Technically Invisible

iPaddling Home: Reflecting on the Journey

We are nearing the end of our BYOD pilot year. To say it was an amazing year would be a complete understatement. For me, it was a great opportunity to share what tech-savvy third graders are doing in our classroom.

This school year I was lucky enough to participate in the following activities, where our BYOD journey was a focal point, along with some of the other fun things we’re doing in Room 204!

Along with these “formal” presentations, I’ve spent time talking to folks in many districts across the country about the ins and outs of BYOD at the elementary level. Folks visited our classroom. I Skyped into meetings.  I answered endless questions received on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and on our busy classroom website.  Everyone’s questions, concerns, insights and encouragement inspired me to continuously reflect on what we are doing in Room 204, and why we are doing it.

Positive energy powers learning, so I am hopeful to see the BYOD initiative continue at the elementary level next year. I premise this post with a very realistic awareness: many teachers at the elementary level are uncomfortable with BYOD and might not be ready to jump on board. I have to agree! I was uncomfortable, too!  My discomfort and fears aside, I am still more than willing to forge ahead and find more meaningful ways to put technology into the service of learning.

I strongly believe a generation of children are being raised by adults who often throw their hands up, stating “These kids know more than me!”, and “I am not a tech person”.  I feel this mantra is echoed in education as well.  We are not allowed to feign discomfort and ignorance in other subjects we teach, right? I’m not sure why it is permissible when it comes to technology.   Students need positive role models and explicit teaching in appropriate, responsible use. Their futures will involve technology in ways our past has not.

While it could be argued using school-provided iPads is sufficient when it comes to teaching young students, I think there are added benefits to BYOD.  In my classroom this year, we have had 3 iPod Touches, 1 iPhone 4g, a Meep tablet, 2 Kindle Fire HD tablets, a Samsung Galaxy II tablet, 2 Nintendo DSi systems and 2 iPads.  Immediately, we realized there would be a learning curve when integrating these devices in invisible ways. When I say “we”, I mean my students and I.  Though I was the one who signed on the dotted line, saying I was on-board with BYOD, my students quickly learned they were part of a team, and we would be on this journey together.  And journey together, we did….

A pretty typical BYOD day in Room 204

Having multiple devices caused us to become more flexible.  What would work on one device might not work on another.  While incompatibility might be perceived as a negative, we came to accept the fact and laid technology aside when necessary.  Perhaps next time we’d get it to work as we hoped, right?  The brainchild of flexibility is patience.  Technology, by nature, is a high-speed, instant-reward system.  When tech behaves in ways we do not expect, we learn to adapt. We become more patient in the process.

Having multiple devices allowed us to learn troubleshooting in ways we didn’t expect.  If you are trying to connect to the wi-fi, or turning on accessibility tools, or managing workflow on several different devices, you are going to learn a thing or two (or ten) about problem solving.  Through cooperative efforts, we were able to make headway.  Far from experts, we learned far more than we would have using the iPads alone.

Having multiple devices taught students responsibility.  Bringing an expensive device back and forth to school is a BIG DEAL, the reality of which is not lost on me.  As a parent myself, I would have allowed one of my children to bring a device, and the other child honestly might have been prohibited.  That being said, I can’t help but notice the number of children toting technology at the mall, in restaurants, and other places outside the home.  I understand it is “different”, but at the same time, I think it really isn’t.  Bringing a device back and forth from school to home was just one more opportunity for students to learn to care for personal property.   Furthermore, BYOD has allowed students opportunity to “respect the rights and property of others”.  If our report cards reflect our values as a school and district, then I think my BYOD students have demonstrated mastery of that skill this year.

Although allowing 3rd graders to participate in BYOD was a risky venture, having multiple devices made me realize many of my fears were unfounded.  The beginning of the school year had me convinced I was facing a perilous journey.  I didn’t even own a mobile device! My silly flip-phone certainly didn’t qualify me to become an expert on any possible device destined for our classroom.   I shared my fears with my students (as I always do).  Though none of us had any answers, we found comfort in the fact we would all be helping each other.  The learning curve has been steep when it comes to integrating multiple devices, I can admit that. However, with the support of my students, we were able to persevere. In the process, my students learned the values of risk taking, collaboration and cooperation.

In third grade, I see my role is to lay the groundwork for students who will eventually have more opportunities to work independently and take more responsibility for their own learning. While I am not replacing district-provided curriculum with digital content, I am helping students realize ways in which they can demonstrate their level of understanding using digital tools. When the inevitable time arrives where my students are required to rely on technology as a regular part of their educational experience, I feel they will be better prepared. In the meantime, I will continue to search for effective ways to reach all of my students… Perhaps I will reach them through the use of technology. Perhaps I will reach them in other ways. Having a plethora of options provides more targeted, individualized instruction and hopefully leads to deeper understanding.

Science, sinking in a bit deeper....

Next year, I hope my 3rd graders are again allowed the opportunity to bring their own devices to school.  We will explore ways in which we can make BYOD a beneficial, powerful option to enhance learning.  Though as a team, we won’t have all the answers, we will have lots and lots of questions. Isn’t that what learning is all about?

6 thoughts on “iPaddling Home: Reflecting on the Journey

    1. Suzy Brooks Post author

      Hi Monty,
      Thank you for taking the time to read it all, I really appreciate it!
      Dream Big,

  1. Ryan McGee

    What an amazing and well done blog. Your students are fortunate to have access to such great technology integration. This page reflects lots of hard work and shows great dedication to pilot a BYOD initiative. Well done. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Suzy Brooks Post author

      Hi Ryan,
      Thank you for stopping by to check it out, and even more for your kind comment. I enjoy every minute of what I do, and sharing is part of the fun, as my students and I have been able to meet all kinds of wonderful people.
      Dream Big,

  2. Charity Preston

    Suzy – I love how you are not afraid to take on a challenge! I don’t know if I would have been able to try out this BYOD idea in my own classroom either, but you were willing to take on the challenge, and then deal with the creative problem solving as it came along. This type of learning is teaching children FAR BEYOND what they will ever learn in a textbook. One of the most asked for skills by employers these days is the ability to creatively problem solve. You are explicitly modeling and then scaffolding tomorrow’s employees for their new positions where they will know how to tackle diverse situations. I applaud you for forging into unknown territory and look forward to seeing how the next group does even better from what you have learned in the first round. Thanks for being an exemplary teacher – literally.

    1. Suzy Brooks Post author

      Dear Charity,
      Your comment is so meaningful to me in that I know it can be challenging for teachers to stretch themselves – but we do it for the betterment of our students. I can only hope that this journey continues, as I can only imagine the ways in which it will benefit kids – literally. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and leave such a thoughtful comment, I (and my students) appreciate it!
      Dream Big,

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