Posts Tagged middle school
A Note from Tim: Forsyth County Schools in Georgia is in its fifth year of implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). The first year was spent on developing the infrastructure, and the last four years have focused on piloting the initiative, developing personal and professional capacity, and eventually spreading the practice of encouraging students to learn with their personal technology tools throughout the district. I have been so impressed with the dedication of our teachers to transform their classrooms with BYOT! In this series of posts, I am sharing some of their experiences from different grade levels in their own words.
Guest Post by Jennifer McCutchen (
Eighth Grade Teacher – Little Mill Middle School
My BYOT Transformational Journey
Using technology in the classroom was a paradigm shift for me as an educator. I can tell you it was hard to let go of the idea that I needed to somehow take all of my knowledge and transfer it to my students. After quite a bit of self-reflection and the BYOT initiative in our district, I came to understand the true meaning of becoming a facilitator of learning. I shared with a colleague that, as teachers, our job is a lot like a parent teaching our own children to ride a bike. As parents, we know how to ride a bike, but until our own children try it out on their own, they will never learn. It doesn’t start very pretty, there may be bumps and bruises along the way, but very quickly our children ride the bike…and do it well! The same can be said of my own classroom and using technology.
I began my journey by letting go of the fact that I am not going to be an expert on every device that walks into my room. Where I am not the expert, there is a student who is in every class! They love to be the expert and are eager to help each other. I asked students to find apps that they felt like were helpful to them to accomplish tasks that I would normally ask them to simply write and turn in. Students showed my apps such as “Show me” and “Skitch” where can draw my diagrams from the board, and then use them to make their own about different concepts. I could see a shift in how students communicate results in the lab. Students create lab write ups with rich discussion posts on WikiSpaces. They were now able to capture video to show chemical reactions. They could use voice overs to explain what happened in their own lab. They began sharing and analyzing student work; applying what they were learning to other situations. They asked such enlightening questions of each other, and made comments that I had never thought of! They compared data points on graphs, and analyzed why and how their results were alike and different than others. I could see the “light bulb” go off for students regarding human error and the scientific process.
A student summed up BYOT saying, “It used to be that just you (the teacher) saw our work, now everyone sees it. I want mine to be the best.” Peer pressure can be a great motivator, and combining it with technology makes it even greater!
I have learned to leave fear out of my classroom. I have learned to look at technology as a tool that allows students to learn more, do more and become more than they had been. My classroom has become an inviting and exciting place to learn, not just for my students, but for me, too!
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.
School 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.
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.
Teachers 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: