Posts Tagged vision
After spending the last week observing classrooms at various stages of implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), I reflected on how I could encourage the members of those schools to find new ways to learn with their technology tools. I turned to my own Personal Learning Network (PLN) in Twitter in #BYOTchat for suggestions regarding the components necessary for initiating and sustaining a schoolwide BYOT implementation. I’m sure that everyone has some different opinions about the order of significance of the following recommendations, but please share your ideas by commenting at the end of this post. This compilation is ordered in the way I received them from my PLN, and I added some of my own ideas about each of the following areas:
- Administrator Support and Expectations. I began the discussion by suggesting this item. From my experience, when an administrator relates that BYOT is important for students and expects that students should be using their technology tools for learning, then teachers are more motivated to encourage BYOT. I think that school and district leaders need to walk through their buildings and recognize effective uses of technology and offer support when necessary.
- Adequate Infrastructure. This area was noted by @mrvandersluis, and @ZinkEd_u argued that infrastructure should be number one. I agree that having a robust Wi-Fi network is essential to the effective implementation of BYOT. I have also seen students use their own devices without necessarily being connected to the Internet, and in my district, students also can use their personal data plans (if they can get a signal). I do recognize, however, that teachers and students will be frustrated with an unreliable network within their schools.
- Dedicated, Interested Teachers. @sr_tutor shared that teachers have to champion the implementation of BYOT. Teachers have to understand that they don’t need to know how to use all of the technology tools that come into their classrooms. They need to focus on the teaching and know how to ask good questions so that they can facilitate student discovery of new ways to learn with their personal devices. They also need to develop a responsive learning community and negotiate strategies for the use of BYOT. Teachers have to be resilient and understand that they will sometimes make mistakes, but they can model how to be digital age learners.
- Parent Support. @meghorsley made this suggestion, and it is vital that parents understand the new role of BYOT in learning. Many parents see their children using technology for gaming or communicating with friends, and parents often hand their own devices to children to keep them pacified in restaurants or in the back seat of the car, but they usually haven’t seen children learning with technology. There are many ways to help parents understand BYOT. Use a polling app during a PTA meeting so that parents can participate with their own devices. Invite parents to a Technology Night at the school when students can explain to parents how they learn with BYOT. Finally, share out suggestions for apps and tools in newsletters or provide links to successful BYOT lessons and products so that parents can realize new learning opportunities with BYOT
- A BYOT Policy. @EmLeacy noted that there should be an agreed upon plan for use by all parties: administration, teachers, students, and parents alike. I don’t think she was specifically talking about a policy for BYOT, so I broke up this idea into two different strategies (numbers 5 and 6). Everyone needs to understand how the technology tools will be used and how issues will be resolved if the technology is used inappropriately. We never really experienced nightmare scenarios with BYOT in my district, and over time, we developed a new Responsible Use Policy that focuses on nurturing trust among teachers and students. Of course, as professionals, the teachers still monitor the use of technology tools in their classrooms just like they monitor other behaviors.
- A BYOT Purpose/Vision. @EmLeacy followed up with the notion of a sense of purpose, and this idea seems more related to the goals and vision for BYOT within the school. There are several reasons why a school may choose to begin a BYOT initiative. One reason is that so many students may have devices that a school needs to find ways (other that outright banning them) to deal with all of these forms of technology. In addition, digital age skills can be taught and facilitated with students own technology tools. Furthermore, students can be more engaged in learning when they become producers of original content rather than solely consuming content. The vision for BYOT needs to be understood and shared by all of the members of the learning community.
- BYOT Capacity and Equity. @mrvandersluis explained that this capacity addresses whether or not students have their own technology tools to bring to school and what the school will do for those that don’t have devices. BYOT equity can be a challenge to understand and accomplish. I prefer having different devices because those differences help provide more personalized learning experiences and more opportunities to transform learning within the classroom. Is it equitable when a parent chooses not to send technology to school because of fears related to screen time or when one teacher utilizes technology but the teacher in the next classroom doesn’t use it because of his or her fears related to technology use? A good blend of school technology resources and personal technology tools seems like the most equitable solution, and a school district also needs to consider the issue of home Internet access.
- On-Going Personalized Professional Learning. I added this final component to the list, and I think that there is no final resting place for professional learning in BYOT. The tools and applications continue to evolve over time, and a certain mindset is required for teaching and learning in the digital age. With so many different opportunities for engaging student learning with BYOT, a teacher has to receive support just in time and usually that support comes from the students in the classroom. Again, a supportive learning community encourages teachers and students to be risk-takers – willing to try new approaches and able to learn from successes and mistakes.
Having a great PLN like #BYOTchat in Twitter helps me to make my professional learning personalized to my unique challenges and interests.
I’m grateful to all of the educators who contributed to my understanding of the needs for BYOT implementation. I definitely suggest that you follow each of them on Twitter. If you think that there is an item missing from this list, or if you think of a creative way of ordering these suggestions, please leave a comment.
Also, join #BYOTchat in Twitter each Thursday night at 9 PM EST for an exciting discussion regarding an aspect of BYOT! This chat is moderated by @SteveHayes_RB60, @nathan_stevens, @MyTakeOnIt, and me. We also have many guest moderators who lend their various areas of expertise.
I recently participated in the Family Online Safety Institute’s (FOSI) Annual Conference in Washington, DC. My 13 year old son was fortunately able to go along for the trip, and as a history buff, he was eager to tour the notable sites in DC. I arrived the day before the conference and was able to explore the city with him and my wife. We took the DC Metro, and he immediately searched for a possible app for his iPhone to make navigation easier. He discovered that there were several mobile apps for that purpose, and he decided on DC Rider. With that app, he was able to see the arrival times of the different trains and to compare possible routes for each trip. He owned this whole adventure, and I found myself following his lead as he directed us along the path to each destination. Sometimes he selected some clever and creative ways for us to arrive at a site, when I might have chosen the direct route, but the journey became as essential to him as the final, planned location.
Later I reflected on this experience through the lens of the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom. It is necessary for teachers to know when to make suggestions in order to guide students, but it is often more essential to understand when to get out of the way and encourage students to lead. Students usually know more about their own technology than their teachers, and with BYOT they can use these tools to access all of the information that exists in the world. They can explore authentic problems and discover creative solutions and design innovative products. It is fine to have a destination in mind, but there really is no end of the line in the process of learning, and teachers and students should enjoy exploring all of the alternative paths along the way.
Finally, I realized the next day, as I had to navigate the DC Metro without my son’s assistance, that I had become dependent on his leadership and skills. I floundered for a little bit until I was able to orient myself. I decided that next time I would try a little harder to learn from and with him as he used his technology instead of just being a passive observer and follower. Then we could both be learning from the journey with BYOT!
Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) is essentially a “bottom up” initiative in the sense that students already have personal technology devices in their pockets, and they often provide the incentive or demand to begin using those tools for instruction. Educators usually have to scramble to catch up to students in the personal uses of technology and have to be willing to learn alongside them to facilitate BYOT effectively. This shift entails the transformation of learning experiences as students progress from solely being consumers of information to becoming producers of original content. This can be a challenging metamorphosis in many learning environments, but by utilizing some key strategies, school leaders can purposefully nurture a culture that is beneficial for transformational learning with BYOT.
1. Empowering – Learning to share ownership of the BYOT experience can be difficult for classroom teachers as they begin to empower students to develop a sense of agency. Students have to use critical thinking to make authentic choices about how they will learn with their devices and creativity to show what they have learned. This agency involves trusting the students and maintaining high expectations for responsible use of technology. School leaders demonstrate trust of their teachers and students as they recognize the inherent leadership of others and begin to open communication about technology uses rather than insisting on blocking and banning technology tools.
2. Modeling – School leaders need to model learning with BYOT as they work with teachers and students. There is no “one size fits all” learning community, and professional learning has to become differentiated for the teachers so that they can choose among the tools and strategies based on their individual interests and needs. As school leaders begin to focus on developing processes and skills within the learning community instead of only on content knowledge, teachers will also emphasize those abilities in their classrooms. When a school leader continually reviews only numerical data from standardized test scores, then the instructional message becomes “teach to the test.” By being a personal lifelong learner who is willing to learn from others. a school leader can model a passion for learning and trying new things.
3. Practicing – A key strategy for promoting a BYOT initiative is for school leaders to begin using their own technology devices by exploring ways to use social media for personal and professional learning. Through the use of Twitter, they can develop networks that can help them connect with other educators to share ideas and strategies for instruction, technology, and leadership. They can also use Twitter and personal technology devices to lead professional learning activities and encourage collaboration. As leaders practicing BYOT, they can begin recommending apps and tools to teachers and students as they promote digital age skills within their schools and learn new uses for personal technology.
4. Encouraging – As teachers and students begin experimenting with their devices to discover new instructional approaches, they will occasionally make some mistakes. A school leader has to encourage the learning community to persist in the use of their technology tools and remain understanding through this process of trial and error. This encouragement reinforces a culture that is supportive of growth and innovation. It includes being a cheerleader who is excited about students bringing their technology devices to school and embraces the pedagogical change that occurs when students own the learning. This enthusiasm for learning with BYOT is contagious!
5. Advocating – Members of the learning community may not have an understanding of the need for BYOT within schools. After all, many children often receive their first technology devices to keep them entertained while they are sitting in the backseat of a car or waiting in a restaurant. Parents are more accustomed to seeing their child’s attention being absorbed by a device, but in a school setting, students are eager to share and collaborate with their technology rather than use them in isolation. A school leader has to communicate the possible uses of personal technology for learning opportunities to hesitant parents, community members, and school system personnel.
On a final note, instead of viewing BYOT as a bottom up or top down initiative, school leaders can choose to view it as a community endeavor in which everyone plays a vital role in its successful implementation. What other leadership strategies involving BYOT can you suggest for school leaders?