Sunday, November 30, 2014

BYOD: Not All a Bed of Roses

There are a lot of things that are going well in my classroom since changing over to proficiency-based, independent learning (facilitated through BYOD) - you can see what some of my students have to say about it here.

But while I often share the good things, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. There are things I struggle with as a teacher, and things my students struggle with, even months into the program.

Keeping up with the Tracking

Every single day, I have to be on top of what students have handed in and what they haven't. With everyone in a different place in the course, I sometimes find this hard (especially in my class of 31). Many students can figure out what they need to be working on, but others rely on the tracking board being 100% up to date, and if it's not, they're easily lost. 

I had one student who, because I hadn't listed all the assignments along the top of the tracking board, assumed he didn't have anything more to do for the unit, without even checking the master list for the unit online. The organization aspect is huge, and sometimes I can't quite stay on top of it.

Independent Learning

Some students never get the hang of learning on their own. Many students see the end goal of each learning goal to be the exit slip; they'll try to learn on the exit slip, instead of learning beforehand and then testing themselves. They see it as the quickest way of getting through the material, and as a result, don't actually learn what they need to. Even though there are no marks attached to the slips, because that's what they perceive they need to do, that's all they will do, and allot no more effort to the learning process.

I have students give up because the vocabulary list doesn't already include the definitions (something they have to go out and find themselves), and students who refuse to look at any of the resources available before starting an assignment (and hence, quickly become frustrated with an assignment that makes no sense and quit). It is a challenge for me to be constantly encouraging students to just start the learning process, when I would rather be helping them navigate the actual material, and encouraging their creativity.

Lack of Resilience

When it comes to dealing with technical devices, you have to build up a certain amount of resilience. As a teacher, I feel like I am constantly troubleshooting everything from why a device isn't connecting to the WiFi, to how to get Desmos to do something I've never tried before. To experience success, the students also have to demonstrate this resilience.

Even after a few months of encouraging students to use technology to access resources, I still have students give up because they can't get to a webpage (because they made a mistake in typing the URL), or because they can't immediately figure out how to get a circle to graph in the right place. They dislike having to learn new apps ("how am I supposed to know how to use this?"), and instead of seeking help from each other, they start distracting each other.

Not all students are like this, and in fact most of them have gotten quite good at trying things, researching solutions on their own or helping each other out. But to others, making a mistake is cause to stop and give up. Reference to a growth mindset is continual, as well as modelling how to troubleshoot and praising effort and progress.

Getting past the A in SAMR

With the BYOD I've implemented over the past year and a half, I've gotten really good at Substituting and Augmenting what my students are doing. But I am still not doing justice to the Modifying and Redefining side of the SAMR spectrum. I am fortunate to have students with devices, and access to class devices for students without devices of their own. But am I really using the devices to their fullest capacity?

I know that will come in time, once I have the curriculum under my belt. My list of the gazillion apps/ideas/collaborations to read more about is always there for when I have more time to dive into something new. Still it nags at me that I'm not doing more. At least not yet.

Having said all this, the pros far outweigh the cons in how our BYOD classes are running. But it's not perfect, yet. I'd love to hear how other teachers (BYOD or otherwise) manage some of these challenges. Onward and upward!


  1. Although we're not yet a BYOD school, I have been trying to get my students to be more responsible digital students in preparation for what's to come. I have experienced many of the issues you raise in this post. Unfortunately, I don't have any quick fixes. I do believe that many of these issues will be resolved with time. Nevertheless. I look forward to hearing how others have handled these challenges.

    1. Thank you, Elisa! I'm hoping more people comment and share with us what works for them. In the meanwhile, it's good to know I'm not alone :) Let me know how things continue for you!

  2. Sweet summary of your growing pains. Independent, self-directed, gritty learners are not created overnight. It sounds like you're working hard to keep everyone organized; hopefully things will get more efficient for you with time. I read the student comments you linked to and they made my heart swell up with happy teacher feelings (yes, I'm living vicariously through you). Make sure you go back to those words whenever doubt or frustration begin to creep in.


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