Posts Tagged mobile learning

Perceptions of BYOT

When you see a student with a personal mobile device in the classroom, what do you think is happening with that device?

BYOT Perceptions

In the above illustration, what is the student doing? Here are some possibilities…

  • conducting research
  • creating a project
  • texting a parent, friend, or teacher
  • watching a video
  • playing a game
  • reading a news article

As educators, we could argue the instructional merits of what is happening with the smartphone that the student is holding. Many of our initial thoughts and concerns are framed by our own perceptions and experiences of how we personally use technology.

I read a heavily circulated article this week that detailed some research from the UK on the banning of students personal technology tools. This research revealed that students perform better on standardized tests when their schools ban the use of personal mobile devices. Apparently, this improved performance was due to the lack of distractions. Obviously, I can’t argue with the research, but I do have several questions and thoughts related to the focus of this study and the topic of banning students’ technology tools.

Q1: Why is there so much importance placed on student performance on standardized tests when we have to learn to thrive in a nonstandardized world?

I understand the importance of accountability, and in education, we keep trying to find just the right assessment that will tell us whether or not teachers are effective and students are mastering the appropriate content and skills. However, in our globally connected work force, many of us are faced with choices on the job that challenge us to be creative, communicate well, and think critically. A standardized test should not be the only form of measurement to assess student learning and skills in the conceptual age when they need to generate new ideas for solving problems.

Most students carry mobile learning tools in their pockets. These are the tools they will carry with them in the real world, and these resources should be maximized for success in that complex world.

Q2: How will students learn how to manage distractions and develop the self-discipline to utilize personal technology responsibly when it is banned from school use?

Of course, students¹ personal technology tools can lead to distractions; likewise, students can be distracted by anything that removes them from the tedium of traditional teacher-directed instruction – even their own thoughts. In order for students to learn how to use their devices responsibly, they need to be nurtured and guided with some strategies for learning with these tools; for focusing during a conversation; and for completing tasks at hand. We have all seen adults who have difficulty using their devices responsibly, but most of us are self-taught in their use. By bringing their technology tools to school and with the support of their teachers, students have a greater potential for developing new responsible habits.

Q3: How do schools think they can successfully ban student devices?

With the influx of mobile technology tools, including those that are meant to be worn, there is really no logistical way to successfully ban student devices from school. Students will have the devices in their pockets, bookbags, and even on their wrists. A more sustainable approach is to focus on the responsible use of technology, and the first step in this process is to develop a learning community that acknowledges and respects student access to their devices. It is also important for educators to be prepared with digital resources and curriculum so that students have something to do with their devices when they bring them to school. Learning how to ask the right questions that inspire student inquiry is essential for mobile learning.

Now, note the thought bubble in the illustration…

What do you suppose that the student is thinking?

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The Passback Effect of Mobile Technology for Early Learners

Passback

What is the Passback Effect?

We have all witnessed the Passback Effect when sitting in a restaurant, and to keep a young child content and quiet, parents hand over their own technology device. This phenomenon also occurs when parents pass smartphones or tablets to their children in the backseat of the car or in a shopping cart. The result is usually the same as the child becomes enamored with the device, and the parents earn several precious moments of silence. What are the children doing with the device? Most likely, they are playing a familiar game, but they could also be taking photos, listening to music, surfing websites, etc. The possibilities are endless, since they are holding the doorway to all of humankind’s recorded history within their little fingers.

What are the ramifications of the Passback Effect? It is difficult to tell how the use of mobile devices at early ages changes student learning. I considered making two columns for positive and negative effects, but I decided that those two categories were too limiting and judgmental. Maybe the results are just what they are since the devices won’t be going away anytime soon. Because teachers will have to realize that many young children will enter Kindergarten and pre-school with so much exposure to digital content and tools, there are many aspects of technology use that will have to be taken into consideration. I have listed five traits below, but feel free to respond to this blog post with your own suggestions and strategies.

Ramifications of the Passback Effect

  • Increased understanding of technology – Young children will continue to become even more adept at using technology, and when something doesn’t work, they will have developed the resiliency to just try another method. Of course, these children are developing their own strategies for how the devices can and should be used, but they may not know specifically how to learn with them. Teachers need to learn how to ask questions to focus on the learning, but they also need to be willing to learn alongside and from students and develop the confidence to say “I don’t know.”
  • Accustomed to making choices – Since the students are choosing their content and developing their own strategies for using devices, they will want to make choices about the ways they learn. Teachers will have to focus on scaffolding learning experiences to keep the students engaged and developing new academic abilities and to provide choices that match with the students personal interests and talents. Lessons will need to be carefully planned with short meaningful chunks of information followed by interactive assignments and formative assessments in order to maintain student attention.
  • Distracted by technology – Through the implementation of the pass back, parents have often unknowingly supported the concept that technology is a distraction device. After all, it is meant to keep the children quiet. However, when I have seen classrooms with multiple technology tools available, those learning environments are active and full of communication as students share their experiences. Teachers will have to nurture positive uses of technology and may need to help students become producers of content rather than solely consuming information.
  • Unaware of social norms – Because children have been focused on the technology, they may not be aware of when it is time to put the devices down and look someone in the eye in order to have a conversation. Some educators mistakenly ban technology tools for this reason; however, a more effective strategy is to nurture mindfulness and teach students appropriate behaviors for face to face communication as well as appropriate online netiquette. They have modeled most of their behaviors after the adults in their lives, and unfortunately many adults have difficulty with the responsible use of technology.
  • Ready for online learning – With all of this early access to online resources with mobile technology tools, students will be prepared for learning online. They may even enter school possessing mastery of many of the traditional standards taught to students in the primary grades. This early preparation will continue to move learning away from the one-size-fits-all model of instruction, and each student can begin progressing at his/her own personalized pace through online learning environments. These educational spaces will need to be dynamic and visual to meet the needs of early learners.

It’s an exciting time in education that will continue to transform traditional classrooms. The Passback Effect will have a lasting impact on young children as it demands change to engage their learning and forces teachers to adopt new teaching strategies.

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The Distraction Myth of Learning with Technology

The Distraction MythIn facilitating the integration of technology tools within classrooms, I’ve heard teachers complain that devices can be distracting. This was also one of the fears that Lisa Nielsen (@innovativeEdu) addressed in a recent blog post – Confronting Fears – #BYOD for Students. The idea that technology itself is a distraction to students is a myth. It is perpetuated by educators who believe that banning technology will keep students more focused on the learning happening within the classroom. Technology, however, does have the potential to be a distraction for several reasons:

  • Students have developed their own norms for how technology should be used, and responsible use isn’t nurtured within classrooms.
  • The use of technology is often teacher-directed when it is utilized so students have few choices about the process or product.
  • There is an assumption that compliance with direct instruction means that students are engaged and focused.
  • Technology use is sometimes perceived as an extra add-on to traditional instruction instead of integral to the learning process.
  • Teacher lectures, direct instruction, and independent work with worksheets are regularly used as a means of behavior management to keep students quiet and pacified, and technology use encourages interaction.

Here are some strategies for addressing the issues listed above.

  1. Teachers and students should collaboratively develop expectations and guidelines for the responsible use of technology tools. These procedures should be posted and continually communicated and practiced. Remember that students will sometimes make mistakes with technology, and they should be consistently redirected, as necessary, with how to use technology responsibly.
  2. Students generally know how to use to technology, or they are generally able to quickly adapt to its use. However, they don’t usually know how to learn with technology. This is something that teachers can facilitate by utilizing the expertise of the students in the classroom to help each other. Teachers can also make assignments more open-ended so that students have opportunities to make choices in both process and product.
  3. Students can be distracted by many things within a classroom, even where technology tools are underutilized or banned. Many students have learned to play the “game” of school. They can look at a teacher and pretend to be focused and learning even though there thoughts are elsewhere. Teachers can create opportunities for collaboration, communication, and critical thinking in learning activities. In dynamic, active classrooms, there is a greater opportunity for effective technology use to support digital age skills.
  4. Technology by itself isn’t always engaging. Teachers have to utilize a variety of instructional strategies and digital content to engage student learning. With the effective integration of technology tools, teachers are able to personalize learning, flip the classroom, provide differentiated learning, and work with small groups and individuals – knowing that the students can utilize technology to access learning resources.
  5. Teachers have to model the desire to learn by learning alongside students new ways to utilize technology and discover new facets of a topic. With technology tools, students are readily able to access information, so there is no need for a teacher or a textbook to be the sole source of content. This can be intimidating for teachers who often perceive that their role is to disseminate everything they know about a subject.

By developing a positive learning community within a classroom, a teacher can take the initial steps necessary to begin integrating technology tools and resources. With consistent perseverance and practice, soon these teachers can find new ways to transform learning experiences while dispelling the myth of distraction while learning with technology.

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Georgia Educational Technology Conference 2013

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 12.42.05 PMIt is homecoming week for instructional technology in Georgia; otherwise, this event is known as the Georgia Educational Technology Conference – GaETC 2013.  This is the time when educators from around Georgia and beyond come together to explore innovative new ways to utilize technology to create exciting learning opportunities.  I will be collaborating with colleagues and friends in instructional technology and extending my personal learning network (PLN), and I will be co-presenting two workshops and one additional session throughout the week.

I am including all of the links and information for my sessions in this post.  Select a title of a presentation for an outline and additional resources.  For all of my presentations at GaETC 2013 (@GaETCconf), I encourage everyone to backchannel ideas, questions, and comments to the hashtag #gaetc13 in Twitter.  I hope to add you to my PLN by the end of the conference!

Presentation Links

Workshop: Transforming Learning with BYOT

Tuesday, November 5, 2013, 1:00PM-4:00PM – Room: Board Room 3

Session: Moving from Acceptable Use to Responsible Use Guidelines

Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 1:30PM-2:30PM – Room: Salon A Marriott

Workshop: Building Digital Age Skills with Minecraft

Thursday, November 7, 2013, 9:00AM-12:00PM – Room: Board Room 3

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Mobile Learning Experience 2013

mobile2013

It is exciting to have the opportunity to attend the Mobile Learning Experience 2013 in Tucson, Arizona from September 16-18!  In addition to collaborating with colleagues and friends in instructional technology while extending my personal learning network (PLN), I am honored by being asked by Tony Vincent and the Arizona K12 Center to present two sessions and deliver the keynote on Monday, September 16!  I have long been inspired by Tony’s work, and his Learning in Hand blog shows the true learning power of connecting students with digital age tools.

I am including all of the links and information for my sessions and the keynote to this post.  Select a title of a presentation for an outline and additional resources.  For all of my presentations at Mobile Learning Experience 2013 (@mobile2013), I encourage everyone to backchannel ideas, questions, and comments to the hashtag #mobile2013 in Twitter.  I hope to add you to my PLN by the end of the conference!

Presentation Links

Session 1: The First Five Days of School with BYOT

Monday, September 16, 2013, 2:00PM-3:00PM – Room: Canyon I

Session 2: The Quest for the Magic App

Monday, September 16, 2013, 3:15PM-4:15PM – Room: Canyon I

Keynote: Mobilize Me! Engaging Digital Age Learners

Monday, September 16, 2013, 6:30PM-7:30PM – Room: Grand Ballroom

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Issues of Equity in BYOT

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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