Thursday, 31 January 2013

BYOT quest

Last year, I created a unit called Tech Effects for my Grade 7 class.  Okay, I borrowed the name but the idea was mine: bring a smart device to the classroom for two weeks.  Use it when needed, journal your use, and at the end of two weeks, make a presentation to support/refute using devices like it in the classroom.  The results: mediocre.

I wasn't impressed.  I had these dreams of students revealing new apps and new concepts to me.  I saw none of that.  In fact, their use of their devices was rather boring: taking a picture of the homework board, browsing for needed pictures on the internet, "Mr. R, can I listen to music in class?"

Of course, all the final presentations said that their experience would support using the device in the class again.  They liked having them.

My experience?  Here are two of the problems I, their teacher, encountered:

1 - Off task behaviour
       - Games:  With a device we go from doodling on a page to angry birds when the teacher isn't looking
       - Passing notes: From talking to a friend across the class to updating a facebook status
       - Viewing: From reading Archie when math needs to be done to watching epic fail Youtube videos
It begs questions like these:
Simply different distractions or more compelling ones?
Distracted kids will be distracted anyway?
Structures can be put into place to minimize distractions?
Not sure.

2 - how do I print/upload/communicate what I have here, Mr. R?
       The devices ranged from laptops, Ipod touch's, blackberry playbooks, and Ipads to regular cell phones and "I left it at home", "I'm grounded from it" excuses.  The  Apple devices always had hurdles with network/printer connectivity.  The cell phones needed a "clicker" infrastructure that I was unprepared for.  The laptops needed forms filled out to approve in school use.  And kids without their devices proved to be a challenge as well.
The questions:
What infrastructure needs to be in place?
Is there a minimal "IQ" these smart devices need to have?
Can I use hand-in-box technology to assuage the need to print?
Strategies for no device situations?

Well, I want to do it again: Tech Effects Remixed.  The differences this time:
- smart devices only; no flip phones
- idevices will need parents to approve buying a few apps: particularly a draw-on-pdf app and an upload-to-sharepoint app
- the task will be better defined: in pairs, research a technology entrepeneur and present (part of the presentation to include successes and pitfalls in doing this all on a smart device)
- engagement over rules: I want to focus on keeping students engaged during work periods.  One thought: an "overcoming problems" competition.  Students keep a log of problems they've encountered and overcome.  Prizes each period for those who overcome the most.

So once FSAs, my Lit Circles, Public Speaking, and student led conferences are done, the Bring Your Own Technology quest begins. . .

. . .or maybe sooner :)