Friday, January 27, 2012

Cross Post: BYOT Update

Cross post courtesy of our student newspaper. Thank you Brebeuf Arrow staff and writers!

BYOT: update - Brebeuf Arrow

BYOT: update

we heard you like tech, so we put tech in your classroom

Since its inception last fall, the BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) policy has helped usher Brebeuf along further into the digital age. Now, with a full semester having gone by with the program in place, it seemed time to check on the progress of BYOT to decide if it really has been fulfilling its purpose.
In courses like foreign language classes, where only writing out lines simply won’t cut it for learning the material, practical applications to allow for word recognition and speaking practice have been implemented to great effect. Some teachers have even chosen to directly integrate the policy into lesson plans, taking advantage of the technological surplus to bolster the educational experience of everyone in the class.
“There are multiple benefits for language learning. The Internet’s second language is Spanish. They can find definitions and multiple sites where the word is used in context, and for research purposes, students are able to have interviews on their own smartphones,” said Spanish teacher Senora Beck.
Clearly, the policy has far-reaching potential in the classroom, and even beyond, as the use of technology has evidently evolved some classwork to allow for additional learning opportunities.
“If they have iPods, iPads, or other devices capable of recording, we record conversations between the students and they are able to email that to me immediately. It allows me to revise and improvise lesson plans at my discretion for purposes of learning beyond the classroom,” added Beck.
Students just as well as teachers have been finding the newly tech-accommodating classrooms to their utmost satisfaction. From typing up notes on laptops to making assignment reminders in smartphones, the possibilities now at the fingertips of participating students are impressive. Additionally, some prefer to rely on their own computer rather than take the chance of technical issues arising on school PC’s. This aspect is of particular importance at that moment every Brebeuf student has experienced, when the big essay needs printing and the school’s tech is taking a nap.
“I think it allows me to take efficient notes in class and multitask. I’ve liked being able to work when I need to but also have the perks of a personal computer and Internet access. I rely on my computer a lot more than the school’s technology, and it allows a more natural feel while at school,” said senior Ed Krulewitch.
With the encouragement of some teachers to use technology at the desks, naturally has come the more widespread use of laptops and smartphones around the school other than the classroom. To many, Brebeuf’s more user-friendly approach this year for those preferring personal tech has offered a medley of newfound freedoms.
“The BYOT policy means access to info twice as fast. I can go anywhere in the building and work more independently, with the exception of printers. Basically, it lets everyone work on their own,” said senior Juan-Jose Jaramillo.
“I think it’s moving in the right direction. The more Brebeuf embraces it, the more creative things can be done to teach,” quipped senior Annie Starkey.
The future is looking bright for the program, and while the school can’t officially comment yet on what’s on the horizon in the coming years, there’s hope that it will become more widespread in all corners of the school.
“The biggest restriction right now with BYOT is the teachers who’ve decided not to let students use technology in the classroom. I think the next step is creating a school-wide policy that would let students use the technology in class but have a strict set of consequences for misuse. Teacher’s couldn’t deny students the ability to use their tech, but there wouldn’t be a real problem with abuse,” said senior and resident computer genius Kevin Lehtiniitty.
Overall students and participating faculty alike seem to have received the BYOT program warmly and have been putting it to good use through enhanced lesson plans and more efficient note-taking. The program’s success after only a single semester would seem to be a good indicator of the policy’s future in the coming years. The only real risk now is the temptation to use internet access to look up adorable lolcats during class.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Internet's Reactions to Students' Reactions to Wikipedia's Blackout

Look at JD writing on the WRONG BLOG!  That's okay - he makes a good point so I'll leave this up...

had to share this experience (before i tout the wonders of #flipclass tomorrow):

received a very polite email from a student last night.

"I missed class and have uploaded my assignment and watched the video [blogger's note: FLIPCLASS RULES]. I tried to do some more research but Wikipedia is blocked. Do you know why? I figured you would and I was just curious."

1. He was on the page.
2. The second to last line on the wikipedia blackout page was "LEARN MORE"
3. Who needs a "3"? Seriously? CLICK THE LINK!

In a world where some educators bemoan the use of wikipedia as making it too easy for students, I think it is important that we make sure, as educators, that we point out some of the obvious bad habits in our culture.

Part of our job is to create the informed citizenry of tomorrow. We owe it to them (and ourselves) to make sure they don't get to take the easy way out.

The Internet's Reactions to Students' Reactions to Wikipedia's Blackout:

'via Blog this'

Paradigm Shift Part 2: Point the Way and Get Out of the Way

Yesterday afternoon, our first year teachers gathered for our monthly formation session.  The topic was "The Classroom as Holy Ground" (based on the article by the same name, Kevin O'Brien, SJ, 2003).  The guest speaker, Alan Mensel of our Religion Department, explained his definition of teaching as "point the way and get out of the way."  And I've been reflecting on that phrase all night!

Point the Way:
As educators, the basic job expectation is to impart learning to our students.  We have a few years more experience under our belts, a fancy degree or two and presumably a passion for our discipline.  But education is not about knowledge dump and regurgitation.  Knowledge is created at the intersection of teacher as facilitator and student as participant.  Education is a dynamic process.

Get Out of the Way:
This is what education is about.  It's also what BYOT is about.  It's not about us.  It's about students going their own way and transforming into men and women who will change the world.  We facilitate access to information, resources, tools, experience... and then we need to get out of the way.  Let the students work with, model, create, dialogue, ponder, develop, communicate and experience the dynamic relationships that is learning.

As we move forward with BYOT, the dynamic relationship between technology and the classroom forces me to act as facilitator.  I can point the way with my new BYOT for Edu! magazine, workshops and tech petting zoos.  Then I need to get out of the way.  I learn more from the adults and students in this building as to technology integration than any other source.  Today I learned the power of various e-book annotation tools (MBS, Kindle, iBooks and Stanza).  I have worked with a Nook, iPad, Kindle and two models of laptop and it's not even 1pm.  I just overhear a student in the hall outside my office ask if there was still seating in the library (exact word were "Is it packed?")... and you know what, the library doesn't have any seating open because students are in there... experiencing education!

So point the way... but for heaven's sake then get out of the way and let the students learn!

** Special Note as Timing is Everything....Today, the topic is especially critical as we look at large market developments in how information is delivered to schools.  My concern reading Twitter feeds is education once again being contained into a one-size fits all, pretty, yet presumably easy to use, single platform.  That's not getting out of the way.  Heck, that's not even pointing the way.  That's forcing a single way.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Paradigm Shift Part 1

My husband is a really nice guy and spent much of Saturday morning editing a draft of JD and my’s book chapter on Bring Your Own Tech.  About page 24, there is a review comment that says…” There’s a dangling thought to finish first, though, about the challenge BYOT poses to the way we think about technology in the school.  I think this paradigm-shift issue could use a whole paragraph.” (he then goes on to suggest a possible global rewrite that sent me into seizures).

Sometimes it takes someone outside the discipline to name the elephant staring you in the face.  BYOT does signify a paradigm shift.   One we are still flushing out… but for right now it boils down to this… School decision making is traditionally based on the assumption of “school” as located in time and space.  Student A uses school resources, in the school building, during school hours, monitored by school personal and so on.  But, experience is showing us that our students are posting online assignments, researching and communicating at all hours of the day and night (just check those time stamps of Edline document uploads).  They are blogging, video conferencing, file sharing, collaborating – creating at home, at school, in the car (hopefully not when driving!).   Our world is no longer home - school - practice - home…. So, if time and space no longer solely define the educational day, then we must shift how we make decisions related to access, retrieval and use.  Student A can now use any web-enable device to write the assigned paper, upload to Google Docs while sitting at the dentist’s office.  The type of device, web 2.0 tool, cloud storage is no longer the focus of teaching and learning - the paradigm shifts to focus on the educational learning objective letting go of the need to control the format of presentation.    

And don't get me started on the paradigm shift for professional development this creates!  More on that later in the week!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ed Tech Reflections: Well, Bring Your Own Technology/Device movement is...

don't ever be fooled by my egotistical ranting. There is power in partnership. @40ishoracle reflects on BYOT:

Ed Tech Reflections: Well, Bring Your Own Technology/Device movement is...: Well, Bring Your Own Technology/Device movement is certainly picking up pace! JD and I were contacted by the second reporter in a month wri...

Caught in the Middle of a Growing Trend

Well, Bring Your Own Technology/Device movement is certainly picking up pace!  JD and I were contacted by the second reporter in a month writing a whitepaper... all the while working on a book chapter on the same topic.  The concept is on most Ed Tech Trends list that has floated through my Twitter feed.  I expect to see the idea in mainstream media by the end of the year.

In all the conversations we've had lately a few themes keep rising to the surface...

  1. BYOT is about student learning.  Developing young people who ASSESS their learning need, EVALUATE tools to meet the need and successful USE the tool is our learning objective.
  2. By comparison, BYOT is not about saving money.  Initiatives may (and I do mean may - remains to be proven) create cost savings down the road but the first years out will see expenses based on equity of access/choice financial support and infrastructure improvements.
  3. Teachers do not resist change as much as educational reform pundits try to make us think they do.  We expected push-back and it didn't arrive.  In fact, most teachers say BYOT is a relief... no longer are they responsible for push-button training on tools (example: in the past if you are going to grade PowerPoint presentations on form and function you needed to spend at least a class period teaching PowerPoint).  Students are responsible for meeting the academic objective with appropriate tools.  
  4. Students are capable of making intelligent, creative and appropriate choices.  File under #iceiscold but many "innovations" in education continue to revolve around adults making choices in the name of students.  The conversations this year held between students - faculty - and IT about learning reflect a deeper reflection of self-awareness: weaknesses, strengths, successes and needs for improvement.  
To borrow the analogy from my previous post, we're just sowing seeds at Brebeuf this year.  I look forward to watching Bring Your Own Technology programs grow and develop over time.   

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Great Act of Hope

In prepping a discussion of first year teachers on Ignatian education, I am reading Kevin O’Brien, S. J.’s article “The Classroom as Holy Ground” (America, May 26, 2003 if you are so inclined to read).  In the article he writes:

“…the classroom – the vineyard to which we teachers are called.  There we build and plant, trusting that the harvest will be bountiful one day, even if we are not around to see it. 
Teaching is a great act of hope.”

I’ll admit that before the holiday break, I was feeling a little hopeless about education.  Everywhere I turned, education was villianized and marginalized.  Current educational analysis would have the casual reader questioning Fr. O’Brien’s observations.  Build and plant … trusting a bountiful return some day in the distant future?  Not when test scores are paramount, schools must compete to appease a consumer market of education and outside “experts” legislate from afar.  The seeds these days are low level recall data germinating in multiple test scores aggregated immediately into graphs and charts used to compare and judge.  Any potential for a bountiful harvest (see JD Ferries-Rowe’s post) is terminated by the next test, the next piece of legislation and the next 21st century learning tool.

And then comes along Fr. O’Brien to remind me of the hope.  The hope I see in young faces every morning.  They are not caught up in the arguments of adults over how, when and in what format learning should take place… they are too busy germinating all the seeds sown in their environment.  I see my role in education to engage the conversations.  To cultivate ideas and cherish those which challenge mine. To unleash potential in all the many varied ways available today.  To understand that not everyone learns the same way or the same speed.  To be flexible in how learning is shared and articulated.  In short, to trust: myself, the educators I work with and our students.

I may not see the harvest… but today I am full of hope that it will be amazing!