Tag Archives: BYOD

Inspiring & Supporting Innovation at Independent Schools at this year’s ATLIS

 

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Courtesy of Pixabay

“Innovation” — there’s a reason it’s a provocative and powerful topic in the landscape of education. Public, Charter, and Independent Schools are all feeling the pressure from disruptive innovation as well as turning to innovative practices to solve curricular, financial, and recruitment woes. The reality is, we are living in an ever-shifting landscape. Traditional routes of career readiness are no longer reliable, previously “safe” jobs (think accountants, lawyers, and doctors) are now seeing job security fade away, and “traditional” schooling is coming under more scrutiny. The cost of university education is having many individuals rethink the options of pursuing higher education given the relatively flat career landscape facing them on graduation. As such, schools are now looking at innovative practice to help them solve these problems – how can they prepare their students for the jobs of the future (especially if we don’t know what those jobs are)? As a Technology Leader, I am often a part of conversations about innovation. This is not to say that innovation is all about technology, but radical innovation often encompasses employing new technologies. Innovation is challenging… it’s hard. Why? Because it necessitates culture shift and “organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner” — Peter Drucker.

Facing the challenges of innovation in my career and public life, I am especially excited about attending this year’s ATLIS conference in Los Angeles, California (April 24-26) as its theme is “Magic Magic Happen” and its focus is on innovation. I know that I will be inspired by the keynote speeches of Jaime Casap (Educational Evangelist) and Tim Fish (Chief Innovation Office of NAIS); both of them have worked with Independent Schools, helping them to innovate their curriculum and institutions. Looking at the posted schedule, I’m excited to learn more about innovative curriculum enhancements such as incorporating coding into the whole curriculum, implementing gamification, and creating new educational spaces, such as maker spaces in the library. Even better than learning about these initiatives, I’m especially excited to learn how to support them at my institution through transformative professional development and creating & fostering a culture of change.

This year’s ATLIS conference is the most exciting yet. If you are exploring innovative curriculum and technologies in your school, this is the year to attend! You can still register on the ATLIS website.

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A Solution to the Cross Platform Classroom

This is reblogged from my post on Edudemic.

The modern classroom is a messy one! Schools are entering the world of technology at different speeds and levels; some institutions have invested in full 1:1 programs where the school selects a single device (such as iPads or Chromebooks); others have instituted Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) initiatives, some specify a single device while others permit a broader selection; and most of us operate in some type of hybrid environment where students have access to a device at school, such as a tool issued to them, a computer lab, and/or laptop cart and/or a device they have access to at home or even bring with them. As technology becomes more ubiquitous both at home and in the classroom, we find ourselves in a more blended world. As educators in the 21st century, we must be prepared to tackle education in an environment that is cross-platform and multi-device.

Working in an unpredictable environment is especially challenging. As educators, we want to provide the most effective and innovative learning environment possible for our students. At the same time, it can be challenging to initiate a sophisticated, 21st century project with an eye to address the individual technology set-up of hundreds of students.

Over the years of working in blended environments, I have found some solutions that allow me to assign sophisticated, robust projects without making me – or my students – go crazy in the process!

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Focus on the End Product Not the Tool

When I work with faculty, they are often concerned that they must teach students how to use programs or apps. I address this very concern in my article, “How to Infuse Digital Literacy Throughout your Curriculum” emphasize that it’s not the tool, but rather the product. Just as we don’t require students to use Microsoft Word or Text Editor when we assign them an essay, it’s not necessary to designate and then teach them new software for a digital project. For example, if you want your students to create a video, and you work in a blended environment, allow for some software flexibility. You do not need to require that they use iMovie or Movie Maker and then teach it to them. Rather, allow them to use whatever tools works best for them. There are a myriad of Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS compatible programs available. They are intuitive and thus easy to learn and use. Providing this flexibility not only permits students to work with software that will run on their device, but it allows them to operate within their own comfort zone.

Twice a year, I ask my students to create a history documentary. At Ransom Everglades, we are not BYOD or 1:1. Therefore, my students have various access to computing tools. You will note that I do not assign a particular type of computer or software. What they use to create is up to them. However, I make very clear my expectations with concise instructions and a rubric. The instructions I give them focus on research, content, and construction, similar to what I would hand out if I were assigning a research essay or class presentation.

When you Need to Use a Specific Tool, make it cross-platform compatible

Sometimes using just one tool is easier and more cost-effective. When you select software for a project, choose one that is cross-platform compatible. In our hybrid world, many tools now work on Windows and Mac, as well as many mobile computing platforms such as Android or iOS. Cloud tools, especially those that operate via a web browser, are especially useful. For example, my favorite cross-platform word processing suite is Google Drive. I don’t have to worry about a student sending me a document that I can’t open, and they always have the ability to work on their projects regardless of the machine they are using. Additionally, by using Google Drive they can collaborate with their peers, even completing a paperless research essay. If you know you need to use a single tool, do your research – pick one that will work for most if not all devices!

Teach Your Students to be Problem Solvers!

Don’t think that you must suddenly become an expert on every single device and piece of software. That is impossible even for the most skilled IT professional. Instead, encourage your students to become their own help desk – searching out their solutions and assisting one another. This teaches them one of the most important skills that they can learn: creative problem solving. At the beginning of the year, students quickly learn that when they visit my office hours or email me a question, I will ask them:

  • Have you Googled the problem?
  • Have you looked on YouTube?
  • Did you ask your friends?
  • Have you searched the help section of the software?

I have learned that when I encourage them to figure things out and solve their own technical problems or help their classmates, they quickly become empowered. I find that even on individual projects, students build camaraderie and leadership skills through collaboratively working on assignments and teaching one another new things.

Be Creative, Flexible, and Available

Overall, the best advice that I can give when working in a hybrid computing environment is to be flexible – expect that things will go wrong and be ready to find work-arounds. Someone’s computer will crash, or they will misunderstand an instruction (or worse yet not read the instructions!), or some random error message that makes no sense will pop up on the screen. That is okay! Take a deep breath, do some basic troubleshooting, and come up with alternative solutions. In fact, this is a great way to model your expectations in a tech-rich classroom!

Additionally, encourage your students to communicate with you – let them know when you are available and how best to reach you; I tend to hold digital office hours via Google Hangout during projects. This will help you to direct them when they have a question and encourage them to be open and communicative with you throughout the process.

The world we live in is no longer single device and neither are our classrooms. However, as educators we can build robust and creative curriculum within these non-uniform environments and in doing so teach our students how to think critically and creatively.

To learn more about cross platform classrooms and unleashing students creativity in a BYOD environment, come join the conversation at the July 28-30 EdTechTeacher Summit in Chicago.

 

Poll Everywhere – A free/Cheap Alternative to Polling Hardware

When I was in high school, I played on the ‘Whiz Quiz” Team. If you don’t know what that is – imagine a group of nerds sitting around and buzzing in to answer trivia questions. I actually got a varsity letter for that. I was awesome at it.

However, as a floating teacher, I’m not one who can keep equipment in a  classroom for repeated use. Today, my good friend Dan sent me a link to a cool service called Poll Everywhere. With a pricing tier from free (for thirty users and one administrator) to thousands of dollars (for fancy features and unlimited users and pollers), it’s a great option – and with the free account, a great tool that I can play with and hope to upgrade a little later. It’s built using a basic website tool to create polls and allows participants to use their cell phones to text their votes (or even use twitter if it’s enabled). It draws on a concept that we see a lot of schools employing: namely BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). It also adheres to the idea that if we give students an objective, a purpose for using their devices in our classrooms then it will keep them more on task and less Facebook check-y.

So, I signed up for the free service. I like asking poll-like questions in class and have long relied on the archaic ‘hand-raising’ method. However, your shyer students are less inclined to raise their hands or otherwise publicly display an answer – especially those that really feel the need to be ‘right.’ This helps to eliminate that element, allowing more ‘anonymous’ (at least to the outside viewer, as a moderator you can see who posts what and at certain paid tiers even moderate responses). Here is the poll that I made:

As you can see, 100% of people agree that Nack Nicholson was the best Joker in all Batman Genres (sorry other contestants).

Right now, I think that I’m going to employ this in one of my smaller, more mature classes (likely an AP) and see how it works.