Posts Tagged collaboration
This post was written in collaboration with Douglas Konopelko. It is part of a series about the Building Blocks for Personalized Learning. Although it may seem unusual to connect collaboration to the practice of personalized learning, it is important to remember that students don’t learn within a vacuum. In a personalized learning environment, teachers can help students discover what individual roles they can successfully assume when collaborating with others.
Employers in the digital age are not looking at test scores; they want candidates with effective collaboration and teamwork skills. According to The National Association of Colleges and Employers in 2013, the number one skill employers are looking for in their employees is the ability to work in a team. Review the top ten qualities in this Forbes article. Collaboration is often misconstrued, and it is important to make a distinction between collaboration and group work. Think of it this way – group work is an assembly line – each worker is responsible for a portion of the final product, but they can be completed in isolation. On the other hand, an example of collaboration is the leadership team from a corporation deciding on the direction they want to take the company. Collaboration requires that there be some form of direct interaction between individuals towards an end product which includes negotiations, discussions, and valuing the perspectives of others (Kozar, 2010). Detailed below are some strategies for collaboration that teachers can facilitate in their personalized learning environments.
Strategies for Facilitating Collaboration
Scaffold Collaborative Activities – Students might not know how to begin to work collaboratively, so a teacher can facilitate collaboration by modeling strategies for sharing responsibilities while still including everyone in the overall process and success for the activity. Teachers can also suggest roles with specific responsibilities within the group. For example, if students are developing a video based around a standard, there might be students with the following responsibilities: script writers, editors, videographers, prop designers, and actors.
Teachers are gradually abandoning roles that don’t involve content, such as “time keeper” in favor of those that keep everyone truly involved in the standards-based or skills-based learning. The following list contains some suggested new roles for collaborative learning:
- Standard Bearer – This role is responsible for making sure that the team’s discussion and answer is aligned to the standard/scale/learning goal and steers the conversation back to that direction if it strays.
- Clarification Guru – This role makes sure that what is being discussed/presented will be clearly stated to make it easy to understand while still remaining focused on the topic at hand.
- Visualizer – This role is responsible for translating the group’s full process (all the thoughts and ideas) into a visual (sketchnote or graphic organizer).
- Deepener of Knowledge – This role is responsible for synthesizing questions or an enrichment assignment based on the standard and the group’s process that will help other people dig deeper into the standard and get to a higher level of cognitive complexity.
Promote Interdependence – It is essential to have nurtured a learning community where students are encouraged to rely on each other for support. One strategy is to assign students who are experts at particular apps to be “Appsperts.” Post the Appsperts on the wall and explain that if students are confused on how to use the particular app, they can go to the Appspert for expert advice. This provides students with an opportunity to develop leadership skills within the classroom digitally. Another strategy for promoting interdependence is to create a classroom norm that students discuss issues with each other before bringing them to the teacher. The teacher should also adhere to this norm by not interjecting in every conversation by assuming it is off-track.
Utilize Student Expertise – Once students have mastered a standard, they can develop materials and resources to teach other students that concept. Encouraging students to utilize what they have created to tutor or assist students who are having difficulties is empowering. This reciprocal teaching is one of the most powerful and effective ways to simultaneously offer remediation to struggling students and acceleration to students who are ready to move on at their own pace. Students can also facilitate a small group environment to teach other students a concept. If they can do this effectively, a student-led session can be recorded for future flipped instruction. If possible, a teacher could post this as an example or evidence for parents to see the powerful learning taking place in the classroom.
Many students may know how to use the technology in the classroom better than their teachers, but they might not know how to learn with that technology. The teacher can show a willingness to learn from the students how to use those technology tools, devices, resources, and applications for new learning opportunities.
Establish Clear Guidelines – A positive strategy is to have students develop a set of classroom rules, expectations, and norms that help the class to create a sense of community within the classroom. These norms should be posted and reviewed regularly to help guide collaboration. Before students begin working collaboratively is a good time for the teacher to model examples and non-examples of appropriate behaviors. It is essential to design these norms with the students in order to empower students and to achieve their buy-in. They can also assist in the design of a checklist or a rubric for evaluating participation so that they know what is expected of them when they collaborate with others.
Model Conflict Resolution – Creating a collaborative classroom culture is essential to any transformational change. One successful method is to implement a classroom vision statement developed by all students. Each morning, students can discuss ways they will achieve the classroom vision, and if they were unable to the previous day, they can develop a goal on how they will improve. Students can develop an action plan together to reach that goal using the following suggested questions:
- What will I do today?
- What will I do tomorrow?
- What will I do next week?
- How will I know that we have been successful?
It should be expected that as students collaborate, they will eventual experience conflicts. When conflicts do arise, the teacher should walk through the steps and norms that have been developed by the students for resolving conflicts. The teacher’s role in this situation should be to coach the students by asking good questions that help to lead to a resolution.
More about Douglas – In addition to his role as the Coordinator of Digital Learning for Martin County School District in Florida, Douglas Konopelko is a connected educator and graphic design enthusiast (dkonopelko.com). His passion for collaboration and lifelong learning is woven into the fabric of each of these roles. As a classroom teacher, Douglas led the charge for BYOD in his district and continues to support the program as a district administrator.
Almost two years ago, I wrote an article for eSchool News entitled, “The Advantages of the BYOT Classroom.” At the time, I was the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County Schools in Georgia, and the advantages that I listed were the qualities that I had observed in classrooms that effectively utilized Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) to transform teaching and learning opportunities with students’ personal technology tools.
Now, I’m collaborating with several schools and districts around the country that are beginning to implement Personalized Learning to better connect students with engaging academic content; to facilitate the development of digital age skills; and to utilize technology to provide access to anytime, anywhere learning. These benefits occur as districts, schools, and teachers recognize that students have unique strengths, needs, and interests that must be considered within the design of instruction. The methods for addressing student individuality may differ, but they include the same hallmarks of the BYOT classroom. In the illustration above, I refer to these as building blocks, as they collectively construct a firm foundation for personalized learning.
Within each of the blog posts linked below, I focused on the concepts included within the illustration of the building blocks to highlight why they are essential, foundational components for personalizing learning. I also included strategies or described necessary qualities for encouraging the development of each building block within your own personalized learning implementation plan.
Building Blocks for Personalized Learning Blog Posts
- Critical Thinking
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.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills identified 4 critical areas of learning for students that include creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. In Forsyth County Schools, we’ve been working hard with parents, teachers and students to embrace learning with student-owned technologies; something we call Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). What we know for sure is that BYOT is really more like Bring Your Own Learning because we’ve discovered that it is NOT about the technology – it IS about the learning.
The video, Above and Beyond, by Peter H. Reynolds and produced for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, is a wonderful illustration of what is possible when students are given the freedom to personalize the learning experience for themselves.
As you watch the video, you might consider the following questions:
- What happens when designers of learning recognize that students are always volunteers in learning?
- How can designers of learning create a “kit” and still allow students the freedom to produce individualized results?
- In a world where we feel pressured to cover everything within a given time frame, how do we schedule innovation and deeper learning?
- How do we honor each child’s strengths and still nurture collaboration?
- How would the meaning of the story change if Maya and Charlie were to lose the race?
We have spent a great deal of time watching BYOT unfold its wings in the classrooms around our district. And we’ve seen so many great strategies that support the 4 C’s of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. These strategies are ageless and cross all content areas. We teach them in our professional learning sessions and coach teachers to consider these as they begin to incorporate BYOT themselves:
- Backchanneling while watching a video: In this way the teacher is able to foster collaboration and communication by having students answer questions and post observations as the video proceeds.
- Take a picture or create an image which demonstrates understanding of a concept: This is a powerful way to encourage creativity as well as critical thinking. A variation on this strategy is having students annotate on the image using an app on their device.
- Arrive at consensus and submit one answer per pair: It’s not necessary for every student to have a device. In fact it’s preferable that students are forced to collaborate on their thinking and agree on the answer that will be submitted via a student response system like Socrative. This strategy enhances critical thinking as well as collaboration.
- Sharing tools for learning: There is a magical thing that occurs when BYOT is first introduced in a class. If a teacher encourages students to share their devices with each other while talking about the ways in which the apps and device can be used to support learning, the great ideas flow and student excitement about learning blossoms. And meanwhile students are thinking critically, collaborating, communicating and getting creative.
- Demonstrating how to do something: We’ve seen some fantastic examples of critical thinking where students are using screen sharing apps to demonstrate how to solve math problems. We’ve even seen some examples where students have to incorporate a mistake into the problem and show why that mistake is incorrect and how to fix it – requiring some creativity to communicate as well.
- Turning a standard into a driving question: When teachers gain some comfort with implementing BYOT and have begun to give up some of the control in the classroom, this strategy works very well. The teacher will share a particular standard with students and together they will write a question that is compelling, asks “so what” and results in a product that useful and beneficial beyond the classroom. This strategy definitely addresses all of the 4 C’s in the process!
- Finding a new way to show what you know: Another great strategy to use once students have become comfortable in the BYOT classroom is to ask them to demonstrate their learning in an innovative way. Students cannot repeat any of the previously used strategies as a way to represent learning. Students are forced to think critically about ways that they can demonstrate their mastery and to do so creatively.
- Building a community bank of ways to show what you know: The teacher has to utilize the ingenuity and critical thinking of the students in the classroom for instructional and technical support. By suggesting ways to learn with their technology tools, students begin to own their learning. Teachers can posts these ideas throughout the classroom or online in a wiki, so students can use them as creative resources and communicate with each other for additional expertise.
Implementing the above strategies can strengthen the learning community of the classroom. The real transformation begins to occur as teachers realize that they can and should learn alongside their students to explore new ways to utilize personal technology. Not only do students strengthen their digital age skills, but they also feel more connected to each other, their teachers, and their learning. As shown in Above and Beyond, our students will one day truly take flight, and hopefully their experiences today will successfully pilot them in their different directions.
When I discuss the implementation of BYOT in classrooms, I am often questioned about the issue of equity. Is it fair that every student doesn’t have the same device? What do you do about the students who don’t have devices? There is no easy answer to the equity question; however, I have made several observations about equity when BYOT is in practice.
- We do have school technology resources in my district – four desktop computers in every classroom and access to laptop computers. The students without their own devices now have even greater access to school-owned technology since students are bringing their own technology devices to school because of our BYOT initiative. When I walked through classrooms before the implementation of BYOT, the desktop computers were often unused because the teachers directed so much of the one-size-fits-all instruction. Now, teachers are differentiating instruction, partly because of the different devices.
- I can’t predetermine which students will have their own technology tools. Many parents find a way to provide for their children. If teachers have high expectations for how technology will be used in their classrooms and empower students to use their technology tools as needed, students begin bringing their devices more consistently. It isn’t equitable to assume that students won’t have devices or to keep students who do have devices from using them.
- Another issue related to equity is that some teachers want to qualify the types of devices that the students should bring to school – thereby determining that some devices are “better” or “more effective” than others. I think that the students should bring whatever devices they have and then we will figure out together how to use them for instruction. Having the variety of devices can lead to greater opportunities for differentiation and collaboration as students work together to solve problems and develop new solutions.
Strategies for Achieving Equity
- Survey the parents and students to determine what types of technology resources they have available and reassure parents that every child will still have access to the school’s resources. Parents are also more likely to send devices to school when they understand the transformational goals of BYOT.
- Design open-ended lessons that encourage collaboration and open access to school technology resources. Our main goal of BYOT is to help students to become more productive in school rather than just being consumers of information. When students are encouraged to utilize their own devices and school technology, they often congregate in “BYOT Huddles” because they are eager to share what they are learning and creating with others.
- Re-purpose older technology devices for new uses. We have younger students that receive hand-me-down devices from older brothers and sisters, as they upgrade to new technology. Some students also bring slightly cracked iPhones to school that no longer have a data plan, but they work great as iPod Touches on our wifi network.
- Work with the community to brainstorm ways to achieve greater equity. It may be that a business partner can offer access to resources. One great side effect of our BYOT initiative is the dialogue that has occurred among schools and community members and has caused us to develop a BYOT Equity Task Force to tackle the issue of equity in our district.
- Begin your BYOT initiative! How can you even determine what the needs truly are until you begin? One of the early “A-HA” moments of our BYOT Equity Task Force was when we realized that most of our secondary students do have devices in their pockets, but the real access issue was the device they go home to at the end of the day. Some students may still only have that device in their pockets, but they don’t have a home computer with broadband access for more complicated assignments. Now that we have identified that issue, we are developing some plans for addressing it.
Don’t let the issue of equity stop you from implementing BYOT in your districts. It is usually an excuse to keep from embracing new teaching strategies and transforming instruction.
This is Day 3 of a series of posts to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom. These ideas are my suggestions for developing a learning community during the first five days of school that can hopefully lead to an effective BYOT implementation for the rest of the year. Please modify these activities to better suit the needs, interests, and abilities of your students.
Scenario: Through consistent collaborative work with their technology tools, students are learning and practicing new uses for their devices. Even though it is still early in the year, they are developing into a community with a common vocabulary regarding expectations for online communication and for the responsible use of technology. Although every student may not have a device, the school’s technology resources are being used more than ever to facilitate instruction. However, the students still need to learn additional ways to scaffold the use of their tools for a variety of learning activities.
Activity – Encourage Participation
On Day 1 of this week, the students began a wiki page about ways they could learn with their devices. Continue to add to this list by having the students brainstorm specific activities they could complete each day with their devices. For this brainstorming activity, have students use the Socrative Student app (iOS, Android) to encourage the participation of all the students.
Socrative is a student response system that works on all web-enabled devices (including many e-readers), and students can download the free app for both iOS and Android devices. At this time, teachers can sign up for a free account, and with the free teacher app (iOS, Android), they can lead the student response activity from their teacher laptop/desktop or from their handheld devices. Socrative enables teachers to pose multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions. The other activities that teachers can conduct are pre-made quizzes, exit ticket activity, and a space race game where students can engage, either individually or collaboratively in a game using a pre-made quiz. Teachers can also manage and share their quizzes with other colleagues.
Students do not need accounts to use Socrative; they just select the link (on the Internet) or the app on their handheld devices. Then they enter the room number that the teacher provides them from the teacher account and then join the room. They are directed to wait until the teacher begins the activity (by asking a question or starting a quiz), and then they enter their names and begin.
For this activity, log into Socrative and select a Short Answer quiz. Ask the students what ways that they can use their devices at school to complete tasks they already do without technology. Instead of raising their hands to answer the question, have students submit their suggestions using Socrative and their devices. If they do not have a device, they can use the Internet-based Socrative application from a school technology resource, or they can collaborate with a peer and submit an answer with one device.
Using Socrative is a more effective way to encourage participation than just raising hands because this models the expectation that all students have valuable insights to be shared rather than only the students who are more comfortable with speaking in front of the group. After the students submit their suggestions, Socrative enables the teacher to have the students vote on the answers. This polling can help to generate further discussion. Another student can also be involved by entering all of these suggestions in Wikispaces within the class wiki page – Ways to Learn with Our Devices.
Here are some possible ideas for additional ways that students can use their devices to enter into the class wiki page:
- Solve math problems with a calculator app
- Use an online thesaurus or app during writing assignments
- Define unfamiliar vocabulary words
- Take notes during lessons
- Enter due dates on a calendar
- Research new concepts
- Read eBooks
- Participate in online discussions
Another suggestion for using Socrative is to have students submit their own questions (using the Short Answer option) that the teacher can then use in pre-made quizzes or as follow-up questions. These questions can be based on new content or topics, and they encourage the students to think about what they are learning. Try this activity by having the students submit questions about Responsible Use and then pose those questions to the class. Their questions and answers can also be uploaded to the class wiki page – Our Responsible Use Guidelines – if additional recommendations are generated.
Homework (Post these assignments in Edmodo.)
- Develop your Wikispaces profile. Yesterday, you created your profile in Edmodo. Tonight, you should also develop your profile in Wikispaces. Again, this personalizes the experience of working within a social network. As part of your profile, you should upload an appropriate photo or avatar that represents you. As always, if you do not have a computer at home to complete this assignment, you will be provided time to complete it at school. Try to come to school tomorrow with a completed profile in Wikispaces.
- Download these apps: Research and download apps that help you complete the different class activities listed in our class wiki. Recommend these apps to the other members of the class in our Edmodo group.
This is Day 1 of a series of posts this week to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom. In order to begin this series, I made three assumptions:
- The principal supports BYOT (see 5 Leadership Strategies for Implementing BYOT).
- Some background communication has occurred with parents and community members to achieve support for BYOT in the school.
- The school has some type of wireless infrastructure and access for supporting BYOT or permits students to bring their own data plans.
Scenario: The students are entering the classroom, and some of them are bringing devices to school. They have already visited the class during Open House, and learned about becoming a BYOT school, and the reality is that, as Jill Hobson, Director of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County Schools, has stated, “You’re already BYOT, but you won’t admit it.” Therefore, many students already have devices in their pockets and backpacks and just need to know how to use them in new ways to facilitate their learning experiences.
Activity – Build a Community
In any strong community, members know the rules and expectations for how they should learn and work together. Educators and schools often just give students the list of rules for students to follow, but BYOT provides greater opportunities for student participation. Expectations for responsible use will be more meaningful to students if they help create them. This process increases student buy in by make the guidelines relevant.
- Discuss Responsible Use. Have students provide examples of how devices should be used appropriately at school and what could happen when devices are used irresponsibly. I would begin this as a class discussion because although many students know how to use their devices, I wouldn’t assume that they know how to use them appropriately within a school setting. Remember, many students are self-taught or peer-taught in how technology should be used.
- Facilitate the Discussion. Guidelines for responsible use need to address the following issues: Netiquette, Cyberbullying, Plagiarism, Security, Maintenance of Devices, Privacy, Passwords, Appropriate Content, and Safe Online Searches. As the moderator of the class discussion, the teacher can help to ensure that these topics come up during the discussion. There may also be some additional issues that should be discussed that are relevant within your particular learning community.
- Share Out about Devices. Have students take out their devices and share them with each other by discussing with a small group or the whole class how they already use their technology. There are several reasons why this sharing is important:
- It acknowledges the expertise of students in their technology tools, and it shows that you trust them to be responsible with them at school.
- Students are usually eager to share what they know about their devices, and this time to share helps them to make connections between personal uses of technology and educational purposes.
- It helps students express the excitement of bringing their technology to school so that they are able to focus and work with their devices more constructively in later activities.
- It allows you and the other students to help distinguish between all of the different devices so that everyone can assist with securing the technology and finding the experts on particular devices.
- It helps you and the students to learn more about all of the different capabilities of the technology available within the classroom.
- It is sometimes easier to talk about your technology tools in a new group than it is to talk about yourself, so it is a good way to begin communicating with others.
- Begin a Wiki. Go to Wikispaces, and sign up to begin a new wiki for your class. I like this tool because the wiki is free, and I can add students into it even if they don’t have email addresses. It is really easy to use, and it tracks each change that is made to a wiki. If a student accidentally deletes too much content, I can revert the wiki back to an earlier edition. Wikis encourage collaboration by empowering all of the students to produce and edit content that can be shared with the entire class.In your class wiki, develop two pages:
1. Our Responsible Use Guidelines
Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki. Based on the earlier discussion on responsible use, have students develop the guidelines and expectations for how they should use their devices at school. They should at least address all of the topics that were suggested regarding responsible use.
2. Ways to Learn with Our Devices
Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki. From the sharing of devices, they should explain how the tools can be used at school for learning about new things, and students may even share new ideas and strategies through the wiki that they did not express during the discussion.
These pages can be revisited throughout the school year as often as needed. Students are continually upgrading and getting new devices, and the wiki can be a source of good collective information.
- Have students share the wiki with their parents. It encourages good home/school communication, and it is reassuring to parents that their child is learning responsible use.
- Have students download these apps: Edmodo, Socrative-Student, Comic Touch Lite (these links are for iOS devices – iPads/iPhones). Some of these same apps are also available with Android devices, and encourage students to look for them with their parents. For a more comprehensive list of apps look at this list: Apps for Mobile Devices. If students do not have a device, reassure them that they can use the school’s technology resources, and many of these activities can also be completed with a variety of technology tools.
I have sometimes heard the misconception that before a school begins implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), students need to be trained in the acceptable use of technology that has been predetermined by the district; however, many of the digital age skills that students are developing as they use their devices at school occur just in time as they are needed in the course of the process of learning. Just in time learning entails that as a specialized strategy is necessary to solve a problem or share a solution, then that skill is learned and utilized in a relevant way within the context of the work. There are several just in time skills that students begin to acquire within the BYOT classroom.
Just in Time Digital Citizenship
We have all heard of students making mistakes with technology or using it inappropriately, often with devastating consequences. Many of these issues occur because students are self-taught or peer-taught in how they should use their devices without the just in time guidance of a teacher. When students are empowered to bring their personal technology devices to school to assume more control of their learning, they can be coached in responsible ways to use technology. Students in the BYOT classroom, have the advantage of learning how to use their devices for instructional purposes with the facilitation of their teachers. Students continually practice and refine digital citizenship in the BYOT classroom as they learn with each other through the use of the same technology devices that they use at home. Skills in netiquette, the appropriate ways to communicate with others online, as well as strategies for ensuring Internet safety, can be encouraged by the teacher within the BYOT learning community.
Just in Time Technical Troubleshooting
As devices and applications continue to change, there is no one consistent method for resolving technical issues. Technical troubleshooting and instruction must occur just in time in the BYOT classroom according to the pertinent needs of the situation. Teachers and students learn how to use new technology tools and programs while they are being utilized, and students often provide the technical training for their peers and their teachers. Since students are utilizing different devices for instruction, they will have to become proficient with the technical aspects of their own tools and usually become recognized for their particular areas of expertise. In this way, students and teachers can develop critical problem-solving strategies for working and learning within a digital world.
Just in Time Collaboration
Learning how to work with others to achieve a common purpose is essential to the BYOT classroom because students are bringing different devices to school, and those devices have different capabilities. The students also possess different knowledge, abilities, and interests, therefore, they have to pool their resources and intellect and negotiate responsibilities for the learning. Groups need to be dynamic and fluid as students work together and with their teacher to share information and make decisions. Many Web 2.0 sites can be used to develop online collaborative spaces, including Edmodo and Wikispaces. Just in time collaboration can occur synchronously or asynchronously and capitalizes on the potential strengths of everyone in the learning community.
Just in Time Critical Thinking
Critical thinking with BYOT involves being able to distinguish among conflicting information and facts as students conduct research with their personal devices. Recognizing propaganda and determining the accuracy of content are other essential critical thinking abilities required by the digital age. Students need to develop the capacity to use reason as they formulate opinions based on what they already know and on what they have learned from their classmates and in online searches. Students learning how to make these decisions just in time can be nurtured by the classroom teacher through modeling, practicing, reflecting, and questioning. A great tool for posing questions to students is Socrative. It works across multiple devices and incorporates various types of questions, and teachers can easily create follow up questions to responses that students have texted and shared with the rest of the class.
Just in Time Communication
In the traditional classroom, communication is often one-way – directed from the teacher and toward the student. In the BYOT classroom, there is a potential shift in communication as students use their devices to discuss content they are learning with others, set goals for themselves, and share new concepts. This communication happens just in time as the students are encouraged to communicate, whenever and wherever, as a function and expression of learning. The lines of communication are now multi-directional and extend beyond the classroom as students can web conference through Skype with other students in classrooms around the globe. They can instantaneously publish their ideas by blogging using Edublogs or through other blogging tools. Blogs can become a lasting portfolio of student work, and this process of authorship helps students to develop an authentic and beneficial digital footprint.
Just in Time Creativity
With the abundance of free and inexpensive applications for mobile devices, students are able to develop new skills in creativity. In the BYOT classroom, teachers can help foster creativity as students utilize their personal technology tools to invent and design original products. These inventions are often constructed just in time as solutions to problems or for students to illustrate what they have learned in imaginative new ways. In this manner, students aspire to become producers of content that they find relevant rather than solely being consumers of static information that has been predetermined as meaningful for students. With netbooks and laptops, students can download the free, open source, program Audacity to develop podcasts and recordings, or they can record straight to their handheld devices. Students can also use the camera tools on their devices to take photographs and easily turn these photos into new creations with the use of iPhoneography apps (my favorite is Pixlr-o-matic). VoiceThread is a web tool (with an app for mobile devices) that can enable multiple users to upload their original photos and comment on them collaboratively.
One more note… Just in Time
By the way, just in time professional learning opportunities also emerge for teachers in the BYOT classroom as they learn alongside their students and discover new interests, skills, and strengths in the use of personal technology for instruction.
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!
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has developed a Framework for 21st Century Learning that identifies key learning and innovation skills, otherwise known as the 4 C’s: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration. In the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom, facilitating the 4 C’s becomes a logical extension of classroom instruction as students are connected to their learning and each other with their personal technology devices. With their own tools, students are able to practice and develop the 4 C’s as the teacher coaches, scaffolds, and models the learning. Of course, the students are the experts in their own devices, but the teacher has to create an environment that is conducive of exploration and inquiry so that students have the opportunity to learn how to learn with their technology. One way the teacher can encourage this type of environment is by learning alongside the students.
Another strategy for implementing the 4 C’s within instruction is to promote them with the use of web tools and project-based learning. Although there is some overlap among the 4 C’s depending on how the tools are being used, I have provided some specific examples below:
Creativity – VoiceThread
A VoiceThread is an online slide show that enables students to upload and present images, documents, and videos and then share comments by writing or recording messages. They can also draw on the slides in order to annotate them during the presentation. Although VoiceThread is a great tool for supporting all of the 4 C’s, it can encourage creative expression with the students’ devices. Students can take their own photos and create presentations to demonstrate what they have learned, and the other students can provide creative comments. For example, in a study of similes (comparisons using like or as), a student can take a photo of an object with an iPod Touch and optimize it in a free photo app (one of my personal favorites is Pixlr-o-matic). The student then saves the photo and uploads it into VoiceThread. The other students can then provide interesting similies in their responses that involve the object in the photo. There is an app for VoiceThread that can be downloaded on the iTunes store for iPods and iPads, or VoiceThreads can be created online on Macs or PCs.
Critical thinking – Socrative
Socrative is a web-based student response system that enables teachers to ask multiple choice, true/false, or short answer questions that students answer on their own devices. Teachers can also create and save quizzes ahead of time for students to complete, or they can begin ad-hoc sessions during class discussions with students. One aspect of Socrative that promotes critical thinking is that after asking an open-ended short answer question, the teacher can easily choose to have student vote on their answers. Teachers can also have students participate in an activity in Socrative called Space Race in which students can compete in random or assigned teams to complete a teacher-made quiz and be the first to get their team’s rocket to the finish line. I have seen this activity increase collaboration even in a high school AP Calculus class as the students worked in groups to solve problems and answer the questions. It works effectively even if every student does not have a device because the students can take share a device to answer questions and the new concepts are more likely to be retained as the students learn them in groups. The short answer option can be useful for the students to text in their own questions, and the teacher can then pose these questions back to the class or use them in a future quiz. Socrative also provides a preset Ticket Out the Door to assess student understanding of the learned content. There is a teacher app for Socrative (iOS, Android) as well as a student app (iOS, Android), so teachers are able to conduct the session from their smartphones or laptops, and students can participate via smartphones, laptops, or desktops.
Communication – Edublogs
With Edublogs, teachers and students can develop blogs for education that help to provide opportunities for communication in the classroom and in a global community. When students have their own blogs, they are able to publish the results of their project-based learning and collaboration and share what they have accomplished with others. Writing becomes more authentic as students have a purpose for their writing assignments, and students are able to customize their blogs according to their personal learning interests and styles. Although a blog is useful for publishing creative writing, it can also be used to communicate technical concepts like the steps in a scientific process accompanied with photos of the activity. Edublogs also publishes an annual list of the best blogs in education as well as additional web tools and apps on The Edublog Awards Blog. This list can be a useful resource for teachers and students as they begin developing their blogs. A teacher can sign up each student in the class for a blog, even in elementary grades, because an email address is not required. There is no app for Edublogs, but blogs can be edited through the Internet browser on smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops.
Collaboration – Wikispaces
A wiki is a collaborative space for teachers and students to construct their learning experiences together. Teachers can develop class wikis in Wikispaces and easily upload all of their students, even if they do not have email addresses. In the wiki, the teacher and students can encourage a sense of community in the classroom by sharing files and creating content. As the students edit their work within the wiki, the teacher can track who made all of the changes to determine student participation. Like a blog, a wiki makes a good launchpad for encouraging BYOT. Since the students are working independently or in small groups, the wiki gives them a place to continue their projects or assignments while the teacher is learning alongside and coaching other students in the class. One example of how a wiki was used in a middle school math classroom, is that the teacher divided the students into groups to explain particular problem solving strategies and mathematical concepts. In this manner, the students in the class actually produced their own math “textbook” as an on-going project that they were able to use as a resource. Although, there is no app for Wikispaces, the students are able to edit text on the browser of their handheld devices, and they are able to use tablets, laptops, and desktops to complete all of their other editing in the wiki.
Some final thoughts…
The above resources are currently free, at least for individual teacher accounts, or a district may choose to subscribe to them in order to receive analytics or more customization. Their use in the BYOT classroom can be a good way for teachers to begin implementing BYOT and encouraging students to bring their own technology tools to school to facilitate their learning.
What other tools and strategies can be used to promote the 4 C’s in today’s digital age classrooms?