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.