Over the last few years my school, Eagle Hill-Southport, has approached tech adoption at a slower pace than many. There was caution to ensure it fit the mission of our program, a skills based approach for students with learning disabilities, and did not provide compensation while we were working on remediation. Additionally, there were not administrators who could adopt the vision to lead technology integration further. Understandably, our school has addressed students needs for more than 25 years without the need for technology.
Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event. – Heidi-Hayes Jacobs @heidihayesjacob
As various components have changed, and the need to accept tech integration in the building as pedagogical practice is evident, the doorways are opening. Previously students utilizing their own devices was on a case by case decision, and limited to our older students. However, this past month we went BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), allowing all students who have a laptop or tablet, to utilize them in the academic day, as appropriate to the task.
“We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.” – David Warlick @dwarlick
I was excited to see how many students opted in to this, particularly right before Digital Learning Day 2013, #DLD2013. In my writing class, 5 of the 6 students have their own devices. Prior to this, they used word processing devices to type due to the limited access to school owned laptops. This opened up my ability to introduce them to Kidblog.org, a safe site for kids to write and share online. The students have bulletin board blogs in my classroom, and were excited to take this practice online. I see some students who wrote in spiral notebooks with struggle due to their learning difficulties, now wanting to write all the time. This has been observed in other classrooms as well.
It the few short weeks of BYOD, other teachers are sharing their views with me.
“We used student’s tablet to get more information. It was great to have something they all could see easily and we found the information that we needed.”~teacher
Another teacher stopped in to let me know how convenient it was to have students each have their own device, versus having to retrieve them from carts. She finds the students engaging well with the devices.
Not Wearing Rose Colored Glasses
I am well aware that this venture is not without issues. More students with more devices means more opportunities for kids to be kids. Some students have mastered the chat window of Google Drive, others find it easy to get distracted by their apps, and of course the temptation to be off task by engaging with other content on their devices. However, is this really any different from the notes I secretly passed in class, or the doodling I was doing in side margins of my notes when I was a student?
Teach the Tool
“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” – Bill Gates
Just like anything in the classroom, students need to be taught appropriate usage. They also need to experience the right and wrong times for the use of their devices. Teachers need to not be afraid to say no to students using the device if it is a distraction or does not fit the objective of the lesson. I certainly can’t teach cursive to my students with an iPad. (And yes I still teach them cursive)
Technology is a regular part of the modern world, so why shouldn’t it be in the classroom. We are preparing students to be citizens and productive members of society, and they need guidance on many academic areas to achieve that, including developing skills with tools that can support and enhance their learning, as well as foster their engagement in today’s world.