Recently, I have been taking part in Voxer chats – a “walkie-talkie” app, allowing people to connect through voice, text, or pictures. I describe it as “my PLN on steroids”; we now have the power of voice in our professional conversations around the world. A couple weeks ago, a question was posed, “Is 1:1 or BYOD inevitable?” It was an enlightening conversation among administrators, teachers, and tech coaches. This conversation inspired me to look closer at this topic.
The classroom is changing. Well, the students in our classrooms are changing. Our students are connected. This is not about particular devices or apps. Their connectedness is their ability to share and collaborate with anyone at anytime for a given purpose, whether it be to find information or to collaborate on a project. Our students are doing this without adults. As responsive educators, we need to understand this shift. We are asking our connected students to drop their devices at the door, walk into the classrooms we grew up in, and thrive in an ever-changing, connected world. Is this what is best for our students?
All schools must become 1:1 or BYOD environments in order to help our students
All schools must become 1:1 or BYOD (bring your own device) environments in order to help our students not only succeed outside our schools, but also thrive in the global world. The school environment must be transformed, not simply reformed by adding devices and a few cool apps. Technology must be seamlessly integrated into the environment, becoming a part of what we use everyday to impact learning. It shouldn’t matter what device or app is being used; our transformative integration mirrors our use of technology and information outside the school walls. While many note the challenges outweigh the benefits, these challenges must be overcome in order to provide the best opportunities for our students.
Challenge #1: How do schools pay for this?
Schools large and small need to get creative in order to make sure students have a device in their hands so that the integration of technology and the skills that come with it can actually happen. It is not about which device students use; students simply need one in the school environment so they can build their skills and learn how to use technology appropriately for learning.
BYOD is a growing trend due to funding, and those efforts around the country have been successful. This forces educators to move beyond the device and into the application of various skills and tools. The key to any successful BYOD initiative is making sure the infrastructure is established to support it. Furthermore, there are schools that have decided not to adopt textbooks, instead purchase devices, then curating their own content in different subject areas. Some schools have mixed a BYOD and 1:1 concept, allowing students to bring in their own device if they have one, or providing one through a rental program for those who do not have one to bring from home.
If creating a sustainable, integrative classroom culture is important to schools, then they find a way to make it happen. It is a decision made with many stakeholders, building the capacity of the schools to transform the way they teach students. Bringing devices into schools should no longer be a barrier with many creative options out there right now. Once devices are in schools, the integration can now truly begin.
Challenge #2: Will students know how to use it responsibly?
Very simply, this is our job as educators. Acceptable use policies and student handbooks have been around a long time, addressing the issues of what happens when a student does not follow the rules. There will always be a few students who push the boundaries and do not follow the rules, and those policies and handbooks are in place to address those issues. However, this should not be our reason for not integrating technology into the classroom.
Instead of worrying about the possible 10% who may or may not use the technology responsibly, we need to focus on the 90% who will. Our job as educators is to teach students HOW to use technology responsibly. We must teach our students how to behave online, how to search for information and decide if it is reliable and credible, and how to establish their positive digital footprint, collaborating and communicating with others around the world. These are not lessons taught in isolation, but rather teachable moments found daily through our lessons. It is our job to build this into every classroom every day. We know students use the Internet and devices outside of school; let’s teach them how to be successful using it responsibly, with adults by their side, guiding their information development.
Challenge #3: How do we help teachers not only embrace the change, but also learn how to effectively integrate technology seamlessly into the classroom?
This has to be, by far, the most difficult challenge to overcome, and yet it is the most critical to any successful integration effort. There are no quick and easy ways to give teachers the support they need in order to integrate technology into their classrooms. Yet, it is clear that positive support is needed, whether it be through coaching, peer supports, administrative supports, or combinations of all of these. One time professional development will not do the trick. Administrators should be creative in their support, embedding professional learning into daily tasks, giving time for teachers to learn, and modeling the growth mindset in a positive way.
Technology is not going away; it is not a fad that will pass with time. Teachers need to immerse themselves and their classroom in the integration of information literacy and creativity using technology. No one can learn everything there is to know about technology and its applications. It will forever be an ongoing process. Early adopters and administrators need to model its use, model how it can be used effectively to engage students and promote collaboration and creativity, and support colleagues through their efforts as well. When others see it integrated effectively, and with the support of others around, they too will join in the efforts. Furthermore, it is imperative leaders continue to demonstrate WHY this is important. We are not integrating technology for ourselves; we are integrating technology into our schools and classrooms so our students may thrive in school and beyond.
All of the above challenges focus on the adults within schools, the educators. Educators must think beyond their own barriers to 1:1 or BYOD environments so that they can successfully create the blended or integrated classroom for their students. Our students, their success in class, and their future beyond school is why we do what we do every day. Our students are demanding a highly engaging, interactive, collaborative, creative, and supportive classroom, which does include technology. This is the world they live in. We need to bring it to our schools and teach them how to use it to maximize their learning and potential.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Waag Society.