Thursday, August 16, 2012

BYOT DayByDay 4&5: Vignettes over Two Days

The BYOT Day by Day Series will capture the first few weeks of implementation of the full BYOT program at Brebeuf Jesuit. Brebeuf Jesuit is 1:1 BYOT w/ financial aid support for over 25% of its student population in the form of technology grants. It will try to capture some of the tips, tricks, and pitfalls. It will highlight the successes and a few of the frustrations.

Form Follows Function: Node chairs allow student to quickly move from class
to partner-work for listening, writing, or BYOT activities.

Day 4, Student with an iPad

"Can you help me? I don't really know what I am doing with this thing"

There were connection issues and the student had forgotten her password. More revealing was the conversation. Her parents had gotten her the device for communications with them while she was travelling and for consumption of TV and Movies. She loved it for that. She REALLY did not like it for school.

"Have you talked to your parents about your concerns?"

"Well we are not rich."

"You could sell the iPad. Get a laptop"

"I couldn't get a new Mac though"

True. It is impressive that even through branding obsession and some rose-colored teenage goggles, there was serious consideration about the limitations on finances and identifying needs vs. wants. We continued the conversation about options and possibilities with her concluding that she wanted to talk to her parents.

We have begun to see a little buyer's remorse, almost always with iPads (The most popular of tablets). Most of the frustration is with the form-factor althought the file upload issue has been mentioned once.

Day 4, A Math Problem

Hardware tech: Three students in a row cannot see the math worksheet. One Mac, two iPads.

This is becoming the standard for us. Identify problem. Figure out the parameters. Research.

The problem: Equations made in MS Word w/ the equation editor (so much improved!) are not viewable in Pages (Mac or iPad). The obvious work-around is the use of PDFs. With that in mind, we contact the math teachers.

They have really embraced cloud computing, with some of the worksheets in Dropbox and some of them hosted in Microsoft's Skydrive (we support lots of things, even though we are a Google school). The students have, for the most part, adapted well despite the variety thanks to instructions in the syllabus and clear expectations and demonstrations from the teachers.

As I sit down with the teacher, he explains that, while they use PDFs for some of the documents, they want the flexibility to quickly change on the fly (even mobile) if there are problems identified (these are all new worksheets as they begin to move to teacher-generated problems and away from textbook reliance).

He also has workarounds for all of the devices that cannot view the equations:
Mac -- Open up the documents (Dropbox or Skydrive) in Office 365 (Microsoft's cloud-based apps answer to Google Docs). Since all of the students already have skydrive/live/office.com (whew) accounts, this is an easy solve.

iPad is a little more complicated, but only a little. Dropbox: use Cloud-On (free app for now) to open a full version of Office and view the answers. Skydrive: Use the chrome browser (released for iPad this summer) and select the "Request desktop version" to show the full version of the Office Web-app instead of the mobile version.

Think about that: a Google browser on an Apple device to make a web-based Microsoft application fully functional. Can you imagine what could happen if these guys liked each other? 

The teacher agreed to show these walkthroughs in class and add the step-by-steps to his class webpage. We shared the solution with the techs. Problem solved.

This is becoming part of the ongoing conversation. No device has all of the solutions for all situations. Laptops lack the back camera, but generally have faster processors. Tablets have multi-touch, which can be really handy when dealing with graphs and equations Try it: type in a graphing equation in google. The graph that appears can be multi-touch manipulated. Oh by the way -- If you type a graphing equation in Google, it solves the graph for you!! -- FYI

Day 4, Office-al Discernment

A story from the Teacher Resource Room and @40ishoracle. The girl with the Mac/Math issue from earlier is discussing with JenL the 4 reasons why she wants to get Microsoft Office for the Mac. She is leading off with compatibility, but also makes references to being able to take notes and edit the way with which she is familiar, using review features, and not having to worry about converting files for teachers.

Students are identifying their learning style and identifying the tools they need to accomplish their goals.

Day 5 , #Flipclass collaboration

Look! I type, you see!
As students begin their first research activity in #digcit, they were introduced to the sharing and collaboration features of Google Docs, many of them for the first time. It is always fun to watch their eyes light as they realize how cool simultaneous typing is. The sophomore in the class is non-plussed, "that is how we sent notes in English class all last year" - Ah, the power of BYOT.

Day 5, A Meeting of the Moms

My second parent meeting in a week. Talking about BYOT and how it works. Parents ask about ebooks and how things are going. They are impressed with how well the "Bring Your Own" policy meshes with the school's philosophy of individualizing student learning...so are we.

Day 5, In the Tech Office

Change wireless channels? Whatever, just give me a card

  • The network administrator and I have a discussion to discuss the policy about helping students beyond connecting to the network. A student brought in her Dell with the complaint that "Word keeps freezing". He was able to talk to her through software vs. hardware diagnosing and even showed her how to look up warranty information on her unit. Balancing between helpfulness and personal device tech support is a little murky.
  • Our hardware tech took a phone call from a parent in a Costco debating the merits of the i5 vs the i7 processor for her son's computer.
  • Dell came out and replaced the Atheros wireless card on that student computer for Day 2 (or 3?). They replaced with a Broadcom card that had no issues. Note to all: Avoid Atheros. Check.

Day 5, End of the Listening Lab?

A World Language teacher, Michelle Martin, stopped by to tell us that she was able to completely bypass the traditional language lab (listening to native speakers is a key part of language lab activities) by having students use their own devices to access the sites and listen. She was impressed by students who were multitasking but focused on her class, either accessing homework, doing the listening assignments, read the e-book, etc.

This dovetails with students in the digital music class that are uploading and downloading recorded audio files and other teachers who are going to try to use soundcloud, garageband, audacity and others (student determines the tool that best fits their needs) to share singing, language practice, conversations, and more. Cool potential to empower students instead of large scale lab manufacturers. -- Will have to keep and eye on this one.

Reflection

As we approach the close of the first full week. Password resets are fewer. Teachers are beginning to raise the game on expectations (you must convert the file to a format I can read -- that is your job). Students are finding that IT can be very helpful but that some of the responsibility for the device is their own. Students are finding solutions to problems by working with each other (can I borrow your laptop? I need to upload this file to EdLine).  There has been more growth toward an understanding of what it means to operate in a technology-laden society in the last five days than I have seen in some classes for an entire year.

And this is what is going on between passing periods and during student time.
Next week, we will try to share some more of what is happening in the classrooms....