My Emerging BYOD Action Plan: Responding to Feedback and Criticisms

This week, as part of my exploration of ISTE Coaching Standard 3, I began to think about what an ideal digital learning environment might look like. My process began with my first post, Exploring my Ideal Digital Learning Environment. I started by reviewing three readings that explored the TPACK model, each one seeming to build on next ideologically in the integration of content, pedagogy, and technology. My takeaways from these readings were that content and pedagogy must work together to meet specified learning needs alongside the support of purposefully chosen technologies (Mishra & Koehler, 2003). I was also reminded that technology-supported learning is not reliant on the “what,” in this case the type of device, but rather “how” technology is used by the teacher to support objectives (Polin & Moe, 2015). Learning in this model should be student-centered and student-directed, and one method of encouraging student ownership of learning is to embrace a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program in the classroom.

Lai (2013) discussed the importance of teaching on a continuum of formality, in which learning is a daily practice that is not segmented between the informality of online interactions at home and the formality of teacher-directed use of technology at school. The interest-driven communication and collaboration by students on social media, on blogs, and in game play should be a catalyst for learning in school, while formal learning in school should also foster learning to continue beyond the school walls. While this is a device-agnostic sentiment, the relationship of personal devices to this continuum is undeniable as mobile devices travel with students between these settings. Additionally, Norris and Soloway (2011) outlined the prevalence of mobile devices on a global scale to outline the potential of taking advantage of such a widely-adopted technology.

Propelled by limited access to technology in my own classroom, I implemented a pilot BOYD program last year. I found the program to be valuable and successful, despite clear challenges. My emerging action plan for an ideal digital learning environment will revolve around the use of BYOD. I plan to consider how my past experience with BYOD, current research and received feedback assist my action plan for an adoption of this type of learning environment.

Classroom BYOD

Upon sharing my initial reflections on TPACK and BYOD, my graduate cohort and professor in the Digital Education Leadership program provided valuable, thought-provoking feedback that I am using this post to reflect upon. As it is always important to consider criticisms, and my professor @Rolin_Moe suggested I read a blog post by Gary Stager entitled “BYOD – Worst Idea of the 21st Century.” I have broken down Stager’s points in an effort to address these criticisms.

Issues of Equity

Stager’s (2011) initial concern with BYOD implementation is the classroom inequity it creates. Affluent students have an unfair advantage, as they are more likely than not the ones coming to class with the devices, perhaps even the newest and most advanced versions, leaving disadvantaged students empty-handed and isolated. While I think all classrooms are different and any educator must understand the needs of the population being taught, I foresaw this challenge prior to my implementation of BYOD last fall. I chose to address it in the following ways.

1. Class Composition

I took an anonymous survey of my classes to find out how many students had personal devices on them during the school day. What I discovered was that more than 75% in any one of my classes had a device on hand, almost all of which were smartphones. While this may not be the case in every classroom, I used this data to inform my choice to implement a pilot program. I felt  that I could find ways to properly utilize the resources of the majority, while paying attention to equity concerns. If my survey had yielded different results, I may have made a different professional choice.

2. Informal Learning

I made sure that activities employing the use of personal devices would never be tied to a grade, eliminating grade-based advantages tied to device ownership.

3. Collaborative

Any whole class utilization of BYOD was structured for partner or group work. Students were encouraged to share devices as they fit the needs of the activity. For example, if we used game-based software such as Kahoot! for test review, students worked in teams. This established an expectation that devices were meant for the good of the classroom community and not just individual students. .

4. Access to Additional Devices

Anytime a whole-class activity utilized BYOD, I had extra devices on hand, usually a school laptop cart. Students who employed this option more frequently were assigned specific laptops so that established settings facilitated similar login speeds for those with and without devices for game play, polling activities, etc. Some students chose to use laptops simply because they wanted a bigger screen and not because they didn’t have a smartphone. While students were often free to use their personal devices for independent work as well, rotational activities and access to extra devices helped establish a learning environment in which students were using technology in similar measures.

5. Practicing Inclusion

Alongside establishing general expectations for personal devices, I had conversations with my students throughout the year about equity. I didn’t avoid this topic. Norms were established for making everyone feel comfortable, despite lack of device or device type. We agreed that we should model behavior of inclusion whenever possible. While teens will undoubtedly create boundaries based on differences, socioeconomic background being one of them, I never witnessed exclusive practices. It might be naive to think that inequity can ever be completely avoided. For example, despite the fact that school uniforms are designed to eliminate distraction and inequity, students find ways of maintaining identities and subsequent displays of socioeconomic background. It may be that part of the solution is to teach inclusive behaviors and tolerance.

Limited Functionality

Stager (2011) admonishes the limited functionality of mobile devices in three of his itemized points. I agree that a laptop or desktop can better meet the needs of many classroom assignments, and there are limitations to the use of a smartphone. I would retort that this doesn’t diminish the opportunities devices do provide . I would never ask students to write an essay on their iPhone, or tablet for that matter. However, I do not think the limitations of devices should not prevent its use altogether. The prevalence of smartphones, and dare I say the eagerness of students to use them, presents an opportunity to access tools, as well as to communicate and collaborate while at their desk. My students can get on Edmodo to share postings, submit assignments and read the writing of others. They can utilize the iOS versions of tools like iMovie and Animoto to craft videos. They can take pictures of the homework board and save assignments to their calendars. They can check their grades and see messages from teachers as soon as they’re posted via our online gradebook app. They can read the news for current events assignments. They can view Prezis and watch videos I’ve posted online. They can practice their vocabulary on Quizlet. Many of my students read novels on their phones when they finish their daily work. This list goes on and on. With classroom management systems in place, my students can make personalized and self-directed choices about their learning. While math homework may best be done using paper and pencil, sculpture best learned with actual clay, and essays most effectively written on a laptop, it is important that all resources and tools be made available to students if they appropriately support learning.

Cost Should Not Influence Practice

In a perfect world, this would be the case. However, disregarding the constraints of public funding would be naive. Funding is a reality, both politically and daily as a I design instruction based upon the resources I have available. Funding impacts field trips, textbooks, teacher pay, courses offered, facilities, and an endless array of resources. The use of technology is unfortunately no different and this reality has to be considered.

Teacher Anxiety

I would agree that it is daunting to imagine thirty-three adolescents distracted from their work because they are posting to social media. However, this fear disregards classroom management. Front-loading expectations is an expected reality in the creation of any learning environments that must respond to an array of daily distractions. This is a topic that my graduate cohort has thought about at length and, as a result, we created a professional development session on this very topic. Establishing norms for how devices are used is crucial.

Encouraging Lack of Financial Support for Education

It may be true that by supporting BYOD we are sustaining a culture that doesn’t financially support education. However, If my school couldn’t afford the best social studies textbooks available, the response would still be to teach my students history. I would use the textbooks to best of my ability and supplement with additional resources to facilitate the best learning environment possible. This reiterates the call for self-efficacy in teachers mentioned by Polin and Moe (2015) in my previous post.To put the learning of my students at a disadvantage in the pursuit of grandstanding isn’t a choice I would ever make.

I greatly appreciate the points made by Stager as they outline some of the concerns with BYOD adoption. My main takeaway from this exercise is that the use of BYOD is not a black and white, all or nothing option. Rather, it is an opportunity and a resource that can be selectively utilized for specific learning needs.

My professor @RMoeJo, pushed me to think about how I can navigate the challenges faced by a BYOD learning environment by considering…

  • the “why” of my particular BYOD choices, especially given the constraints imposed by my lack of access
  • if BYOD only works in certain-situations
  • if the various hardwares of BYOD limit and shape how I use the program

My response to Stager’s points serve to address these questions in part. My experience has begun to show me that…

  • Yes, BYOD is a powerful tool that allows my students to utilize technology in certain ways. It also has its own specific uses such as polling and response software, game-based learning, apps that are formatted ease of use, and the power of personalized tools, such as fast access to images, emails, personalized content, and calendars in one place.
  • Yes, sometimes, certain apps aren’t available on certain devices. Sometimes, students struggle to get on WiFi. Sometimes, I don’t have the expertise to assist students in troubleshooting. These are just setbacks. They only serve to inform the situations that work best for BYOD use.

Finally, all three of my fellow cohort members @MrsBTodd, @Mtellscott and @Ingersoll_Ryan challenged me to think about the role of teachers and coaches in a BYOD classroom. @MrsBTodd specifically asked how one can coach and help teachers to be successful “active designers” of their teaching. This is a great question and in the weeks to come, I need to outline the lessons I’ve learned from the past year to inform my action plan for a BYOD learning environment that would benefit other interested educators.

Resources

Lai, K. G. (2013). Blending student technology experiences in formal and informal learning. Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 29(5), 414-425.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2003). Not “what” but “how”: Becoming design-wise about educational technology. What teachers should know about technology: Perspectives and practices, 122.

Norris, C. A., & Soloway, E. (2011). Learning and Schooling in the Age of Mobilism. Educational Technology, 51(6),3.

Polin, L., & Moe, R. (2015, in publication)  Situating TPACK in mediated practice.  In K. Graziano & S. Bryners-Bogey’s Handbook for Educational Technology Teaching.  

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational researcher, 4-14.

Stager, Gary S. (2011, October 8). BYOD-Worst Idea of the 21st Century. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://stager.tv/blog/?p=2397

5 thoughts on “My Emerging BYOD Action Plan: Responding to Feedback and Criticisms

  1. Fantastic, Annie! I have said it before and I’ll say it again, your students are lucky to have you. It has been wonderful to watch you move through this BYOD journey. While it has had its ups and downs, you have made so much progress and your school (and students) have benefitted a great deal because of your risk-taking. One comment you mentioned really resonated with me: “I do not think the limitations of devices should not prevent its use altogether.” If schools were to wait for all the stars to align before implementing school-owned technology into the classroom, it would never happen. Why should BYOD be any different? Especially when you’re so cognitive of the inequalities and transparent with the students.

    My school has a school-owned one-to-one laptop program and based on your writing and our past conversations, you command a great deal more respect surrounding the use of technology in the classroom with your BYOD program. The students might push buttons or test boundaries, but they clearly appreciate the respect you’ve given them and they are well-aware that you’re meeting them where they’re at.

    Great, great job!

  2. I can definitely visualize where your action planning is going by the way you integrated the readings and last year’s experiences with BYOD . Under the heading, “Issues of Equity” you acknowledged the BYOD implementation concerns and then noted how they were addressed, which I foresee as the foundation for your action plan.
    You made several significant points, but one that stood out for me was on classroom management, “With classroom management systems in place, my students can make personalized and self-directed choices about their learning.” In previous discussions with the cohort, we determined that the management systems for any device are crucial to the learning environment. By implementing management systems within the class, students are able to make choices about their learning. The management systems may look different in middle school than in elementary, but our goal is the same; the desire for students to take ownership in their learning. I look forward to the next phase of your plan- coaching others interested in a BYOD plan. Thanks for sharing, Annie!

  3. Annie,
    This is a great description of the current issues you’re facing with your BYOD practice. A few things I wanted to commend you on are your smart use of data to see if this was workable solution for your students, that you talked openly with your students about issues of equity, that you had devices available for students without devices, and that you realize that limitations of devices shouldn’t stop their use.
    I wonder how you could describe and share the instructional shifts you’ve had to make as a teacher. Many teachers aren’t as comfortable with as much student independence as there is in your classroom. How do ensure that students are on task and accountable? How do your provide timely feedback for students based on their online work? Does technology make this easier or more efficient in any way? Some of these questions can help others to see the power in your model and alleviate some common hurdles. I think it can also tie into the question from your colleagues regarding empowering teachers to be active designers of their own teaching. Additionally, I look forward to hearing how you are empowering students to be active designers of their own learning.

  4. Hi Annie! One point that you write is profound, “The interest-driven communication and collaboration by students on social media, on blogs, and in game play should be a catalyst for learning in school, while formal learning in school should also foster learning to continue beyond the school walls.” I am most encouraged and challenged by your use of “catalyst” in this setting. You open the door to think much more broadly of the education setting and challenge the status quo by inviting students to use and recognize their networks–digital and analog–to learn. This is huge! We invite students to bring along their own connections to further the educational experience and enrich the ideas, thoughts, and understandings. Furthermore, your input and feedback on BYOD is helpful. I appreciated your willingness to thoughtfully engage Stager. I am not sure how I feel overall–but the issues of equity are important.

  5. Excellent, Annie. I think your response to the Gary Stager article is important — recognizing the limitations of BYOD but understanding that there are affordances as well. Stager wants to see computing as computational thinking, and that is idealistic and important, but your are approaching this from an issue of access and equity and opportunity…iterative rather than replication or replacement. Thank you for the thoughtful perspective.

    Ellen provides really important considerations as you move into the second iteration of this design. I also would really like to see you tackle a significant conversation on your instructional shift through BYOD. Part of your action plan would be a case study/reflection of your growth and where you found the milestone markers that you could conceivably replicate.

    The third part is going to be scale. Is this something you need to focus entirely on your class? Is this something for you and other faculty in a certain grade or discipline? is this the whole school? Why you would do that is going to be a pretty complicated answer with a lot of considerations, but it is important so that you can best have measurements and instruments to determine success.

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