Monday, August 20, 2012

Developing Critical Thinking Skills...By Being Flexible

Way back, when we started this whole movement toward student choice of Bring Your Own Technology we articulated the program objective:

The key to BYOT is choice… allowing students to access tools, evaluate their usage for the learning need and use the tool successfully.

Funny thing about choice... 

The Challenge

I've been in correspondence with ed tech colleagues throughout the US.  Many of them chose one device for their 1:1 initiatives... often citing the ease of selecting productivity tools when working with a single platform.  The device makes the choice for you: Office for Windows, iWorks for Mac, Pages App for iPad.... I can honestly say, 8 days in to BYOT, that yes - it is easier to narrow the field of productivity tools in a single platform environment.  So far we've lived the cross-platform challenges of:

  • The textbook works on Windows and various predatory cat species of Mac OS.  Not iPad or Android, contrary to publisher assurances (@jdferries has set the dogs of war on them)
  • You really can't upload a document to Blackboard Engage (formerly Edline) from an iPad.  To be fair, you can't upload any document off an iPad because the files structure is unreachable unless you perform an illegal maneuver which we do not advocate.
  • Another textbook came with a CD-ROM of supplemental material which runs only on OS 10.4 or EARLIER
  • MLA format is still biased to MS Word (see related mention to Office bias by guest blogger Layton Elliot over at Confessions of a Jesuit School CIO)
  • So.Many.Passwords.To.Remember


And then along comes Mr. Travis Curry from the depths of the Science Department (we hide Science in the basement)... with the words of wisdom "We have to be flexible."  And he's right.  These challenges are not inherently bad.  We learn from the failures, the frustrations, the work arounds.  The challenges of 5 operating systems in the hands of teenagers only make us more universal in designing lessons - we are learning there is more than one way to do an activity.  The challenges of 5 operating systems in the hands of teenagers is the TEENAGERS have to think critically about what they need to do and weigh the pros and cons of the tools available to perform the action.  The learning objective we set out to achieve - access, evaluate, use - is realized every time a document needs to be uploaded, a paper formatted, an etext accessed and a password recalled.  

In December of 2011, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a story about employers and the need for critical thinking and problem solving skills by college graduates.  Actually, this idea has been around the media a couple of times: USA Today and even at a certain state's expense... well, I can say we are encouraging our students to think critically.  Juniors who ran into the file upload issue found CloudOn, created Dropbox accounts and successfully came up with a system for the class to work.  And the teacher was flexible - this student led solution was fine with him.  Spanish students who couldn't view the flash video assigned worked in collaborative groups - and the teacher was flexible realizing the learning objective was achieved equally in group work as it would have been independently.  One young man with a Dell and a dying network card learned how to troubleshoot hardware versus software to narrow the possible causes of his computer not connecting to any network home or school.

After all, it's about the verbs not the nouns.  In our case access, evaluate, use... 

No comments:

Post a Comment