter. This is where BYOT devices are going to swing the pendulum. Imagine teaching a child how to use a device appropriately to access information from places all over the world. That would give him/her a whole new world to explore, tapping into the abilities already in place and expanding the child’s schema. In the past, a gifted mind might have been stifled and unidentified in this environment. Now we are able to compensate for a lack of exposure and expose their potential through the use of BYOT devices.
What We’ve Been Waiting For
In education, we hear a lot about student choice. The gifted students in my classroom all but demand it. Not only do they want to choose the format in which they prove their learning, but now they want to give input on what apps, programs, or online resources we use to address a new concept or topic. They are essentially writing my lesson plans for me! By allowing the students to have a choice in how they will receive information and how they can show their mastery, we not only give them ownership of their academic success, but we also propel them into being able to make good choices in their future careers. My first step in planning a new unit is, now, to meet with the kids for an exploration session. We use BYOT devices to research our topic and pinpoint the aspects they are most interested in studying. The students then find apps that may aid in our learning. We always end with a discussion of how they would like to present their knowledge gained and who they would like the audience to be. Without BYOT, this would most likely be limited to boring PowerPoint presentations to the class, or worse, tri-fold posters!
Finally, here is a story of an overexcitable child. Like many gifted minds, Michael just couldn’t sit still and never seemed to be focused on what I was saying in class. He was constantly fidgeting in his bookbag with something, folding origami, solving his Rubik’s cube or throwing karate kicks across the back of my room. No matter how many times I asked him to sit down and pay attention to what I was saying, he was always getting off task. I found myself wondering how I could harness his mind’s bouncy nature. He seemed to always be doing five things at once. That was it! I needed to teach him how to effectively multitask. This is where BYOT has saved my sanity and reigned in my kids whom I could never seem to engage. I started by getting Michael to use Join.Me on my whiteboard during any direct instruction. This enabled him to not only view what was happening on the board through his device, but he could frequently type in his thoughts or questions in the back channel discussion log. This gave his mind something to engage in actively while still focusing on the topic at hand. Now, Michael is always the first to request that I add the use of Socrative to our persuasive debates, as a discussion question board to review what we learned in the last class, or as a backchannel to blog while we watch a video. Multitasking may be something that we do out of necessity as teachers, but our gifted students are born needing to engage in this way. BYOT has connected me with my students in a way that I never thought possible. It really is the perfect fit.
Many of us have ordered furniture or other items from IKEA and spent a weekend assembling those products to be proudly displayed as our handiwork. Earlier this year on National Public Radio, Shankar Vedantam, author of The Hidden Brain, reported a story in Research News entitled “Why You Love That IKEA Table, Even If It’s Crooked.” The basic premise of this research is that when we labor at something that we personally create, we value it more although it may have some imperfections.
According to research by Mochon, Norton, and Ariely (2012),
Building your own stuff boosts your feelings of pride and competence, and also signals to others that you are competent.
This phenomenon is known as the IKEA Effect, and it has repercussions that could extend beyond the field of business marketing. Some outcomes may include a desire to create a product; valuing one’s handiwork; and increased competence. On the other hand, another consequence is that when people feel incompetent, they may be more vulnerable to the IKEA Effect. Mochon, Norton, and Ariely (2012) found that with increased self-esteem, people appear to be less interested in proving their competences to others.
As I listened to the broadcast, I reflected on the IKEA Effect’s possible implications for learning within the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom.
One of the most obvious results of BYOT is that students have the potential to produce content instead of solely consuming it. There is no need for the teacher to lecture about information that the students can readily access on their devices, and the classroom has to become a more hands-on learning laboratory where students are empowered to discover new ways of researching content and sharing what they have learned with others. According to the IKEA Effect, this act of creation can lead to a sense of competence.
In the BYOT classroom, students expect to contribute to the growing body of knowledge accumulated by their learning community. These contributions may be in the form of original products that can be housed and viewed online. Think of a repository of resources, tutorials, and projects that are uploaded and reviewed with a larger audience than just the teacher and individual student. This sharing reinforces a sense of pride in one’s handiwork.
Because students in the BYOT classroom are creating new products for a real purpose, rather than just recalling information for the test at the end of the week, there is a sense of validity to their learning. Students are able to make new connections to what they are learning via their connectivity to their personal technology tools and each other. They know how their devices work, and their teachers can help them brainstorm possible new uses. Their technology tools take on new meaning as they are used to construct new experiences.
Through the act of construction, students have more ownership in their learning. This shift occurs because the students’ devices have different capabilities, and the teacher can’t force everyone to create the same product in an identical manner. The students are also able to lend their expertise in their technology tools for the good of the learning community and provide technical support and instructional assistance. They may choose to present what they have learned by creating a video, building in Minecraft, or designing a game. The possibilities can be endless with the power of choice.
One negative aspect of the IKEA Effect is that we sometimes can’t see the imperfections in our own work. How do students learn how to improve the quality of their work within the BYOT classroom? Of course the obvious answer is that the teacher facilitates these learning experiences by asking questions. The students can also collaborate with the assistance of the teacher to develop rubrics and strategies for evaluating their products. Because of the bond within the supportive learning community of the BYOT classroom, the students can critique their work and learn to view their products more objectively.
One difference between the practices of a BYOT classroom and assembling a product from IKEA is that there is no blueprint – no master design to follow. The directions for success are constantly being refined by the teacher and students – the designers of the learning community. Eventually, you will proudly display your own IKEA creation to your family and friends while ignoring those little nicks and scratches you accidentally caused during the process of assembly. Know that the feeling of accomplishment that you achieved with your tools is a daily occurrence in the BYOT environment.
- Mochon, D., Norton, M. I., & Ariely, D. (2012). Bolstering and restoring feelings of competence via the IKEA effect. International Journal of Research in Marketing.
- Vedantam, S. (2013, February 6). Why you love that ikea table, even if it. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2013/02/06/171177695/why-you-love-that-ikea-table-even-if-its-crooked
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 Jennifer McCutchen (
Eighth Grade Teacher – Little Mill Middle School
My BYOT Transformational Journey
Using technology in the classroom was a paradigm shift for me as an educator. I can tell you it was hard to let go of the idea that I needed to somehow take all of my knowledge and transfer it to my students. After quite a bit of self-reflection and the BYOT initiative in our district, I came to understand the true meaning of becoming a facilitator of learning. I shared with a colleague that, as teachers, our job is a lot like a parent teaching our own children to ride a bike. As parents, we know how to ride a bike, but until our own children try it out on their own, they will never learn. It doesn’t start very pretty, there may be bumps and bruises along the way, but very quickly our children ride the bike…and do it well! The same can be said of my own classroom and using technology.
I began my journey by letting go of the fact that I am not going to be an expert on every device that walks into my room. Where I am not the expert, there is a student who is in every class! They love to be the expert and are eager to help each other. I asked students to find apps that they felt like were helpful to them to accomplish tasks that I would normally ask them to simply write and turn in. Students showed my apps such as “Show me” and “Skitch” where can draw my diagrams from the board, and then use them to make their own about different concepts. I could see a shift in how students communicate results in the lab. Students create lab write ups with rich discussion posts on WikiSpaces. They were now able to capture video to show chemical reactions. They could use voice overs to explain what happened in their own lab. They began sharing and analyzing student work; applying what they were learning to other situations. They asked such enlightening questions of each other, and made comments that I had never thought of! They compared data points on graphs, and analyzed why and how their results were alike and different than others. I could see the “light bulb” go off for students regarding human error and the scientific process.
A student summed up BYOT saying, “It used to be that just you (the teacher) saw our work, now everyone sees it. I want mine to be the best.” Peer pressure can be a great motivator, and combining it with technology makes it even greater!
I have learned to leave fear out of my classroom. I have learned to look at technology as a tool that allows students to learn more, do more and become more than they had been. My classroom has become an inviting and exciting place to learn, not just for my students, but for me, too!