Implementing a BYOT initiative can yield surprising benefits
Students from all grade levels in Forsyth County Schools, Ga., are encouraged to bring their own technology tools to school to construct new learning opportunities. When the district first began its Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative several years ago, the primary focus was to engage students with their devices in order to transform traditional instruction. Through consistent innovation and practice, we discovered some hidden advantages when students use their own technology for learning, and these are recognizable hallmarks of the BYOT classroom.
Creativity: Teachers can foster creativity as students design original products with their personal technology tools. These inventions are often constructed as solutions to problems or for students to illustrate what they have learned in imaginative new ways. In this manner, students aspire to become producers of relevant content rather than solely being consumers of static information.
Critical Thinking: As students conduct research with BYOT, they must distinguish between conflicting information and facts. Recognizing propaganda and determining the accuracy of content are other essential critical thinking abilities. The classroom teacher can nurture this decision-making process through modeling, practicing, reflecting, and questioning.
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Communication: In many traditional classrooms, communication is often one-way – directed from the teacher and toward the student. There is a potential shift in communication as students use their mobile devices to discuss content they are learning with others, set goals for themselves, and share new concepts. The lines of communication now become multi-directional and extend beyond the classroom.
Collaboration: Learning how to work with others to achieve a common purpose is essential in the BYOT learning environment. Students bring different devices to school, with different capabilities. The students also possess different knowledge, abilities, and interests; therefore, they have to pool their resources and intellect while they negotiate responsibilities for the learning.
Choice: Because students have immediate access to information with the technology tools in their pockets, there is no need for the teacher to lecture on information to be recalled on a test at the end of the week. Students can make choices about the ways they learn and the products they create to show what they know. This variety provides greater options for differentiation and success.
Confidence: Teachers can guide students with suggestions, but it is often more important to get out of the way so students can lead. Taking risks and learning from mistakes are natural outcomes of BYOT. When students assume more control of their learning, they develop the confidence to make meaning from their personal experiences and share them with others in their learning community.
Citizenship: Exercising digital citizenship is a vital activity within the BYOT classroom as students are connected to content, their teachers, and each other with their mobile devices. They continually practice the responsible use of technology as they learn with each other through the use of the same devices that they use at home. Skills in netiquette, the appropriate ways to communicate with others online, as well as strategies for ensuring Internet safety, are consistently supported by the teacher.
Community: Positive relationships are keys to a successful implementation of BYOT. Of course, the students are the experts in their own devices, but the teacher has to create an environment that is conducive for exploration and inquiry so that students have the opportunity to learn how to learn with their technology. One way the teacher can encourage this type of environment is by being willing to learn alongside the students.
Forsyth County Schools recognizes that BYOT is really a learning initiative, not just a function of technology. However, the students’ personal technology tools help to activate and sustain the above hallmarks to promote successful digital age learning experiences.
Dr. Tim Clark is the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County Schools in Georgia and is the author of the BYOTNetwork blog. He has formerly been a school-based instructional technology specialist and has been an educator for over twenty years. He promotes Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) and mobile learning to empower students and teachers with personalized technology tools for building learning communities. He co-moderates the weekly #BYOTchat in Twitter and has been featured regarding BYOT in many news outlets. Tim conducts workshops and presents throughout the United States on BYOT, virtual worlds, digital age learning, mobile learning, social media, online safety, and other aspects of instructional technology.