Friday, March 9, 2012

Driving Bring Your Own Tech (BYOT) Forward

This weekend I loaded up Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and curled up for 94 minutes of escapism.  It’s a good movie to meet the escape objective.  I will try not to spoil the end for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, but toward the end, the protagonist, Gil, explains how people glorify the past in order to escape the uncertainty of the present.  Well, in a much more poetic way… but that’s basically the point of the conversation.

Glorifying the past to escape the uncertainties of the present is not the solo purview of an angsty writer in a Woody Allen film.  Look around education and you can see the same glorification of the past inflicted on the uncertain present.  Just this year, Indiana House Enrolled Act 1003, focusing on school voucher program, also slipped in a variety of golden age requirements a school must incorporate in order to receive voucher funding. Reading HEA 1003 is like time traveling to the classroom of the 1950’s (scroll to Chapter 4 about half way through document).

On a smaller scale, the same past/present tension can be seen in educational technology.  I saw a tech discussion board just this week where a technology director recommended Device A because of the ability gives IT departments to block students from loading apps, accessing the web and the general ease of admin control over user experience.  Another listserv recommends Dashboard A because the entire user experience is controllable…created by adults who can grant or block any given website, app or tool student might access.  Even those of us in March 1st #BYOTchat had to be reminded to let go of the concrete tools (nouns) and get back on track with how we encourage students and teachers to explore learning regardless of device.  Facing uncertainty does send one running back to what we know.  And in educational technology, what we know is a CPU with local hard drive, Word/Pages, attached to a printer, in the safely monitored, staffed by adult. in a computer lab.  Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) rocks this image to its knees… and that is more than a little unsettling.

Brebeuf Jesuit’s mission reads in part “Students at Brebeuf Jesuit are called to discover and cultivate the fullness of their God-given talents as a responsibility and as an act of worship.” Our determination in moving forward with 1:1 BYOT was in response to our responsibility as educators.  Cultivating choice in OS, app, web tool, word-processor creates innovation and creativity.  Christian Long advocates a comfort level with failure.  Through failure we learn divergent thinking and problem solving – the learner grows and society moves forward. Through safe, controlled environments where failure is not an option, we are comfortable, but static.  Learners guided by a sense of uncertainty make discoveries more powerful because THEY are the one’s making sense of their discord.  We have planned professional development, redesigned infrastructure, tested and retested tools and devices.  And yet, I lost some sleep in anxiety ridden restlessness pulling the trigger on 1:1 BYOT.   There will be failures – how can there not?  We’re only human.  But to cultivate individual talents, how can I do anything but move forward?

It is comforting to look back on the solid past of bulletin boards and overhead projectors and desktop computer labs… but as Gil learns in Midnight in Paris, every Golden Age looked back on the age before… reflecting on the safe glory of a time where we know how it ends.  Living looking backward will not help our students today.  So take a deep breath, let go and move forward.

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