Tuesday, July 12, 2016

After One Year; Reflections on High School BYOD

Last year at this time, our district was in the planning and preparation stages for high school BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).  My blog post last summer (The Road to High School BYOD) outlines the transition. The last sentence of the blog describes our mindset:

“There will be much to learn and work to do during this upcoming school year with BYOD in our high schools.  We do not and will not pretend to have BYOD all figured out, but I will share, through this blog, reflections on our high school BYOD transition.”

At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, the Grand Forks Herald ran a story on the transition to BYOD in our high schools (Teaching with tech: Teachers, students warm up to devices in the classroom)

In February, I provided a “Technology Update” to the Grand Forks Public Schools Educational Enhancement Team (E.E.T.).  Membership on the team includes superintendent, assistant superintendent, curriculum, technology, and CTE directors, some building principals and teachers, parents, university representatives, and students.  One of the primary purposes of the E.E.T. committee is to gather feedback from our students.  After a brief technology update, I was most interested in hearing the high school students' perspectives of BYOD with the following prompts:.

  1. What have been the positive aspects of BYOD?
  2. What are BYOD issues that need to be addressed?
  3. Has BYOD impacted your learning?

Here are some of the student replies:

“I think it has allowed the teachers to being more open to us having our devices out and ready to go so we can actually use it for learning.”

“Teachers have opened their minds to students having their own devices. It makes it a lot easier. I love bringing my own laptop to school and using that.”

“Impromptu learning is happening more, instead of reserving the Chromebook cart or the lab, you can access your phones or laptop, it is very convenient.”

“Educate yourself.  That’s the whole goal right? If you are sitting in class and the teacher brings up a topic and you want to learn more about it, you can take out your phone and find out more. You can learn what you need to learn.  Your device is right there to access, it’s not a battle to get carts.”
“You can access your textbooks online.”
“I think BYOD teaches discipline too. With that accessibility  I could sit on my laptop and the teacher doesn’t know if I am online shopping or if I am actually taking notes  That’s going to be available in college too.  Are you going to listen to the lecture or go online shopping?”

“Our Economics teacher uses online textbook or has it as an option, you can highlight in it, zoom in, you can listen to it, so if you are doing something else, you can listen to your textbook reading.”

“Obviously it has impacted learning  Teachers that you’d never think would embrace BYOD, have taken the leap. BYOD has helped, the carts are alway available and some of the students will have access and some will not, but do something that gets students involved with their phone.”

“Teachers are trying, even if they don’t know exactly what they are doing, they are trying to keep up with the kids.  They are putting forth the effort.”

I appreciated the students’ excellent insights into the first year of the BYOD. While students recognized the teachers’ efforts in incorporating more technology into learning, more work is needed to fully realize the transition from technology viewed as something extra to an ubiquitous tool for learning.  Technology by itself does not increase student achievement, which means the need for ongoing professional learning opportunities for teachers is underscored with the emphasis placed on learning first. In a recent blog post (Why Pedagogy First, Tech Second Stance is Key to the Future), Eric Sheninger emphasizes the “learning first” point:

“Everything we do in education should be built around learning. Thus, if the ultimate goal is to improve student outcomes then the role of any mobile device initiative should be to support or enhance learning.”
“There must be more of a concerted focus on learning outcomes, construction of new knowledge leading to authentic application, and the development/enhancement of essential skills (creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, digital citizenship, entrepreneurship, media literacy, technological proficiency, communication, collaboration)” (Eric Sheninger).

With students and learning at the forefront, we will strive to ensure ubiquitous access to learning tools (i.e. technology) and equip teachers with the necessary professional learning to design engaging and relevant learning opportunities for their students.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Relentless Restlessness

Since the end to the school year, I participated in a book study on The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.  (Thank you to Carla Haaven for organizing!)  The book study group met in person several times and responded to questions via Google Classroom.  Great conversations were sparked and additional questions were provoked through our book study.

I am truly amazed these educators took time out of their summer vacation to continue to learn.  Those who participated epitomize what it means to have an innovator’s mindset; “the belief that the abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas” (George Couros).  It is not surprising since these educators also share many things in common:
  • have student-centered, project-based, and innovative classrooms
  • are connected educators who willingly learn through reading and Twitter
  • participate in #gfedchat, other Twitter chats, book studies, and Edcamps
  • are risk-takers who learn from their failures

In The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros quotes Pixar Director Brad Bird: “organizations that spread and sustain excellence are infused with a ‘relentless restlessness’ - that often uncomfortable urge for constant innovation, driven by the nagging feeling that things are never quite good enough.”

When I was a classroom teacher, my self-imposed rule was “if I ever have time to read the newspaper during my prep time or before or after school, I needed to revisit my quest to improve student learning opportunities and engagement.”  As a classroom teacher and now, I subscribe to a “relentless restlessness” in my continued quest for better for the students we serve.

I am fortunate to learn from and with so many other "relentless restlessness" educators with an innovator’s mindset and I look forward to continuing conversation on the book, The Innovator's Mindset.