I guess you really don’t realize how much of a game changer BYOT is until you own a smartphone and/or a tablet – in my case, I am the proud and addicted owner of an iPhone and an iPad. For years I have been using the Internet to help me find answers and solutions to all the problems, even trivial items of basic curiosity. However, having access to it 24/7 changes my attitude towards knowledge. It is accessible, it is mine. I do not have to cram for the ever changing test that life throws at me, I just have to be a smart consumer of information and have the skill to search in an efficient manner to get the actual answers I am looking for. Because I know knowledge is within reach, I search for anything and everything. For the doubters who think that Google has made us more stupid, or those who say learning from the Internet makes us gullible, there is a third option. Learners could be discovering a wider range of topics in a exploratory manner. There is a great SlideShare that shares the secrets to search.
Conditions for success of students with their own devices that they are given relative freedom to operate:
- They need to know how to determine what content is relevant and reliable. Searching is not about relying on the first resource in the search results. That is only the first step, then you need to dive deeper to find the true treasures of information mixed in with the murky half-truths.
- They need to know how to stay focused. The Internet has more than bells and whistles that will distract an untrained, unfocused mind. An average website has audio, video, visuals, ads, and a maze of related and unrelated links that will take users away from their goal.
- It is crucial, now more than ever, that teachers provide specific and targeted learning goals. Students should not be left to guess what they are supposed to gaining from the lesson. The only element of mystery should be from the options on their device.
Our district has had an informal BYOT policy in place for the last three years when the AUP was expanded to accept the use of students person devices when used for educational purposes. Last year the district supported their policy with a wireless network that allows students to utilize with their devices. Next year the policy is becoming practice, since the budget woes have phrases out the financial viability of district funded 1:1 classrooms.
I’ve been lucky to (almost always) be in a 1:1 classroom. But there are huge benefits to the students bringing their own devices. They beg to use them: not to plan games, check sports scores, or update social network statuses. No they beg to find ways use their devices to achieve the educational learning goals. As a teacher, I am still learning to let go of always having the answers. But it is slightly easier when you see how excited students are. After finishing a quiz, students were given some options to practice Spanish on their own. Two of the students with their own devices – one an iPod Touch and one an iPad – adapted the options to fit their devices. They did not have walked through the process in baby steps, the asked permission and dove in. Another great motivator for BYOT is the #BYOTchat on Twitter. Sometimes hearing that other people are going through the exact same struggles makes you feel a little more sane.