Posts Tagged Coal Mountain Elementary School

Creating Thinkers with BYOT

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.

Guest Post by Brooke Hagler
Fourth Grade Teacher – Coal Mountain Elementary School

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

BYOT_ToolsI 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 The students participated and collaborated using BYOT, school technology resources, whiteboards, or paper.  By using Socrative and, 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

BYOT_ThinkersHere 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.

Explorer Invention RubricThe 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.

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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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