Bring Your Own Technology: A brief progress report

Six months ago I wrote a post about the “Bring Your Own Technology” initiative at Weston (BYOT). It’s time for an informal progress report (from my own point of view — which of course is objective and completely unbiased).

On the whole it has been a roaring success, at least with the freshmen. Almost every freshman comes with a computer or tablet to my geometry classes (and to my study halls). At the beginning of the year they all kept their computers appropriately closed at the beginning of class and opened them up when it was time to use them — all without being asked. Now that we’re in the second semester, they have become more comfortable with the high school. A few freshmen, as a result, need to be told to close their laptops from time to time, but it’s still relatively rare. When one student forgets her laptop, she just looks on with somebody else, again without having to be told and without having to ask. When there’s a worksheet for them to work on, all I have to say is that the worksheet is on westonmath, and everyone can find it.

My study halls are now very quiet without my needing to enforce the rules, as those who don’t sign out to see a teacher or go to the Library can occupy themselves productively with their computers.

“Productively?” you ask skeptically. Well, yes, there’s the rub. As I can’t be everywhere at once, I have no way of knowing whether students are on Facebook or Twitter or checking their email…though they don’t do that when I’m watching. I know that this is a huge problem in college classrooms, and it’s clearly much less so here. But I would be naive to claim that it’s not a problem at all. And my freshmen classes are Honors Geometry; you might legitimately  expect different behavior from other students. Study halls are mixed, so they may be a better test…except that I have no reason to police what students are viewing in study hall. Presumably they’re doing their school work. 

At the beginning of my second paragraph I wrote that BYOT has been successful “at least with the freshmen.” There are surely at least three reasons for this. One is that it’s required for freshmen but optional for upperclassmen. When I expect my college-prep Algebra II sophomores to have their own laptops in class, not all of them do. Most, but definitely not all. If it’s optional, some aren’t going to do it. The other reason is a cultural one: if you’re new to a school, as all the freshmen are, you accept a new rule, as it’s just one of many changes you face when learning this new culture. But if you’re an upperclassman, you have gotten used to computer labs and carts, so it’s not so easy to switch to bringing your own machine. Finally, the freshmen have all gotten used to the ubiquity of iPads in Middle School; admittedly they were the school’s, not their own, but it still made the quotidian presence of technology more acceptable. (Wow, I used ubiquity and quotidian in the same sentence.)

BTW, by far the most common technology brought by my freshman students is the MacBook. Look out across my classroom and you’ll see a sea of MacBooks, with the occasional Windows laptop or tablet interrupting the pattern. Quite a change from three years ago!



Categories: Teaching & Learning, Technology, Weston