Sunday, September 8, 2013

First Three Days

We were lucky to start the school year off with a three-day week this past week... a nice way to ease back into routine.

In implementing BYOD for the first time, too, the short week allowed me to plan for just a short period of time without the stress of worrying if I was planning too much or too little for the time period. When it comes to using technology, I find I have no idea how long it will take the students to accomplish certain tasks. So much of it depends on their familiarity with the device, accessibility to the network, how well they can remain focused on the task at hand (without being distracted by said device), and of course their previously-learned work ethic. There's a lot I'm still figuring out.

Though we haven't attacked any of the actual curriculum yet, I think we've accomplished a lot. Here's a quick review of what we've done so far.


Progress!

  • Redesigning the classroom: Tables have been grouped together into four "pods" of 6 and two pods of 3. There is also a new space at the back of the classroom where students can work individually (on their device or on the classroom computer) in a slightly quieter setting if they choose to.


  • Learning to focus on while using their device: The students came up with a list of Look-Fors that I, as a teacher, can use to make sure they are focused on their work, and not distracted by their device. The list is permanently posted in the classroom. They were also directed to the course website to review a file on steps they can take to reduce e-distractions.
  • Creating an Acceptable User Policy (AUP): While our Board has an AUP in place, there is not one specific to BYOD. In groups, the students examined the BYOD AUPs of other schools and boards. They discussed each point, crossed out parts of the AUPs they disagreed with and highlighted parts they very much agreed with. I took this feedback and drafted one for our school. The next day, I gave it back to them for approval. A few more edits (mostly clarification of language) later, and I have now submitted it to our administration for their approval. Later this week, the students will sign off on the "contract" they created.
  • Introduction to new modes of communication: Students completed quizzes from their devices using Socrative, and contributed to a class Padlet wall. They also created a profile for a fellow classmate using their choice of Padlet, Aurasma or Fakebook (from classtools.net). 
  • Finding apps, reviewing apps, and using new apps: Students were asked to locate any three graphing calculator apps for their device (or websites if they were using a laptop), review them (using a handout provided in class that looked at key features, number of downloads, user rating and cost), and then choose one to use as they completed a worksheet. The worksheet was generic enough to allow them the opportunity to learn how to use their new app, as well as review some of the basics of quadratic functions.

Frustrations...

  • Connectivity: We have been made painfully aware that our wireless network accessibility is not capable of supporting a large (>20) number of devices all working simultaneously. I have been working with the administration (and through them, with our Board) to try and come up with solutions, including a dedicated part of the network being made available to our classroom. This is definitely work in progress...
  • Are we falling behind?: As I mentioned above, we haven't really touched any of the course curriculum yet. It is a perennial problem that teachers never have enough time to cover all the curriculum in a given course, so the traditional teacher in me feels like we are already a week behind. My hope is that once we become comfortable using our devices in class, the actual learning will progress faster than what I am used to.
  • Not every student has a device: We are lucky to have a class set of 11 tablets that students can use if they don't have their own device. This works well in class, but if there is an assignment to be finished at home on their own time, they will have to find a new way to finish it. This hasn't been a big problem yet, but something to keep in mind for larger assignments.

Onward and upward to week two!



2 comments:

  1. Good luck with the BYOD program. I assume it is just your classroom. You may want to ask your tech support to add an access point (or two) in your classroom. Bandwidth will be another issue, but that should help your connection problems.

    This teacher http://www.crazyteacherlady.com/ has documented a lot of her journey into classroom technology.

    The feeling of falling behind is not uncommon, but you will be able to catch up later as you become more comfortable using the tech. Though you may find yourself changing some teaching methods to accommodate the use of technology.

    Finally, in many studies of dropping tech into 3rd world countries they noticed that sharing the tools, especially early on, helps facilitate learning. So don't worry about everyone having their own device yet.

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    1. Thanks, Brendan! It is indeed just my classroom, which makes developing the infrastructure easier in some ways, but tougher to justify in the grand scheme of things. We tried a new hub, and just today had a new switch installed, which should effectively give my room its own mini-network. We'll see how things shape up. I'm confident the other "frustrations" will work themselves out once we (both me and my students!) are more comfortable with the new class routines. This is an exciting time!!

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