We have a BYOD program, but now what? [guest post]

What now?[Scott: Chris Crouch, Kelly Stidham, and their blog, Working on the Work, are new discoveries for me. Chris was kind enough to offer this vulnerable reflection of 1:1 teaching with us. Happy reading!]

“Our students deserve a 21st century education.” I’ve heard this often during my career, and while I can sometimes name the 4 Cs, I’m concerned that educators are trying to adapt 20th century practices and experiences to the future we can’t even define yet. This phenomenon manifests itself typically by the rapid and ill-advised adoption of any and all technological products, i.e. hardware, software, personal devices, portable devices, and on and on and on. While it is true the technology and expertise necessary to manipulate this technology are important to 21st century skills, we, as educators, must not fall into the trap of imposing our cemented perspectives cured from our fleeting experiences of the past upon the students of the future. In this wave of Bring Your Own Device or Technology, depending on which variant you prefer, (BYOD), the instructional shift that must happen to fully capture the power of this movement is grossly behind the crest.

I’ve personally experienced the feeling of ineptness meeting the needs of my students when my school asked me to pilot a 1 to 1 laptop program. The idea seemed amazing. A small group of my students, one entire class, would be given a laptop, access to the school’s Wi-Fi, and the computer would be in their hands every day, all day. The students were excited. I was excited. We were imagining the possibilities. Paperless classrooms. Interactive blogs. Interactive discussions. Amazing Projects. Digital textbooks. Then, something happened that I had not anticipated. The laptops became a barrier. Not because laptops are bad, or were misused by the students, but because I wasn’t ready for them. I didn’t know how to use all the resources that each student now had at their fingertips to improve their learning outcomes. I tried to make my paper instruction fit into this digital world. I didn’t know how to reshape my experiences, my past, so that I could create opportunities for the students to have new and better experiences. Of course, the students and I made the best of it. We all survived and overall it was probably a good experience for the students. The unsettling part occurred at the end of the school year, when a group of teachers that had the students in the 1 to 1 pilot decided that the technology was not needed. The pilot had crashed and burned.

Fast forward to today, and schools and districts are quickly implementing BYOD to take advantage of these technologies that our students already possess. These policies are essential in transitioning our brick and mortar schools to the digital world and the field of education cannot continue to ignore the fact that most students are already bringing these devices to school with them. What I see lacking is the instructional support that teachers will need to make these types of policies successful. I’m concerned that BYOD will go by the wayside much like my experience in the 1 to 1 pilot. We cannot let that happen. We cannot doom another generation of students to instruction that will not prepare them for their future.

Add the adoption of new content standards, evaluation instruments, and all of sudden, the significance of instruction through technology slips down the list of priorities. What’s even more frustrating is that there are success stories all over the country and we need to focus on these as models for schools and districts everywhere. So, I’m coming to you, the experts. Help me understand what must happen in the classroom in order to help our teachers help students.

Chris Crouch is an aspiring “teacherpreneur” and a literacy specialist in Kentucky. He has been an educator for 13 years and is just now starting to figure out what it really means to be a teacher. Hear more of Chris’ ideas on education at his blog, Working on the Work, and on Twitter at @the_explicator.

Image credit: What Now?, imelda

14 Responses to “We have a BYOD program, but now what? [guest post]”

  1. Dealing with this at the moment. All I can say is throw everything you used to do out and start from scratch. Wikis have been working well. Lecturing must be kept extremely short (think Twitter short). I’m still struggling, but I have ideas for how to go forward.

    • Melanie,
      Thanks for you reply. What type of course are you teaching? When you say throw everything out, how did you come to this realization?

      • @Chris- to get access to the materials all you need to do is register on the site (www.pil-network.com). With regards to the Gates Foundation, I wouldn’t be close to that but would be surprised if they were not recommending the programme.

  2. Microsoft has a very rich programme to help teachers with this important issue. This is a global concern and working with Educationalists from around the world we have shaped the “Partners in Learning Network” (www.pil-network.com)to assist in providing free CPD, discussions, Learning Activities, etc. created by and for Teachers wanting to up-skill their understanding and use of technology delivering pedagogy in the classroom. Find your Partners in Learning Manager to learn more about what the programme can do for you and your staff.
    PS-this is NOT Microsoft telling teachers how to teach. We are facilitating the findings and content from teachers around the world :)

    • How does one gain access to these materials and experiences facilitated by Microsoft? Is anyone at the Gates Foundation incorporating these into their initiatives?

  3. For any initiative to succeed the key is professional development for the teachers. They need to be in the loop from day 1 and the administrators need to carefully plan PD. If this is done, then the project will succeed. If this isn’t done the project will fail. From the way you describe your experience –there wasn’t buy in from the other staff. You were also left alone to deal with the implementation. Both no no’s in my book.

  4. I am in the same boat – I just presented to our school board last night about BYOD, and the need to have a district-supported program so that our infrastructure can be upgraded handle the increased demands.
    BYOD has the potential to provide for personalization of learning environments, curriculum that meets 21st century demands, student access to relevant, emerging technologies that enhance the educational experience – while also meeting the demands of the new Common Core state standards. However, potential does not automatically equal reality.
    In the past, the integration of technology in to the classroom was seen as something extra for those who had the time, knowledge, money, and patience to take it on. However, workforce demands, and Common Core standards, require students to be as proficient with technology as they are with a pencil. Playing games and posting status updates on Facebook is not how our students will become savvy; it’s being able to select and use the proper tool for the task at hand. Teachers need a lot of training and support to make this shift. The biggest training aspect is letting teachers know that they don’t have to know how to use all the technology tools out there. Instead, their job is to provide the learning opportunity, and let the students navigate the experience. This lends itself nicely to the idea of personalized learning because students, after being told to create a presentation on an element of the periodic table, can choose which tool best fits their need. A student with an iPod may choose to use StoryRobe, a digital app, to create a story-like video, whereas an iPad user may use iMovie, or VoiceThread…all while a laptop user is creating a Prezi or website.
    We know this transformation won’t happen overnight. It takes time and support, which will be offered through curriculum development teams creating, modeling and sharing lessons. Workshops and discussions will be scheduled to also help teachers navigate these new opportunities.
    Our plan is to start small – let the teachers who have been asking for it have it. We’ll document their journey; provide a lot of time for reflection, modification, failure, and success. We have to let them know that failure is part of the process.
    With CCSS forcing change anyway, it is a great time to “throw it all out” like someone said earlier and start anew.
    I hope you find success. Please keep sharing your journey with us!

    • Laura,
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. I love how you have already built in reflection to measure the teacher shift and growth as they try new things. Keeping an accurate in the moment data tool is essential to refinement of instruction. Please keep me abreast of your developments, successes, and failures. On my blog, there are several reflection posts and a couple of tools that I have used. http://www.workonthework.blogspot.com

  5. The educational technology community is seriously putting a lot at risk by having an incoherent message articulated about the how’s and why’s of our technology initiatives. I even think we are harming ourselves (eventually) by labeling our initiatives as 1:1 or BYOD. Neither title speaks to an articulated vision for change in how students learn. It is not much different than saying we must have a red school bus initiative (and although that is silly – what does the term 1:1 mean will change except the acquisition of devices). Along with “technology integration” and anything that starts with an i-____ in front (like ilearning), 1:1 should be banned from our lexicon. I’m being a bit snarky, but I fear this will catch up to us when, by and large, we will spend immense amounts of money and have difficulty articulating improvement.

    I think this largely comes from the notion that technology (particularly student use technology) is inherently good or maybe better than some of the teacher-focused technology we have been pushing. But that line of thinking does not give credit to the complexities of teaching and learning – neither does the notion that we can lead with the technology and the learning will follow. To often these lead of with very general assumptions about the changing world and access to learning 24/7 and preparing kids for jobs that don’t exist, and … Those are all fine statements and have some truth (except that last one, we do know what jobs will be most abundant in 10 years and they mostly do exist today). The problem is that they are not enough – they are just assumptions that if you have technology, you can solve these very complex problems or that people will figure it out.

    Teachers have limits in time and competing initiatives and the concept of “kinda” doing a significant shift is an idea that I think we have proven we can fail at time and time again. The issue is not that we are a bunch of dolts, it is that significant and systemic changes to a school system are very, very complex, and most people do not understand it. So, they label schools as “resistant to change”. If you think changing the system is easy – ask why we, for most of the nation, take a huge chunk of the summer off. Nobody thinks that is best-in-class education, but schools do not exist to meet the sole purpose of focused and intense learning. Simple change – just go to school year ’round… more time spent learning – better results, right? Change is more complex.

    Back to the question at hand. When the pilot was introduced, what was the clear and compelling vision that all of the participants bought into (to some degree) about the change being introduced? If it was about the technology acquisition or some general assumptions about the changing world, it may not have had the depth that it needed.

    • Thank you for this thoughtful comment, Joel. I appreciate the emphasis on deeper goal-setting and am sure that Chris does too. I see a lot of 1:1 initiatives that have been implemented for pretty shallow reasons, including “our neighboring districts are doing it” and “this will distract people from other things we’re not doing (but should).”

      That said, I still use terms like ‘1:1′ and ‘tech integration’ and so on because they’re shorthand for larger, deeper, more complex topics. People rally around short headlines and pithy phrases and terms of art and slogans, not lengthy paragraphs or pages of information, no? I get what you’re saying around the idea that slogans and labels may mask lacks of depth of understanding, but from a marketing/buy-in standpoint, I don’t know of other good options.

      If you don’t like ‘1:1′ or ‘tech integration’ or [insert label or phrase here], what shorthand term(s) would you use instead for the types of learning + technology initiatives we need to see? Maybe I should be using those terms instead! :)

      • Since I write, erase, edit, rewrite in chunks when I post to blogs, I have a tendency to have ramblings with disconnect. I really have to stop doing that.

        My point wasn’t so much to rally a call to action to change the name. The underlying issue that I spend a lot of time thinking about is how best to get this whole technology in education issue “right” (not as if I believe there is one right with a capital “R”).

        I suppose a quick answer to your question Scott is, I could be happy with a name that articulated the vision better – and it wouldn’t have to be a dissertation. I suppose, if the initiative was really striving to make a dent in batch education it could be called something like, “Making learning personal – holding learning as the constant, and time and place as the variable”. (I’m not a marketer and fortunately I work in a district big enough where I can grab a communications department to help with my deficiency).

        Again – my problem is less about the name, but more about the underlying illness of poorly articulated initiatives.

        We are living in a world that is becoming increasingly interested in changing public education – and there is great disagreement on how to do it (as you witnessed Scott when your legislators made their changes in Iowa while you were scratching your head wondering, “What in the heck?”). High interest, poor focus, disagreement and an economy that is moving very slowly. This all adds to what I would consider to be a climate that will not forgive mistakes easily. Over promising and underdelivering may be one of those mistakes and even if we don’t over promise if we are unclear in our focus, people will make assumptions. The politically popular assumption today will link the initiative to test scores. If you don’t steer it otherwise, people will want it to go there anyways.

        I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep if people keep using the terms that I don’t want to use. I care less about the names and more about helping districts not make shallow decisions. I actually think we could stratify those even further as I think “shallow” is one general category, and “desparate” could be another. But, the one that really worries me is, “If we buy technology, we can really upgrade to a world class, 21st Century education with personalized learning, 24/7, no grade-levels, kids learning what they want when they want, and every other piece of marketing that I buy completely because my bs meter is broken, and… I have no skills as a leader to know what is and what is not possible or even how to initiate major change in an organization that eats smaller initiatives than this for lunch”.

        That is the one I worry about.

        I suppose we can call it whatever we want – just don’t let that run-on sentence above happen.

        Whew – I suppose I should get some work done now.

        • I think that you’re right that buying technology doesn’t necessarily lead to those other (in my head, often desirable) things. But buying technology is a necessary precursor to those things (because you can’t do many of them with out technology). The journey from purchase to desired outcomes is where the struggle lies, as you note, which is why CASTLE and I focus on trying to help leaders make that journey a successful one.

          Thanks for your additional thoughts!

  6. Joel,
    I believe you are spot on. All of your concerns are valid and exist in schools and districts. What happens with these types of instructional shifts is that leaders see the need but get bogged down in the pragmatic and logistics pieces and the instructional shift and practice that teachers need are relatively ignored. That’s why my experience failed. I don’t blame the notion. I take the blame in not realizing that I had to work differently. We need to start this preparation in our Colleges of Education and instead of the Technology class for future teachers being how to use PowerPoint, why not have future teachers begin the shift before they enter the field. Keep in touch so that I can grow and learn from you. Thanks so much Joel!

  7. I’ve found that the key to successful tech integration is finding technology that does what our paper classrooms have done, only better.

    One platform that has worked with my students is Actively Learn (www.activelylearn.com). AL allows teachers to reach their students directly in a text by embedding questions, links to images and video clips, and important notes throughout the text. Students encounter these “gates” as they read. They must respond to the questions before they move on, and they may make notes as they go as well. There’s even a social component – kids can share notes and view peers’ responses after submitting their own responses. These insertions and notes help students fill gaps in background knowledge and they provide scaffolds to help readers move from basic or proficient to advanced readers.

    I’ve used this in class and as homework. It’s also useful for pre-writing – students can refer to their notes/highlights as they find evidence to support a thesis statement for an essay.

    But, what makes this so valuable to me and my teaching is that it helps me do so much of what I’ve always done as a middle school English Lang. Arts teacher (ask questions, build background knowledge, assess reading comp., allign with CCSS, etc.) in an easier, simpler, and overall better way!

    Best,
    Karen

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