Anyone who knows me personally or professionally knows that I am a planner. I am excited by impromptu activities and unafraid to take a rabbit trail during learning, but I definitely give lots of conscientious thought to rolling out technology in my classroom each year. So, why then, did the first month of school seem so much like nightmare stay in Purgatory, sans the elevator music and white waiting room motif I've always imagined? Let me just say this: BYOD teachers live in a constant state of problem-solving, unlike any other 1:1 environment. There were moments during the first month that, if I were a different woman and not PACKwoman, I absolutely would have given in.
In retrospect, the really killer aspect of teaching and learning with BYOD is the fact that each set of instructions need to be given several times for several different platforms. During the first days of school, students are trapped in the learning curve - which is HUGE - as they try to become comfortable working in the tech zone. Now, I can reflect and say that starting last year's rollout with a universal platform really helped. Students who have the most difficulty adjusting are those who have little or no previous experience with technology. The term "digital native" is misleading, because students absolutely have to be taught to utilize their devices for educative purposes, which is not something that comes naturally. Knowing how to be entertained with an iPhone is easy, sure. Knowing how to complete assignments, cite information, search effectively, and generate quality content is a whole other skill set.
Student Using eBackpack
At first, even signing into Google Drive was a challenge. More than a handful of students weren't sure when they were born. (Seriously.) This was a problem, because our district set our GAFE passwords to students' birthdays. Typing errors abounded as many students had daily trouble typing in the correct sequence of characters for their username or password - something that became increasingly frustrating for several.
Another issue we had with Drive was in realizing more than a few students were still running iOS 4 on their iPods. I spent a week upgrading student devices during my prep and started searching for an alternative tool that would allow us to highlight and annotate text more effectively. Since I have Chromebooks for kids who don't have devices, I usually highlight and annotate using the comments feature in Drive, but since that wasn't fully available on every device, I needed a new solution. That's when a colleague convinced me to try eBackpack (read more below), which has made workflow a thousand percent more efficient.
I think it's important to note that one of the underlying issues in this whole scenario is much more than tech trouble. More than any other year, this particular group of kids seems to lack autonomy. They are 100% the product of high-stakes testing. Getting them to feel comfortable enough to break free, experiment, problem-solve, and think outside the box is going to be the biggest challenge of all. I have no doubt my students will eventually be able to get there; it's just a matter of how much time it will take.
This is probably the part where I should affirm, I do have hope! Last week was our fifth week of school, and this much is true: good things come to those who wait. As I looked around the room at the end of the first block of students on Tuesday morning, I was struck by a single thought: "Success." All 39 students had successfully logged in to Google Drive. They had successfully completed a close reading activity in eBackpack, podcasted on AudioBoo, made a mind map in Skitch, and responded to prompts with Socrative. The rest of last week coasted by with only positive results.
I am still sighing in relief.
Do you have any BYOD or paperless tips? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter to continue the conversation.