Technology Integration: tips and tricks for BYOD a few weeks in

We have started off the year by throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into the BYOD ocean.   It has been a positive start to our BYOD journey.  It was interesting, too, to hear the enthusiasm of most of our parents at our Meet the Teacher Evening & Showcase last week around the benefits that technology is bringing to their daughters’ learning. However, it has not all been plain sailing and I know that some students and teachers have encountered some choppy water.  Some parents too, expressed some concern to me about the steep learning curve that they were on in terms of getting to grips with technology.  So I put together these thoughts for my semi-regular IT Update for teachers yesterday.

Tips and tricks for successful technology integration.

Keep it balanced – remember that the aim is to blend technology with your already excellent teaching strategies.  You don’t have to use technology every lesson. Students welcome breaks from their screens and it is good for them.

Provide time – time to work things out like uploading work to Google Classroom, or to learning portfolios.  It may be frustrating at first to not be able to get through your programmes but laying down the foundations of digital literacy will be worth it in the long run.  Time is also needed for homework.  Some students may not have internet at home, or they may be on a limited bandwidth or data limit.  So give them a few days to complete work that necessitates online access and encourage them to manage their time and prioritise effectively.

Lay the foundations of Digital Literacy – Our students are not all “digital natives” and they don’t all know how their devices work let alone the tools we are asking them to use. To start off with give them some choice of the tools (software) they want to use but limit it to what you and the majority of the students know.  That way they can build their competency and then spread their wings.

And talking of wings – why encourage those students who do know how things work to be “Digital Angels” in your classes and ask them to support the others.

Differentiation & Learning Readiness – just as you do when using traditional approaches to Teaching & Learning, think about differentiating when using technology.  Let the students choose what they are comfortable with whilst encouraging some risk-taking and exploration but give them the choice not to submit digitally if they prefer to write on paper. When they are ready they will go for it.

Provide some hard copies of google docs or other online resources so that students who are having trouble getting online, or those that prefer, can still access the work.  I usually photocopy about 10 copies and share them around.

Work in pairs or threes – encourage sharing of devices.  Not everyone needs to be on a device all the time. Group work that allows for mixed tasks is still seen to be the most effective use of devices in a classroom.

High stakes – start small – avoid stress.  Try to do some small tasks to start off with using the technology that you want to use for assessments in the future so that you and the students build competency and confidence.  When the important assessment comes you and they then don’t spend time stressing about how the technology works and you can focus on the task.

Distraction – off task behaviour. One of the issues many teachers encounter is  “off task” use of devices in class.  This is something that will not go away completely.  How many of you played noughts and crosses or other games, or wrote notes to friends in the back of the class when you were at school?  Or maybe I am the only naughty one here! And how many of you check your phones in staff meetings?  Are you engaged? Are you focussed on the task?  We can employ similar classroom management strategies to those we use to minimise traditional off-task behaviour for off-task digital behaviour.  It comes down to expectations and each teacher will have slightly different expectations for their classroom and they may also vary according to the activity.  Here are some of the ideas that have been discussed in our staffroom over the last few weeks;

  • Make it clear to students what you expect as they come into the classroom and ready themselves for the lesson.  Some teachers are happy for the girls to log on immediately and be working on online activities, others prefer to start the lesson off without a device.  It is up to you.
  • Ask students to close the lids of the laptops and fold covers over smaller devices when you are talking to them or when you are having class discussions. Or, you could ask them to turn their computers around so they are facing away from them and the keyboard is not a magnet for those itchy little fingers!
  • Suggest that phones, which are secondary devices are kept in pockets unless specifically needed to supplement a task.  Often the girls prefer to use their phones for quick research but they are perceived to be the biggest source of distraction. Personally, I am happy for them to have them at their fingertips as they are such a powerful tool for learning.  Trust is a huge factor here and everyone “focusses’ in different ways.
  • Listening to music as they work, has always been a contentious topic.  Again, make your expectations clear.  For some tasks it doesn’t cause a problem and will help focus concentration.  I find, though, that unless they have a playlist set up, they spend more time choosing songs than working.
  • Use situations where digital behaviour is not what you expect as an opportunity to have a class discussion about citizenship (both digital and non-digital) and our responsibilities as global citizens.
  • Knowing how to “drive” their own device  is important.  If students want to use a particular tool to complete a task you have set, it is their responsibility to know how it works before they have to submit.  As above, provide time to explore and learn in a preparation task so that you and your students can develop your skills.
  • Plagiarism, referencing, use of digital media and software. Please insist that everything is referenced and as far as is possible they have used images, music, videos that are licensed to re-use.
  • But the most important strategy for minimising off task-behaviour is engagement.  If your students are engaged in their learning, they won’t engage in off-task activities!
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#28daysofwriting Day 19: BYOD, playing in the waves

In a Whirl
In a Whirl

As usual the school year has started in a whirl, but what an exciting whirl!  We took the plunge last year and decided that after two years of allowing students to bring their own devices to school on a relatively ad hoc basis and introducing Google Apps for Education, we would make it obligatory for all students to bring an internet enabled device for their learning.  We didn’t mandate a type of device that the students can bring, but we did say that it had to have a screen size larger than 10″ and it had to be able to have Google Chrome as a browser. So that means we have classes with a range of devices from tablets, to Chromebooks, to notebooks, to laptops.

The preceding two years were spent enabling our teachers through regular Professional Learning sessions to develop their skills and competency around digital technologies.  As well as providing strategies for their use in teaching and learning, some teachers needed to become proficient and comfortable navigating their way around devices on a personal level.  We adopted a differentiated approach by offering whole staff training as well as one to one and small group sessions.  The administration staff were not forgotten either although, if truth be told, we needed to include them more in the planning.

My role in all of this is as the “Elearning Mentor”.  I have some allocated time each week in which I can work with individual teachers when they have non-contact time when they are ready to move on to the next step.  I also offer drop in “techy brekkies” each week when teachers can come along for some support and I publish “techy tips” on all manner of things.  Usually little shortcuts and niggly things that come up in the course of conversations with teachers in the staffroom or in my sessions with them.   Over the last few years as more and more students brought their devices and teachers enabled their use in the classroom for learning we have  gradually built the capacity of the infrastructure to cope with possibility of more than 1200 devices trying to connect to the internet at any one time.wave breaking

I would like to say that it has all been plain sailing over calm waters in the last three weeks.  But it hasn’t.  However, it hasn’t been a maelstrom either.  There has been some choppy water, and the odd big wave but I think that is what might be expected.  Our teachers have thrown themselves into the challenge wholeheartedly and positively at all sorts of levels.  At whatever level is right for them.  And the students too, have taken up the challenge, they are creating, collaborating, connecting (just occasionally too much and not always about what they should be, but that is teenage girls for you!) and learning.

One of the biggest challenges is for our boarding house.  As students have come back from the day school with homework to do online, the boarding house network has not been able to cope with the traffic.  Another issue is getting a whole class full of students to upload finished products into their portfolios at the same time.  And another is dealing with the different types of media that the girls are choosing to create in and them not really understanding how their own device works or how the app they have chosen works.

But they are not insurmountable problems and we have to remind ourselves to take baby steps.  We may fall down occasionally but I am heartened by the positive comments I hear and the solutions that are being found.  We are all in this together and we are talking and building resilience amongst teachers as well as students. We are “Keeping it Real” and moving forwards, one big stride at a time.

edchatnz October 31st

twitter map of edchatnzThe Hallowe’en edition of edchatnz was frantic and energising as tweetchats usually are.  This is only my second edchatnz as I am often out on a Thursday but I managed to catch the first part of this one.  The topic was BYOD and as you can imagine there was plenty to talk about.  Some teachers are just starting out with BYOD in their schools, some are old hands and some are somewhere in between.

Lots of questions, lots of advice.  Do you specify devices or allow anything? Do you shut the network down or do you open it up? What do you do about user agreements, security, equality of access?  How do you prepare teachers and students and parents?  What role does the tech support play?  Do you work in the cloud or store on servers?  Android, Apple, Microsoft, Open Source, Chromebooks, netbooks, laptops, smartphones, tablets? Opportunities for learning, sharing, failing, succeeding, self-direction, motivation, differentiation, time-management, distractions, off-task, on-task, classroom management…..

So many issues but the great thing was the collegiality of the chat, the solutions that were offered, the fact that we are modelling a community of practice, just in time PD. The information gleaned was relevant, useful, authentic, in the moment.  The overwhelming theme that came through for me was the emphasis and focus on LEARNING.  We are all starting to get the message that PEDAGOGY has to drive the tools we use and not the other way round.

@Mrs_Hyde created this Storify from the Tweets and I created another map of the tweets and conversations using TagsExplorer to chart the tweets and the conversations.

Thanks @MissDSciTeacher for getting the ball rolling – edchatnz even gets a mention in the latest edition of the Education Review in an article “10 Twitter tips for Teachers“.