Friday, November 2, 2012

The Pedagogical Shift in a BYOD Classroom

Recently, I was sharing an opportunity for professional development that staff at our secondary schools will be able to participate in for teaching in a "Bring Your Own Device Classroom."
One of the teachers asked a common question that I hear from colleagues, 
"So you are telling me that now I will need to know how to use all of these devices, not just the ones that the district provides?"

My initial response was, "No, it's the student's device, and they are the ones responsible for knowing how to use it." Part of our training is helping to identify the "Device Agnostic" tools that will work on virtually any device. Later that day, while looking through a great slide deck talking about Using Technology to Support Higher Order Skills created and shared with me by Ollie Bray, an educator from Scotland, I ran across this slide:


I think it speaks to a growing understanding that in today's world of Web 2.0 and beyond, that it is impossible for teachers to know how to use EVERY tool available to students. However, as Ollie points out, it IS important that teachers know what digital tools can DO
It reminds me of the time I was helping our 7th grade science teachers introduce students to Prezi. I helped students login and create accounts, then moved over to the other lab to do the same. I came back 10 minutes later and saw things on the screen I didn't think were possible! I said to the student, "How did you do that!?" I knew how to use the program, but the student took it to another level, and taught me in the process!

Later that night, I saw this post from Ben Grey. It is his response to a story about the One Laptop Per Child program, and an experiment they facilitated in Ethiopia. The researchers had the following goal:
to see if illiterate kids with no previous exposure to written words can learn how to read all by themselves, by experimenting with the tablet and its pre-loaded alphabet-training games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings, and other programs.
Within 4 minutes some of the children had un-boxed the device and turned it on. In less than a week, children were using on average "47 apps per child per day." A few days later, the children were singing the "Alphabet Song," and within 5 months, someone had hacked Android to get the built in camera to work. On their own, with no adult intervention. 

Grey noted that this story, and the work of Sugata Mitra in India shows that we have much to learn about learning, and that it raises many questions:


  1. Why don’t we give kids more credit for their natural capacity to learn?
  2. What if we’re the ones getting in the way?
  3. Can we finally put to rest the silly digital immigrant/digital native nonsense?
  4. Why does there remain such a fascination with teaching kids very specific technology skills in our schools today?
I know that I am guilty of creating "step-by-step" tutorials on every aspect of a tool for my students or colleagues. I rationalized that it was to expedite the process and allow the person to focus not on the tool, but the content. Unfortunately, rather than being a help, I have come to realize that it enables the learner to wait for the hand to be held, or move on to the next step, instead of transfer skills learned in other programs and explore on their own. As Dan Meyer says, I need to "Be Less Helpful!

If our end goal is to create self directed, collaborative learners who think critically and problem solve, it is critical that we design learning experiences and assessments that allow them to do so. Providing options for the tools our students use in a BYOD environment, within the parameters of our learning goals is a shift in that direction. 

The professional development we are developing for staff surrounding BYOD incorporates this shift, focusing on helping staff curate resources, identify "device agnostic" tools, develop project based activities , hone management strategies, and integrate digital literacy into their curriculum. 

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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