Exploring "Bring Your Own Technology" and Project-Based Learning



Today our school hosted a BYOT tour: I hope it was helpful to others that want to use BYOT devices in their classrooms.  For me, it was a good chance to reflect on how our school and my own instruction has changed since August 2012.  I teach sixth grade earth science and seventh grade life science, and I have been teaching in public school for 13 years.  However, I started my official teaching career at age 40, and I am also a grandma.  As a grandma and a teacher, I know what I like, I know what works, and I have little patience for things that waste my time.  So, I had my concerns about BYOT in the classroom with middle school students.

New things are sometimes disconcerting and I was uneasy about how students using BYOT devices in my classroom would work.  When I began planning for instruction using these devices, it was difficult to form a picture in my mind or predict the flow of how things would go in my classroom.  It was a lot like learning to cook when I first got married.  There were so many pans, cookbooks, ingredients, and ideas available, but I had to practice to become successful and predict what time to start dinner for everyone to eat at a decent time.  In the same way, when beginning to use BYOT, I did not know about apps, or which app to use, or which app to use for a particular skill.  I was not confident about classroom management and monitoring students.  I had no idea how to make using these devices meaningful, instead of just a gimmick.  I’m still learning along with my students, but we have made a lot of progress.  So many of my worries were premature. 

Monitoring students is usually not too difficult.  There are a couple of telltale signs: the white glow of the screen reflected on their face and because they feel guilty they try to hide the device- a lot like passing notes in class.  I know I don’t catch everything, but I try to keep them busy so time is not available for mischief.  Students keep the apps on their desk or table in front of them when they are not being used.  We just say, “Devices down.”

I am learning about apps and as my students learn more they are sharing ideas with me.  It is fun to see the different projects that students create and they take pride in their work.  Their projects are neat, colorful, informative, and thrifty.  Technology eliminates items like poster board, glue, glitter, and markers.  There’s no more trying to store, grade, and display 50 posters about the rock cycle.  If students make a mistake, they just hit delete or undo and fix it, instead of starting over.  The best part is that I can carry everything home to grade on a flash-drive. 

Nothing is perfect and starting something new takes energy and planning, but it is worth it.  This is going to be a work in progress for a long time, but education is always a work in progress, so that is okay.  More and more of my work is completed digitally so it is natural that students work would follow suit.  To get started with BYOT, I get my best ideas from fellow teachers and others who have shared ideas on the internet.  I am trying to assemble my favorites and pass them on to others through my blog.  (Whoever thought I would have a blog! LOL) 

Personally, I enjoy gathering ideas and sharing ideas using Pinterest.  Between visits, I keep in touch with my granddaughter using Facebook.  I can send text messages and receive text messages and pictures of my grandbabies.  I have posted a few twits on Twitter, but I am a quiet person in reality and in virtual reality.   Overall, it is nice to know that I’m not too old to learn and not too ornery to try.

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