Saturday, 30 March 2013

Day 1 BYOT

As I started typing in wifi codes and asking students to download any kind of QR code reader they could find, I couldn't help but sense the "are we really allowed to do this?" feeling emanating from my Gr. 7 students. My BYOT shift (I still call it a 'unit' with my students to give me an exit strategy just in case things go awry) started months earlier when I asked my students whether they had some kind of smart device or not. 90% of the hands went up. Being a heavy device user myself (can anyone say Handspring Visor), I felt I needed to try devices in the classroom again. (See my first BYOT post). I handed out permission forms that asked parents to fill out a "use of personal device at school" eform and tried to build some kind of infrastructure. (See Baby steps to BYOT)

But today was day 1. And I wanted it good. I was so happy that at least I had a QRcode to get to my Today's Meet page. The code was a big hit. It saved me from the "what was that URL again?" barrage. It was very necessary as students continually lost wifi. They just snapped a shot of the code and back they were to Today's Meet.

Part 1: Today's Meet

My PLN (okay, basically a bunch of like-minded gurus on the BYOTchat Thursday nights) recommended Today's Meet as my first activity. It was a back channeling website. I had to ask what back channeling was. For the new to BYOT, my understanding is that back channeling is a discussion board that can be accessed from any device. Each comment is streamed to all logged in. From the Today's Meet Website:

I decided to use Today's Meet as it seemed quick and easy to setup and explain.

It is one thing to facilitate a verbal discussion in the classroom. It is quite another to facilitate a chat on Today's Meet. My brain was working overtime as I tried to engage students in appropriate questions and get them beyond their inherent cyber small talk. But Today's Meet revealed what my students do out of sheer impulse. They chat. It seems smaller than small talk and shallower than surface chat. But after all the 'Yo's', 'Hey's', 'Sup's' and 'Mwahahaah's" my students were able to answer questions like:

- What on your device are you an expert at that can help with school?

- In what ways can you imagine using your device to help your learning?

There was even one or two students that took it to the next level asking other students about their app use. I'd love to see more of that in the future. Today's Meet with students requires much more teacher activity that a normal twitter chat. The more the teacher responds, the more useful engagement by the students seems to happen. But it's like responding to 30 journals in real time as the students are writing them. It can make your head spin.

Part 2: Brainstorming

What is a teacher without a project. From Today's Meet, we moved onto working on a project I wanted the students to complete using their devices. This is something they will be working on over the next few weeks.

And who doesn't start a project with some kind of brainstorming or mindmapping? So part 2 was "Now, let's use our devices to get some ideas recorded." And what does a BYOT teacher do when he has several platforms going at once? What the typical teacher would do when a student asks a question that the teacher has no answer to: "go figure it out". My task for them: find an app that can assist you in brainstorming, begin to capture some ideas you have for your project, snap a picture of it and send it to me.

Find app, use app, capture learning, show me.

This is a BYOT mantra in the making.

And I am happy to report that out of my 27 students, I got 4 simple mind maps before the period was done. Better than nothing.

Now before you take exception to my cavalier "you figure it out" style, I did make some honest suggestions as to what app might work. I showed the class a free app I discovered in the Apple App store called Inkflow. It looked like it could do the job. Several of my students gave it a go with some success. The students with IPads had Inspiration that they could use. I even had a student email me a tumbler file. I still haven't been able to open that up on my iphone. (I guess I could try opening it up on my computer :))

So that was my Day 1 with idevices being front and centre. I would recommend doing the same for those starting out. And now Spring Break is coming to a close and I have to gear back up for school and my BYOT "unit". Any thoughts for my Day 2 would be appreciated!