Posts Tagged Media Centers

Personalizing Learning in High School with BYOT

  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.

Guest Post by Carla Youmans @cwyoumans
Instructional Technology Specialist – South Forsyth High School

SFHS_BYOT4Many 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

SFHS_BYOT1We 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.

Magic Happens

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!SFHS_BYOT3

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.

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Supporting Inquiry with BYOT


Kim Simshauser describes the 4 C’s Cafe

Learning at Liberty Middle School in Forsyth County, Georgia, begins with a focus on inquiry in its newly remodeled media center. Through a combination of school funds and the ingenuity of the instructional technology specialist, Kim Simshauser, the media center has been reimagined into a hub of digital age learning.  In fact, Kim refers to the new space as “The 4C’s Café” in reference to the skills of collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking evident throughout the school.  Students are welcomed into the media center to begin learning before the start of the school day.

inquiry1School personnel and volunteer students act as baristas (much like Starbucks) and serve up hot chocolate, decaffeinated beverages, and instructional advice while students browse the book collection, use their personal technology tools for research, study individually or in groups, or watch the news being streamed over two monitors.  Kim notes that since the changes have been made that the learning environment is being used more than ever by teachers and students, and now the media center is packed with activity from morning until the end of the day.


Principal Connie Stovall explains the iTeam

The classrooms at Liberty Middle School also support inquiry through guiding questions and learning projects that are facilitated by the students’ personal technology tools.  Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) has been implemented school wide.  Students are encouraged to bring their own devices to school, or they may use the school’s technology resources to develop their digital age skills.  Principal Connie Stovall provides a scaffold for this emphasis on inquiry by working with her staff and students to develop an inquiry-based team or iTeam.  The teachers and students in this seventh grade team applied to participate as trailblazers in the school’s inquiry initiative.  They work with each other, their students, and Kim Simshauser to plan lessons that empower the learners. The iTeam students realize that they have a big responsibility to be leaders throughout the school, and their teachers were recently named Team of the Year by the Georgia Middle School Association.  In the 2013-2014 school year, the seventh grade team will loop with their students to eighth grade, and new sixth and seventh grade iTeams will be added.  The eventual goal is to implement inquiry-based teams throughout the school.

inquiry4Teachers and students at Liberty Middle School discover that inquiry can be more easily facilitated when students bring their own technology tools to school.  Guiding questions can lead to in-depth research, and students can explore new ways to show what they have learned about a topic.  These explorations surpass typical standards-based performance tasks and content.  They become authentic representations of real-world problems in context.  One goal of inquiry is to lead to more questions that become even more relevant to students as they become interested and passionate about a subject.

Here are some additional links and resources related to inquiry-based learning:

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