Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How Schools Can Create Positive Classrooms with BYOD or 1:1


Author's Note: This post was co-authored with my dear friend Dr. Will Deyamport. We brought our shared experiences in 1:1 and BYOD environments together in this article. Our hope is to share best practices for transforming teaching, learning and the overall mindset in schools that have gone digital.

When a school, or even a district, decides to roll out a BYOD or 1:1 program there are many complicated factors to consider. The job of an Instructional Technologist, as in Dr. Will Deyamport, or a Digital Learning Specialist, as in Kerry Gallagher, is to prepare teachers for the implications these powerful devices will have on their classrooms, lesson plans, and their students’ learning experiences. It takes more than rewriting a few lesson plans. It is a mindset shift. Based on our own experiences in our own schools, from Mississippi to Massachusetts, here are our best practices for professional development in a BYOD or 1:1 school.

Digital Citizenship Integration - Kerry

Simply putting devices in the hands of students and teachers will not revolutionize what is happening in classrooms. But it can. In preparation for the access to content and instant communication that every person in your school will have, it is essential to dedicate significant time to training teachers on digital citizenship. Digital citizenship encompasses the norms of effective responsible use of technology including etiquette, communication, consuming and creating media, security, privacy, and more. Without making digital citizenship education a priority, schools often resort to policing student devices. Not only is this an impossible task, it does not allow for the development of healthy young digital citizens. 

Instead, schools and teachers must give students the tools to help them manage their own behavior, and to help them know what to do when they make a mistake. The Nine Elements of digital citizenship from Mike Ribble are a great place to educate yourself. Then, look to resources like ISTE, Common Sense Media and iKeepSafe for lesson ideas to use in classrooms with students. 


Pro Tip: A best practice is to fully integrate digital citizenship in all subject areas at all levels. If students know it is a one day or one week lesson they just have to “get through”, they will never see how the concepts apply to every engagement they have with their device, in and out of the classroom.


How to Navigate Foundational Apps - Will

To go BYOD or 1:1 educators need some way to facilitate digital instruction and to warehouse resources to share with students. Some teachers use Google Classroom and Drive, Office 365 and OneNote, or one of several Learning Management Systems such as Schoology or Haiku Learning. 

In our case, we needed a platform that allowed teachers to differentiate, individualize, and personalize instruction. As a district we also wanted a space where they could easily design, develop, collaborate, and share resources across grade levels and subject-areas. Upon selecting Schoology, our next step was organizing a two-week technology boot camp.


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Dr. Will makes teacher learning materials available online
for his teachers so they can reference it when they need it.
We didn’t want to drop a cart of Chromebooks in each teacher’s classroom and then see them feel bewilderment at what happens next. The boot camp consisted of sessions on the Chromebook, GAFE, Schoology, and several other sessions aimed at preparing teachers for the upcoming school year. These sessions were not the traditional “sit and get” or “drill and kill”. Teachers need a hands-on experience with opportunities to collaborate and discuss how they can successfully implement the tools. For example, a teacher may be concerned that the login process for a program may be too complicated for their students. These are the moments when Instructional Technologists can see the implementation through the eyes and experiences of the teachers.

Pro Tip: Flip professional development by offering learning modules via the LMS you have chosen to implement. Then you can focus on how teachers can use the tools to reimagine the learning experiences of their students during that precious professional development time.


Classroom Management Coaching - Kerry

Once teachers are familiar with the tools, they will be excited to try them in their classrooms. But pause with them and ask them how their classroom environment will look different. As part of the planning for complete integration, teachers need to be prepared for a classroom design that looks different. 

For instance, if teachers want to have eyes on student work, they can teach from the back of the classroom instead of the front. It is the best way to peek at screens while students are engaging with content in the classroom. If students are taking an assessment on their devices, have them line the classroom walls with their desks facing away from the center.


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Kerry and her digital learning team created classroom designs
to help teachers strategize and plan for their lesson activities.
What about the configuration pictured here? When students work in groups, have them make little semi-circles facing the outer wall with their desks. Then the teacher can walk between the groups to check in, or stand in the middle of the room to scan all groups simultaneously. There are many other classroom configuration tips that can be crowdsourced when teachers and technology coaches put their heads together in a cooperative training session. 


Pro Tip: Facilitate this professional learning opportunity in a classroom at your school, so teachers can physically move the furniture in the space and act out classroom situations to find out what works.


Leading Digital Change - Will

It took me a few weeks into the school year to understand that my job as an Instructional Technologist no longer means just teaching teachers how to use technology to meet specific learning goals or outcomes for students. In leading the 1:1 at the high school, I am, in fact, responsible for leading digital change. What I do has evolved to coaching teachers through the shifting in their mindset and professional practice from “paper and pencil” to “going digital”. 

Going digital is about more than just putting devices into students’ hands. It is about changing the learning culture and giving students ownership of their own learning. This is a paradigm shift. Instead of the teacher being the sole repository of information and the student being a passive participate, the teacher now becomes a facilitator or guide and the student becomes the driver and producer of their own learning paths.  

Leading digital change is simply about building teacher capacity. Some teachers will take to digital (blended learning) like a fish to water; some will feel uncomfortable and need help getting started; and some will worry that it is an attempt replace the classroom teacher. 

In order to make a successful transition to digital, teachers and the learning culture at the school must be transformed. As with the students, teachers should take ownership of their own professional learning and have the room and support to make the shift. The key is to get teachers talking. Listen to  their concerns and goals, and work with them to develop a digital learning plan that leverages the talents and experiences they already have. Teachers need this shift to be a conversation and not a mandate.


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All four of these elements of teacher development -- digital citizenship, foundational apps, classroom management, and leading digital change -- are essential for a successful BYOD or 1:1 program in any school. Education technology coaches come with lots of titles, but in the end our role is to be there to train and then support teachers day-in and day-out. With these four elements and the time needed to facilitate growth, the mindset shift can happen school-wide.