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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

My Inner Conflict with B.Y.O.D

My Inner Conflict with B.Y.O.D

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It seems you can’t get through a single Twitter chat without seeing the letters B.Y.O.D. mentioned. It is one of those buzzwords of the moment, and for proof one need look no further than the source of all catalogued knowledge -- Google -- which generates over 8 million results for the acronym. That kicks sand in the face of the Socratic Method, which checks in at a diminutive 594,000. 

But is all this talk worth it? 

Certainly, to an extent, it is. Teachers can get instant feedback on assessments in the form of dazzling pie charts, bar graphs and statistics with every imaginable variable. Students no longer have to create dioramas out of shoeboxes, they can direct their own iMovies, animate their ideas on Prezi, and speak to the world via Skype. Even parents are getting in on the action by checking grades daily through online grade books, keeping abreast via email newsletters, and existing virtually in the classroom thanks to teacher-posted pictures on social media. These are just a sample of the many blessings of BYOD.

Yet, is there an underbelly?

Here are three articles that may make you question if we need as much technology as we are talking about. Do the rewards outweigh the impact? Please share your thoughts.

1. Anissa Ramirez’s The Lowdown on Longhand: How Writing by Hand Benefits the Brain

When students take notes with their laptops, they tend to mindlessly transcribe the data word for word, like speech-to-text software. But taking notes verbatim is not the point. What is lacking in their note-taking-by-laptop is the synthesis, the re-framing, and the understanding of the information.

2. Nicholas Carr’s Is Google Making us Stupid?

When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

3. William Deresiewicz’s The End of Solitude

Now we are sending text messages on our cellphones, posting pictures on our Facebook pages, and following complete strangers on Twitter. A constant stream of mediated contact, virtual, notional, or simulated, keeps us wired in to the electronic hive — though contact, or at least two-way contact, seems increasingly beside the point. The goal now, it seems, is simply to become known, to turn oneself into a sort of miniature celebrity. How many friends do I have on Facebook? How many people are reading my blog? How many Google hits does my name generate? Visibility secures our self-esteem, becoming a substitute, twice removed, for genuine connection. Not long ago, it was easy to feel lonely. Now, it is impossible to be alone.

My school is slowly coming around. This summer it revised its electronic device policy, allowing students to use phones in common areas like the hallways and cafeteria, yet we are not a 1:1 school, nor do we have an iPad, Kindle, or Galaxy tablet in a single classroom. I bend the rules here and there, submitting to the convenience of  phone to look up a definition and allowing Kindles during independent reading. And that's ok for right now because I worry about their time on screens and their ability to stay focused when a new tab is just one click away.

Yet, part of me has this fear that my students and I are missing out, that there is this magical world of creative power and organizational perfection that we've yet to explore. Perhaps one day my disitrict and I will catch up, and when we do we will probably realize that we are behind again. But for right now, I'm content to linger where we we are, with notebooks, pens, and the yellowed pages of the novels that we are reading.

I'm a decade into my teaching career and I still feel the same pleasure that Whitman speaks of in "Beginning My Studies" that I'm willing to wait a bit before I take that next step.

The first step, I say, aw’d me and pleas’d me so much,  
I have hardly gone, and hardly wish’d to go, any farther,          
But stop and loiter all the time, to sing it in extatic songs.

Comments (17)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator

We've been having this conversation in my department at Antioch a lot lately. We're coming at it from a green perspective, trying to further decrease our paper usage, but also from a pedagogical one. We have a HUGE Waldorf teacher training program and so much of that philosophy is about aesthetic and the act of creating, so we've been talking about the places where tech intersects with that philosophy and the progressive, PBL- based philosophy we use in our other programs. It's not an easy conversation, but staying in it has really helped me think hard about the best ways to use my technology- not just the easiest ones.

Brian Sztabnik's picture
Brian Sztabnik
AP Literature teacher from Miller Place, NY
Blogger

Laura,
I'm debating it too. One of the best units in my class is flipping the reading experience with blogs. Students read independently during the class and then blog about their experience at home. Certainly, technology has allowed them to push their writing beyond the classroom, connect with each other, and have an audience beyond me.

Yet, I also worry about screen time. If we know that students spend more time on front of screens than the "recommended daily allowance," should we push that further by encouraging them to use more devices in the classroom? It is not an easy question to answer and my post sought to ask questions about how to achieve a balance.

Dan Callahan has a great point. We should not hold students back from utilizing all the tools available. The question I'm always asking myself is how can a digital tool enhance a lesson. Sometimes it does, and sometimes the quietude of their own mind is the only tool they need.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Generic "screen time" is a holdover from less interactive times, and is something that should be done away with, quite frankly.

Anything that just buckets your students' reading and responding to each others' blogs and passively watching a terrible cartoon is a poor metric to make judgments by. Just because your students might go home and rot their brains for 4 hours shouldn't mean that you now need to abandon great tools for fear of going over some useless measurement.

mrscrawford1998's picture

My concern with BYOD is the students who are across the digital divide and can't afford one. It's also tough, when every student has a different device & therefore a different problem to solve when things don't work. If you're stressed about using tech with students, having multiple different problems all at once is daunting.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

Yes, Mrs. Crawford, you're definitely right about issues with a variety of devices. Our district rolled out 1:1 Chromebooks for 8th graders this year and some parents asked if their child could bring their own laptop instead. Our principal wisely said no, that would create too many trouble-shooting issues for teachers.

I think BYOD works well for tasks where students might work in pairs using one device per pair. We can usually count on one working device for every two kids.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

I'm going to agree with Mrs. Crawford and respectfully disagree with Laura B here, that it's very important to make sure every student has adequate access. However, we don't necessarily want to limit their capabilities to the choices we make, either.

This is why I personally feel that 1:1 + BYOD is the ideal model which meets the needs of everybody. 1:1 makes sure that everybody has a bare minimum level of tools available, which everybody is aware of, and teachers can keep in mind while crafting assignments. BYOD ensures that if students have other devices at home that offer them enhanced capabilities over what's available on the 1:1 platform, then they can take advantage of that, too.

The key in this scenario, Laura, is to make it firm that
1) 1:1 device is always with the student, even if they have an additional BYOD. The teacher always knows the minimal capabilities.
2) There's NO support for using the BYOD tools beyond the initial steps of getting them on the network the first time. If it doesn't work, they can always default to the 1:1 device.

In my opinion, this provides the best balance between adult needs and student needs/interests.

(1)
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

Well, Dan, this would be great if every school was a 1:1 -- but we know that is not happening in the near future. My suggestion is for classrooms where a teacher wants to take advantage of the technology that many students have with them, but can't count on all students having access. Pairs or groups of three sharing a device is actually a good scenario because it means the students have to work together prior to posting -- they discuss ideas first, perhaps debate about answers, and then decide together on their final step. In a perfect world, every student would be equally equipped, but until then, we don't want classrooms to completely do without technology when so many students carry mini computers in their pockets.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

I was unclear. I meant that I disagreed with your principal's call to not allow students to bring in their own device because everybody has Chromebooks. Apologies.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

Ah, I see. Thanks for clarifying, Dan. But I have to side with my principal -- if every student is loaned a Chromebook for the year, and the teachers have been trained in 1:1 Chromebooks, it only makes sense for us to count on every kid using their Chromebooks in class. Inviting other devices (when they have all been loaned a CB) just opens up other issues: socioeconomic differences are magnified when a kid opens up his/her tricked out MacBook, precious class time is lost when alternate devices don't work and the kid has to pull out his/her CB, students are distracted by kids on different devices, etc.

My experience in a 1:1 classroom backs this up. We need it to be simple, not complicated by, "But I have...," "But mine...," "Last time this one...," etc.

Brian Sztabnik's picture
Brian Sztabnik
AP Literature teacher from Miller Place, NY
Blogger

Here's a link to a recent article from the NYTimes that shows how tech chief executives are limiting their own children's screen time. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/11/fashion/steve-jobs-apple-was-a-low-tec....

Here's a quote that reinforces the balance and purposefulness that Dan Callahan so finely articulated in his comment:
Ali Partovi, a founder of iLike and adviser to Facebook, Dropbox and Zappos, said there should be a strong distinction between time spent "consuming," like watching YouTube or playing video games, and time spent "creating" on screens.

"Just as I wouldn't dream of limiting how much time a kid can spend with her paintbrushes, or playing her piano, or writing, I think it's absurd to limit her time spent creating computer art, editing video, or computer programming," he said.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

I'm going to agree with Mrs. Crawford and respectfully disagree with Laura B here, that it's very important to make sure every student has adequate access. However, we don't necessarily want to limit their capabilities to the choices we make, either.

This is why I personally feel that 1:1 + BYOD is the ideal model which meets the needs of everybody. 1:1 makes sure that everybody has a bare minimum level of tools available, which everybody is aware of, and teachers can keep in mind while crafting assignments. BYOD ensures that if students have other devices at home that offer them enhanced capabilities over what's available on the 1:1 platform, then they can take advantage of that, too.

The key in this scenario, Laura, is to make it firm that
1) 1:1 device is always with the student, even if they have an additional BYOD. The teacher always knows the minimal capabilities.
2) There's NO support for using the BYOD tools beyond the initial steps of getting them on the network the first time. If it doesn't work, they can always default to the 1:1 device.

In my opinion, this provides the best balance between adult needs and student needs/interests.

(1)

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