Once again – a Response to Lisa Nielsen’s (The Innovative Educator
) great post, The Contraband of Some Schools is The Disruptive Innovation of Others with BYOT (Bring Your Own Tech) turns into a blog post in its own right. You should see what happens when we get together face-to-face!
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s February 2010 study, Teens and Social Media, 74% of American teens have a high-speed Internet connected computer at home, but 93% of American teens say they go online. That same report states that 41% of teens whose family income is less than 30K, go online using their phones. That number drops to the twenty percent range for higher income brackets. Clearly, students are bridging the connectivity divide with their portable devices (I avoid talking about phones, because MP3 players work too). When districts prevent students from using their devices in school, they are denying their neediest kids a chance to learn how to use their device for productivity. Talk about educational inequity! Kids with computers at home are taught how to use them in school. Kids who connect on phones because they can’t afford computers are not.
When a class signs up to use the library for research, it is only allocated 16 computers. Back in the day, we would expect students to pair up. But this means that one student does the bulk of the work, and another has an opportunity to stare off into space - not the most efficient model for productivity. Now, we - and this is going to ruffle feathers - separate the kids when they come in - not by topic, group, or research task, but by device. Kids with Internet connected devices (smart phones, MP3 players, tablets, netbooks and laptops) go to tables, kids without go to computers. Others opt to borrow library iPads, or, if they are all checked out (very common), iTouches.
Does this scream injustice? I don't think so. It teaches students to cope with the realities of the real world: "Not everyone has the same stuff. You make do with what you've got to get the job done as efficiently as possible." Where else in education are we teaching this lesson?
Here is the beauty of the system - Kids collaborate on their devices while working independently. They write and publish in the cloud (Google Apps), they use social media to organize a productivity plan, and delegate group tasks. To communicate, they can talk face-to-face, text, or chat online. To share resources and compile bibliographies, they collaborate in the library management system. They use QuickCite – a camera-based app for sharing book citations. For research, they turn to resources that offer mobile apps, where possible. Not only does this save them time during class, but it also trains them how to continue to collaborate out of class so they don't have to "go over to so and so's house to work on that group project." We all know that in many cases, that translates into "going over to so and so's house to watch the most motivated person in our group do the project while the rest of us hang out.” This kind of collaboration teaches students how to work together in a more authentic way, which takes some of the artifice out of the teacher-constructed “group project.” Group projects are not bad per se, but they don’t teach real-world collaboration if they only involve face-to-face collaboration.
Our BYOD/T approach embeds 21st century skills instruction in completely new ways. I blogged about this in Need a Prom Date? Try the Cloud! With this model, kids are required to assess their workload and time constraints, evaluate the merits of the wide range of tools and resources for the task at hand, factor in learning styles, decide how to proceed, and get it done efficiently. True differentiation occurs when students have ownership of, if not their learning (we’re still working on that one, Lisa!