Posts Tagged collaboration
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?
Although I continue to see additional iOS devices, iPods and iPads, in the hands of students in the elementary grades, one of the most popular technology devices continues to be the Nintendo DS and DSi. In fact, all Nintendo DS models combined have made it the best selling handheld game console. These handhelds are often a child’s first foray into personal technology, and they can be utilized effectively as learning tools within the BYOT classroom. To learn more about these devices, I asked the experts – a group of fourth grade students!
There are relatively few educational games for the Nintendo DS and DSi compared to the overall inventory of available games. However, the real benefits of the Nintendo DS and DSi are the free applications within these handheld devices. The major difference between the Nintendo DS and DSi is that the DSi has the capability to access the Internet, but even without accessing the Internet, the Nintendo DSi offers some applications that can be used by creative teachers and students to facilitate learning.
1. Pictochat – With Pictochat, students can communicate with 15 other users over a distance of about 65 feet by sending each other pictures or words over a wireless connection. Students can ask each other questions about concepts they are studying, such as math problems and possible solutions, and practice writing complete sentences and spelling words. This communication could be the beginning of understanding appropriate netiquette within the safety of the classroom learning community.
2. Clock – With the clock tool, students could monitor how long they work on tasks in the classroom and set an alarm when they need to move on to the next activity. This practice could help them develop more self-regulation as they monitor their classwork.
3. FlipNote Studio – FlipNote Studio is used to design animations. Some classroom activities could be to animate simple machines, steps in a process, or mathematical problem-solving. Students can add sounds to their animations including recording their voices. Another feature of FlipNote Studio is called Light Box, an onion skin effect that is included with the animations so students can perfect their illustrations. There is also a Copy tool so that students don’t have to keep drawing the same picture. Students’ animations can then be saved as animated gifs onto an SD card or shared wirelessly with other students’ DSis.
4. DSi Camera – All DSis have a camera tool, which has several uses within the classroom. The photos that students take can be saved to the device’s internal memory or to an SD card. One fourth grade student took weekly photographs with her DSi of caterpillars that she had at home to document their metamorphosis into butterflies. She uploaded these photos from the SD card into a class blog and wrote a description of each stage to share with the class. Since the DSi’s are able to connect to each other, students are able to share their photos with each other without the use of email.
There are different lens tools that students can use to edit their photos. With the Graffiti Lens, students can draw on their pictures. So, in the classroom, students could take pictures of a plant and label all of the parts. With the Mirror Lens, students can learn about symmetry by copying and duplicating aspects of their photos.
Other types of effects can be added to faces in students’ photos. This can be used for inspiring characters for creative writing. Students can also add frames to their photos with an area for adding text. These photos could be saved to an SD card and loaded onto a computer for class projects.
5. DSi Sound – Students can record up to 10 seconds of sound on a DSi. First, they can record their voices and sound waves illustrate the pitch of their voices so students can understand how sound travels in waves. Students can record themselves reading and can slow down and speed up their tempo. They can test their ability to read with expression or to answer questions in a recording. Then they can edit these sounds with different effects. They can even record their own sound effects to add to their Flipnote Studio animations.
A final note…The ultimate goal in the BYOT classroom is to transform learning experiences for students. Students are empowered when they use their personal technology devices in new ways to support their learning. As you encourage the use of Nintendo DSis in your classroom to promote collaboration and a sense of community, remember that many parents have not seen their children using their devices in the ways listed above. Be willing to learn alongside your students to discover potential uses for the DSis in instruction. After all, they are the experts!