What does BYOT actually look like? I know there is not a single correct answer, but this is the reality in my room: The majority of students (75% or more) have a device that can connect over wi-fi and text. Most of those are smartphones or iPod Touches. There are a handful of Android devices (2-3 per class) and everything else is iOS. In all 6 sections of my class, only 2 students bring their own laptop. An interesting observation about students who bring tablets (iPads, iPad Minis, Kindle Fire, etc) – they tend to share the device with another family member, so they do not have it everyday. However, they tend to have a secondary device like an iPod Touch. The chart is an estimate and does not represent definitive numbers, especially since so many students rotate through which device they have during the week.
Now you can visualize the number and type of devices, so let’s discuss lessons. The goal for yesterday’s lesson was to have the students explain their understanding of Spanish definite and indefinite articles. It is a minor topic, but it is interwoven throughout our larger clothing unit.
I suggested two iOS apps for the students: Fotobabble and Educreations (only for the iPad users). Fotobabble is a free iOS app and website. One student ran into problems because her iOS was too outdated to install the app. Educreations is also free, but it is a screencasting app for iPads/iPad minis. The students with Android devices found an app that would add audio to a photo, which was the production goal. They (Android users) are more responsible for finding their own tools. However, as long as the teacher provides specific expectations for the learning and production, they are generally successful and help each other.
All the students were partnered up. Every group had at least one device that could complete the task. They began by creating a visual to explain either definite or indefinite articles. After creating the image, they took a picture with Fotobabble and recorded audio of them explaining the topic. Their finished products were shared on Edmodo. The difference for students using Educreations, they could create their visual by drawing on the screen. It is surprising how the little things really excite students, but it should not be a surprise because they love low-tech whiteboards too. Educreations allows teachers to set up a class and provide students with a code, which links their account directly to the teacher, and does not require an email. I love this feature.
To really understand how this works, you need to envision the learning environment. I model sharing by lending out my own personal devices (which is less of a leap of faith now that I can set Guided Access in the Accessibility Settings). Students are willing to pair up. They share responsibility, turns, devices, and knowledge. It is not the haves vs. the have nots. It is a single class.
The way I give directions has changed. I give specific and detailed instructions for the learning goal. For the technology I am intentionally vague. Nine and a half out of ten groups will figure it out instantly, almost instinctively. The one group that needs guidance knows they can ask without fear or reprimand or ridicule. They are comfortable asking another student too, which frees me up to help with content questions. I see this as a life lesson. The technology and tools are changing rapidly and radically. Students (and teachers) can not be expected to master every single tool we use, but we need to be able to use logic and play to figure out a wide range of tools. Some purists would argue that I should not even recommend optional tools, but I think that is too extreme for middle school. If students find something they prefer, of course they many use their own tool as long as it will meet the objective.
Reflection for yesterday’s lesson: It was organized chaos, but if you listened to the noise, you heard happy and engaged voices. Two classes embraced the task, yet they interpreted the directions differently and produced two different styles of the end product. This is perfectly fine since both satisfied the learning goal. One class did not get to participate in the activity. They were distracted by their devices during the direction portion of class, and after multiple re-directs, the task was pulled. They had an alternative task that did not involve random pictures of their eye balls.
The success in one class is multiplied by the fact that it is hard to get them all on task and excited. They want to do something similar again, and I am already brainstorming how to incorporate Fotobabble and Educreations in the future. I think it would be entertaining and educational to have them draw an outfit on a Gingerbread Man-esq figure. I will provide them the digital copy to use and/or a paper copy. From previous activities they know how to Save an Image, Upload it to DoodleBuddy, and Draw. The digital picture can be saved and uploaded to Fotobabble. Or they could draw on paper and take a digital picture after they are done. Once they have a picture of the outfit, they would need to use the microphone to describe it in detail in Spanish. This would be a great formative assessment leading up to the summative Fashion Show.