Thursday, March 29, 2012

Choosing between BYOT and BYOD: Why One Letter Might Make a Difference.

The @40ishoracle is on page 34 :)
The @40ishoracle has done it again. Jennifer LaMaster has one of blogs published in this month's TECH&LEARNING magazine describing going BYOT. In the article, you'll note that the term has been changed to the other popular abbreviation "BYOD."


This immediately got a reaction from our director of communications. He wanted to make sure that we hadn't just rebranded our whole 1:1 initiative for next year (next year, the school will be providing technology grants to all students on financial aid so that every student can have his or her own device -- of his or her own choosing).

Since we have made about 10 or so presentations on this in different formats and occasionally been asked to change the abbreviation (not to mention the twitter #hashtag!), I thought i would take a few minutes to explain our rationale.


Bring-Your-Own-Technology is not REALLY about the Gadget
This 3 Year old's current technology
of choice is a tablet w/stylus
As we have been writing for awhile, the BYOT initiative is about many things:

  • Helping students develop personal skills in assessing their learning needs, evaluating the tools they they will need to accomplish a goal, effectively use those tools to complete tasks and communicate results. 
  • Enabling teachers to let go of an instructor-led push-button-to-get-a-treat training mentality and, instead, focus on the content, skills, and subject matter that inspires and motivates them (and in turn the students).
  • Allow IT to become partners in education by focusing on opening access as much as possible and supporting individual students in a more personal, service-oriented model that cannot be accomplished in a time-to-image-the-lab mentality.
BYOT is about a mindset that empowers students in areas where they are already comfortable.
BYOT is about creating an environment that challenges those same students' assumptions about what technology is and how it can be used in their lives and the world in general.
BYOT is about expanding the possibilities beyond a locked-down netbook or closed tablet system -- acknowledging that what we see as cutting-edge today is a paradigm shift away from obsolescence two year or two months down the line.

Compare the vision above to some of the BYOD implementations that are being talked about around the country: 
  • Implementations where students can bring-their-own, but are then locked into a school's virtual desktop that gives them access to a standard windows computer with stock programs and filters.
  • iPad schools that control access to the market, the apps, and the content so that teachers can "have a handle on what the kids can do".
  • ...and, because we are not completely without fault in this arena, schools that block access to the same tools that have become essential for Personal Learning Networks and Professional development (props to my #edchat, #byotchat, #flipclass, and #isedchat posse - much love).
Brebeuf Jesuit Senior, Alec Gorge, demonstrates an iPad App
he developed for the Alumni Board
Forget Post-PC...We are Post-Device
...or at the very least we are post one specific device. 

I loved the article tweeted by @teachpaperless, one of my favorite educators, on the top 15 iPad apps chosen by educators. It is a great list and a good mix of free and paid apps. I am also happy that a number of them are cross-platform. But on analysis, a one thing becomes apparent.

There are a lot of ways to do the same thing. 7 of the fifteen applications have similar (if not identical) ways of accomplishing specific tasks:

Note Taking: Evernote, Neu.notes, Notetaker HD
Whiteboard/Drawing/Presentation: Screen Chomp, Skitch, EduCreations, ExplainEverything

While at first blush, this can be part of what adds to the teacher-anxiety that seems to be one of the great barriers to adopting BYOT, from this we can see two things: 
  1. even within a closed device system, there can still be room to Access, Evaluate, and Use.
  2. To limit BYO to the DEVICE is to not acknowledge the reality of our world. There are MANY different instruments competing for our time, our eyes (page views and ads), and our dollars.
When you look at the other top apps, this becomes more apparent. DROPBOX is a must-have app in my household, but BOX is a strong competitor and given its new app-access structure might surpass the file-storage/sharing juggernaut. ONLIVE DESKTOP with its combination of storage and Microsoft Office blows me away (and raises the eyebrows of licensing lawyers everywhere).

TED videos are competing with Khan Academy and Amateur You-tubers to be the source of our flip-by-proxy teaching resources.

put simply, if we limit our students to choose ONLY the device, we have not empowered them to make the choice in the future. Better to allow them to experiment, find new apps and techniques, share them with teachers and colleagues, and develop those skill necessary for the next decade.

Practical Application -- 
General Classes and Digital Citizenship
What is being called for here is a paradigm shift in educational technology in a number of ways. I hold though, that in some ways this shift can be LESS-STRESSFUL for most teachers.

General Classes: In general classes (English, Social Studies, etc.) the expectation should be that teachers set specific academic objectives, general tasks, and clear goals:
  • Develop an experiment that will test responsiveness of the hissing cockroach by doing research, watching lecture (live or flipped), reading, etc. [Specific Objectives]
  • Take notes on your research and reading [General Task]
  • Submit your experiment to the teacher along with notes and annotations to the teacher in the following format(s) [Clear Goals]
The student is given clear objectives to be met. They assess the objective and choose technology that fits their needs. It might be EVERNOTE or NOTETAKER_HD. They might annotate in a kindle book or an iBook or the new @mbstextbook (my current cross-platform gold standard). They may even use pencil, highlighter and paper!

It is the responsibility of the student to take the chosen task-tools and adapt them into a format for his or her audience, in this case the teacher. If they took notes on paper and the teacher wants it digitally, they might use a scanner, or their phone and the CamScanner App, or a copy-machine in the library with scan-to-email function. This is ANOTHER opportunity for students to Access, Evaluate, and Use.

Inherent in this methodology are two important things that a school must consider. First, students must be given the opportunity to fall flat on their collective or individual faces. We cannot let "technology didn't work" be an excuse. Students must rise to the task in the same way that we expect them to get dressed in the morning, bring their text(e)books, and arrive on time -- they are digital natives even if silicon gives us the willies. Second, we have to create an infrastructure that supports the students in developing these skills:

Digital Citizenship Development: 
Students must be given, early in their education, the skills to Access, Evaluate and Use. The environment should expose them to a variety of tools and allow them to play and evaluate those tools. It should teach them to recognize advantages and limitation. In short, it should allow them to develop critical thinking skills in tool choice. This can be time and resource consuming. At Brebeuf Jesuit, this is our Freshman class on Digital Citizenship.

The environment itself should also be supportive and collaborative. Students should have access to technical support in the same way that teachers do in the best of situations. The techs should insure access, but also help guide students through troubleshooting when their tool doesn't work as expected. The more consistently the IT support comes through for the students, the more likely the teachers will be to focus on the academic needs of the students.

and, in honor of the upcoming NFL National Debate Tournament in Indianapolis this summer:

It is for the above reasons that I strongly urge educators calling it Bring-Your-Own-TECHNOLOGY