October 7th my building went to a BYOD environment. Now, after 13 days, and many trials and tribulations, I have decided to write about what I believe that positives and negatives of this environment are. Now, I'd like to preface this by stating that, although I absolutely love technology, I do not believe that technology can ever replace good teaching. I also have never been in a school with a one to one environment (stated here as an alternative option to a BYOD environment). This is meant merely as (as it's title states) observations that I have been making so far about the process of switching over to a BYOD environment.
1. A lot of the staff has not been supporting the change
This is unfortunate but true. Many people say that you should stay out of the teacher's lounge because of the negativity in there but usually in my building I don't find that to be the case. I find my colleagues to be the opposite; warm, inviting and positive. We have a really great environment in my building and even play a trivia game for a few minutes while we eat lunch on a daily basis before everyone gets right back to work. However, the amount of negativity I have heard surrounding the new BYOD policy only battles that of the teacher evaluation system. I actually heard a teacher say yesterday "so we're allowing kids to watch Netflix in class now on the wifi and play on facebook?" Not that he should be totally blamed, perhaps we should have a district-wide or at least faculty meeting on the policy and what is and isn't allowed on the wifi. I mean, we teachers use the wifi and can't use facebook so I'm not sure why this teacher would think that the students would have access to it but maybe getting all of their questions answered would be a good thing.
2. Students are not fully embracing the change
At first this surprised me, and then I remembered that some people will complain about anything. Just because they can't get access to facebook and twitter on the wifi they don't see the point. Oh, and they think that there is someone out there whose job it is to read all of their text messages. No matter how many times I tell them that there is no one who was hired to sit at a monitor to read their messages, they just don't seem to believe me. I just keep telling them that as long as they don't do anything wrong, no one will have reason to go into their text messages..... and the NSA can read their messages anyway so what are they texting about that makes them so worried? As much as I try to show them how great using digital notes can be, there is a solid 30-40% of students that just don't seem to get it, still want me to do everything for them, and refuse to see how this can be a fun change. Then there are another 20% that go home each day telling their parents that they "played on their cell phone or devices" each day leading to a lot of questions from their parents to my director. I have to just reiterate and explain that learning can, in fact, be fun. What they are calling, playing, is actually a new version of direct instruction.
3. Teachers who get it are benefiting immensely
Using tools such as PearDeck and Google apps such as Flubbaroo for grading, help teachers with all of those administrative tasks that can prove difficult to keep track of when you have 100 students and 100 balls in the air at a given time yet everything needs to be done now. It also helps with accountability. I can see what my students are doing in class because everything that they are doing on their cell phones shows up on my screen. If a student is playing on their cell phone, and it is not showing up on my screen, I know that they are not on task and I can approach the situation appropriately. I can also see what each student is thinking at each moment of a unit and help them to deal with misconceptions as they come up. Many teachers find that using polling software help them to know what students are having difficulty in a given unit and help them to plan accordingly.
4. The students who get it, are benefiting immensely
By using tools such as Pear Deck, all of the digital notes that students take in class (which are basically interactive PowerPoints) are cloud based. Therefore, the student then has the notes with them wherever they have their device. Many self motivated students are truly benefiting from that aspect of the BYOD community because once they take the notes in class, the Takeaway document is created and saved in their Google Drive. Then, they have access to that document wherever they have their device or any device that hooks into the internet. It is much easier to have your cell phone or tablet on you than all of your school books after all.
It's been a little over a month since school has started and now our mid first quarter progress reports are due this week. I thought this would be a great time to check in to see how we are all doing at keeping a balanced work and "other" life.
It's amazing how I can love what I do so much, yet, as the year progresses, my stress level just seems to rise by the day. Every day, my To Do list is longer than the day before even though I am consistently getting work done. I'm honestly not even sure how that is possible. So how can we make sure that we are taking care of ourselves as we help to support our students, parents and communities?
I think what it truly boils down to is making sure to have some down time that is not associated with work at all. That may seem simple to many. To others, that may seem like a tall order. One thing I do try to do each evening is to wind down for an hour or two before I plan to go to sleep. One of my favorite ways to do that is to watch a TV show before bed, however, that comes with a caveat. Lately, I've been trying to make that TV show a comedy. The biggest reason for this is that although I love forensics shows, many of them can be downright depressing, and I am trying to relieve stress not cause more. Another downtime hobby of mine is my daily yoga practice which I've had for over 10 years. Yoga is a great way to exercise (I consider my exercise separately and workout 6 days a week), but for me it is more about the mindfulness and spirituality connection. Over the past year or so I have sporadically added meditation to my practice and I believe that if that was a more regular addition, my stress level would benefit extremely.
In my next blog post, we'll talk about how to make some of these good habits regular part of life to help find the balance that they can help us with. Do you have any ways to help wind down after a long day or any habits that help to help relieve stress?
like I've talked a lot on this blog about how important finding that balance is between your professional life and your "other" life; aka your "personal" life. I tend to call it that "other" life because sometimes the line becomes just so fuzzy, it's not even a line between a work and personal life so we need to find some "other" parts to fulfill us. Sometimes, people find so much fulfillment in their jobs, they have difficulty leaving or admitting that it has crossed the line and has become a part of their personal life because they enjoy it so much.
Yesterday morning, many of us found ourselves in that situation. We attended an event called #EdCampLI where we have found such a close connection with other educators, that it is hard to call that part of the "work:" part of life. How is that not listed under "personal" if I attended the wonderful 5th session where we sat around at On the Border and had drinks talking about all sorts of personal and fulfilling things with people like Audra Beberman (@AudraB_EdTech), Alison McDermott (@ALibrarian3), JoEllen McCarthy (@JoEllenMcCarthy) and more than I can list who we find understand us in ways that some of our friends who have known us for decades just....well.... don't?
As I said, the line can get fuzzy between a personal life and a work life when you love what you do.
Let's go back in time to earlier sessions in the day. Talking about that 5th session may be getting a little ahead of myself. In the first session, I actually explained how to use @PearDeck to make interactive lectures from PowerPoints and to take it a step further by using Office Mix to put those same interactive lectures on your website for absent students or students who need to watch the lectures multiple times. It was the first time I ran a session like this for teachers at an unconference but it was met with acceptance and just an amazing audience of teachers (surprisingly to me a packed house).
During the 2nd session, I got to listen to Joe Sapienza E.d.D. from Jericho School District (@JSapK12) talk about mindfulness as an educator. As a daily yoga practitioner for too many years than I care to admit to say that I have been practicing (I am a woman after all and I don't want to age myself), mindfulness is one of those things that just comes with the territory. I am just a huge fan a monotasking which is one of the ideas he brought up in his session, and in a world of multitasking sometimes I feel a bit alone. However, this session felt like great justification to my way of being. I always feel like if I do more than one thing at a time, I just don't do any of them well!
Here is where we had lunch....... who doesn't love lunch and getting to chat about what you've gotten to learn so far?
The official last session of the day (I say official because I already mention the fun 5th session), I went to an awesome talk about balancing work and personal life with Don Gately E.d.D. of Jericho Schools and Danielle Gately E.d.D. of East Williston Schools (@dmgately). They were perfect to run this session because as married administrators in different school districts, they have had to learn this balancing act; and it is one that is never perfected. This is the balancing act that I will constantly be referring to in this blog because I find it to be so important to professionals in this industry. If we aren't taking care of ourselves how are we going to help to support our students, the parents, and the communities that rely on us?
#EdCamp is an amazing movement of connected educators whose line between personal and professional is fuzzy and they like it that way! If you find that you love your job as an educator, that you love to keep learning, that you love to meet others like you; you are probably one of us and you should find an #EdCamp community near you!