Friday, August 10, 2012

BYOT DayByDay 1: Let the games begin! (and knock on some wood)

So, I want to gratuitously steal this analogy from @40ishoracle, because it is too perfect for the description. Its a lot like a wedding. Years of planning, talking ad nauseum, trying to account for every last detail and every contingency...and then the day is here.

Looking back...

Building off of some simple answers to a few survey questions three years ago:
Teachers: "What would you need to transform your classroom in the next 3-5 years?"
Students: "What is the biggest change in technology you would like to see?"

Then there were focus groups...
and meetings...

Some intense technical sessions:
"Ok, so now lets see if we can support every single device, keep the filters engaged, use the same login they use for the library, and give them the ability to print"

Lots of impromptu visioning sessions with teachers in the Resource Room (with coffee!)...
A late night mapping of an entirely new network backbone...
Scribbled mathematical notations to figure out how much data was going across the firewall each second...

"Gingerbread supports authentication now. Android is go!" (geek high-fives all around)

Making the pitch: there is no BYOT without financial aid. Every student deserves choice...
Conferences, pilots, presentations, and more...

Discovering Hattie's Law: "worried that they're not really taking notes? simple. tell them to email them to you. They can email these things, right?" -- veteran teachers handle tech like a boss.

lots of discussion...with parents, with students, with teachers...
IT crew pulling the 18 hour shifts to make sure its all ready for...

The Big Day - Rocky Start, or is it?

The first thiing I hear as I walk in the door, we have this awesome freshman. Knows his stuff. Has his codes. Had trouble connecting to the wireless. -- ugh. Techs go into the scramble. Visions of the wireless being down on day one fill our heads. One tech pulls out an iPad, another uses an android phone, the third grabs a netbook. -- two connect just fine. The third gets a blank screen.

Earlier in the summer, we had devised a shortcut that would take students directly to the login screen. Typing that in did not help our single blank screen. Network admin says, "Try this one instead." The new address works - Whew.

New problem: There are 50 signs around the building with the old shortcut... "To the label maker!" -- The intern begins making labels with the new address to place over all the incorrect signs.

1st Period -- The rush?

Two kids walk into the tech area. One is an upperclassman who has forgotten his AMDG (Our Google Apps for Education domain - Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, "For the Greater Glory of God" -- Don't judge. "Skynet" was a close second) password - easy. Second is a Macbook running Safari - refreshed the browser and done.

A teacher who is a self-described luddite comes in: "It worked like a charm. Students had the computers out and were using them in 0-hour. Three kids didn't bring them, but they know the expectation now. Smooth sailing!" -- I think my jaw dropped a little.

15 minutes go by. Nothing.

No panicked phone calls. Help desk requests are routine. -- We begin prepping one of the remaining mobile carts for delivery. I goto print out "EdLine" access codes for my remaining students (4 parent codes. No students. -- They were all activated and in the system).

Period 3 - #Digcit Class

We've started to pick up on the pattern. Students who transferred after the main data/user upload are not always in the  correct wireless group. Sporadic checkboxes. I go to my class - it is a small one and they are quiet and nervous. We walk through logging into the system and changing passwords. We talk about security and the basic rules of the network. All student activate their AMDG accounts -- only one has an issue. It is solved by the end of the period. I spend the period teaching, not tech-ing. Bliss.

Student conversation in the hallway:
"Have you connected to the wireless, yet?"
"We did 1st period. I don't know how, but my teacher walked us through it."
"Can you show me?"
"I don't know if I remember"
-- not perfect, but I'll take it. (Seriously? It's three steps!)

The first tweet about BYOT:

Period 6 - What do you mean we don't have photos? I have to BLOG!

Little known fact? The fifth fundamental force:
Attraction of Glowing Apples
Yeah. Sorry about that.

It was a nerve-racking day.

About this time, we began to see a pickup in traffic as the newness of school had settled in and student began using breaks to get IT support. But the line was never more than a single student (good) and it was still primarily transfer-students with a missing account (usually one of three) or forgotten passwords.

We saw lots of laptops, including one sweet gaming rig from Alienware. We heard rumors that one student had a backpack with a charging battery built into it.

Teachers were coming to the Teacher Resource Room to talk about their next steps. A few parent emails. A few student emails.

Introduced a lot of teachers to the power of Google Docs and, as teachers do, many of them began to stretch the boundaries of the system as they thought about other things they could do with environment.

We are, of course, knocking on virtual wood as we move into day two. One of my student-followers on twitter chimed in during #BYOTchat last night: "Hold off on that all clear till tomorrow when most teachers want first day of BYOT" -- he is absolutely right.

But I will take a day like today over a day of crashing systems and unmet expectations any day of the week.


BYOT is really the first step in an educational transformation. A device in every student's hands...empowering each family to make a CHOICE that is individualized and tailored to a learning style and comfort level -- that is the ground floor.

Students and teachers take the next steps together as they learn new ways to research, create, reflect and experience -- even to lecture :). When we finished the day, the @40ishoracle and I stared at eachother both a little shocked that three years of planning and preparation and discussion and writing had led to this moment -- like a wedding:

"well, we did it..."
"yeah. now it's time to do the next thing..."

But, for now, the "Next thing is learning and teaching. Pretty cool, being a school and all.