Friday, March 22, 2013

Answering "What's Next?" - Classroom Technology Beyond BYOT (with pictures and bullet-points)

One of the problems with pulling off an important (if small) Educational Technology revolution is the inevitable questions from excited faculty, students, and trustees: "What's Next?" While the temptation is strong to answer, "reading some comic books and 3-starring every level of Angry Birds", that is not acceptable and probably not good for student learning.

Thus, we began to embark on our next level of technology integration: What should a classroom look like in a BYOT environment.

We began in similar fashion to what eventually became our 1:1 BYOT solution -- we asked the teachers and students:

1. What is the most frustrating thing about teaching and learning in your classroom right now?
2. What would make you a more effective educator if we gave it to you next year?
3. What would the ideal learning environment look like?

And boy did we get answers!

Whether it was from teacher-teacher or from activity-to-activity, teachers wanted the ability to change the layout of a classroom quickly, without a lot of effort. This came from Social Studies (Harkness table configuration with Primary Source discussion), World Language (quick changes from pairing to small groups to teacher-centered instruction and back again within the same period), to Math (we like our rows, but it would be nice if we could get in between them faster without tripping over bags -- you have to stay mobile when ever kid has a device).

While the standardized testing advocates get a giddy little thrill every time they release a document that pretends learning is an isolated experience between the student and the electronic equivalent of a bubble sheet, learning is about engagement -- engagement with material, engagement with the teacher, engagement with each other. Teachers and students alike wanted a classroom where collaboration did not feel like a tacked-on after thought.

Space to Write, Tools to Share
Who needs an Interactive Whiteboard? Just give us colors!
After flexibility, the number one request was MORE WHITEBOARD SPACE. Three walls, paint the walls with whiteboard paint, get individual boards around the room. -- It was really a dream come true for a whiteboard aficionado like myself (totally had to look up that spelling).

As teachers begin to move from experience to reflection, sometimes the process of sharing that reflection is best written down where others can see (Think-Pair-Share and Gallery Walks are good examples of this). As the front of the classroom diminishes and students take more ownership in the classroom, a natural outgrowth of this is the need for more surface area capable of capturing ideas.

...and then there is technology
Ever try to have a beyond 1:1 discussion about technology with the interwebs? It is NOT pretty. It quickly degenerates into camps based on Android or iOS, or it becomes "Walls? Where we're going, we don't need walls!" from the blended-distance learning camps.

So here is our context:
  • We already start with learning objectives and student engagement in mind. Technology is a tool that gets us to stronger relationships, better (read more authentic) experiences, and opportunities to engage in personal and collaborative reflection (what Jesuits call LEARNING).
  • We already have a device in each student's hands and the device is one that they chose based on personal experience, reflection, and context.
  • We are working to create a learning environment that is flexible and student centered, focusing on the learning activities that maximize our mission and pedagogy.
Our thoughts so far:

  • Maximize flexibility and sharing with Multiple Displays and Student Device Connections
  • Create simple control systems that allow teachers and student to quickly do what they want
  • When possible, hide wires and connections and make the systems tamper-proof
  • Use Document Cameras and Classroom Recording technology to make access to notes and activities flexible in time and space.
  • Even when items must be fixed for electricity or network, give a teacher the option to clear the space for other activities

Our Teacher Resrouce Room -
Brainstorming Central
Over the next few weeks, teachers will begin to give feedback on the tools that they would like to see in their classroom and we will begin the process of designing our next generation BYOT classrooms. Feel free to peruse the document below. We will be hanging it in our Teacher Resource Center for discussion and feedback and finalizing the look and feel of our next iteration of the classroom.

  • What did we miss?
  • What do you like?
  • What will transform teaching and learning in your classroom AFTER you are 1:1?
  • What are the goals that you have in mind when considering classroom technology?

Feel free to leave comments down below or on social media. We appreciate the feedback and will use it in our decision making process (which the Jesuits call Discernment - they have a word for EVERYTHING)