Just finished participating in a two-day workshop on BYOT, a.k.a. BYOD. If you’re not up on current educational jargon, you might not realize that the T stands for “technology,” the D for “device.” In either case, the idea is that students will provide their own technology/devices, namely laptops or tablets, instead of using school-provided ones.
You may wonder why some (many?) school districts are moving toward this model. This eight-minute video, though a bit too cute, does an excellent job of explaining the rationale behind it. Weston is taking a few steps — few but dramatic — toward adopting the BYOT model. Starting next week, freshmen will be required to bring their own devices, and upperclassmen will be encouraged to do so. In preparation, most of the ninth-grade teachers participated in a two-day workshop exploring the benefits, the pitfalls, and some solutions to the inevitable problems that will arise.
Needless to say, there is a lot of fear and trepidation about the move to BYOT. Most teachers (like most everyone) fear change. Please watch the video in the link in the previous paragraph: it clearly explains the benefits and limitations of BYOT (even though, ironically, it mispronounces “pronunciation”). We will be implementing something very close to what’s explained in the video, except for the remark that it is optional, not required. At Weston it will be required for freshmen (providing loaner computers to students who can’t afford their own devices).
So the purpose of the workshop was to provide us with a wide variety of software tools to make the best educational use of BYOT, and to help us discuss solutions to some of limitations. Among the most interesting solutions was socrative.com, which gives teachers the opportunity to receive real-time feedback from students showing how well they understand today’s lesson. I will definitely be trying it out. We also spent some time on questions of behavioral expectations, such as starting each class with devices closed and not using them during lecture bursts. We talked about using technology to take notes, including the wondrous capabilities of Google Docs to create and share collaborative documents. We talked about the difficulties of having incompatible software platforms in the room, especially with the lack of certain software we might want, and we discussed various solutions to these difficulties. There was a lot of other content — almost too much! — and I look forward to working with my colleagues in implementing the best uses of technology this year.