Recently, Cobb County's BYOD inititative made it into the AJC Get Schooled Blog moderated by Maureen Downey. The interesting part of the article wasn't the push in Cobb, which isn't new in the metro Atlanta area as Forsyth, Henry, and several others have similar initiatives, but rather the back lash that you read in the comments to the posting. The view overwhelmingly is that technology in the hands of kids will distract them and make it so they can't/won't learn in school. It makes me wonder whether that view comes from one of ignorance about what smartphones can do and how kids are comfortable using a phone or a tablet for work and play or whether it arises from a less conscious fear of becoming irrelevant. Ultimately, I think it is a lot of both.
I think the first part is really a lack of knowledge and experience with technology and that creates fear for educators. Can kids text each other answers and tweet about class? Yes. Are they already doing it? Most certainly, you just don't know about it because you aren't following any of your students. (some of you are lost with what the idea of "following" is and that highlights deeper issues.) Will kids use Facebook as a place to say mean things to others? Yes, they already are doing so, just like they are saying mean things in the cafeteria or the hallway. But, kids are also using Twitter and Facebook as places to share and collaborate on difficult homework problems they don't know how to do on their own. They are using microblogging and global publishing sites to put their essays, stories, and other writings out in the public domain for more than their teacher to read and critique. They are studying together, sharing ideas together, and building their own personal learning networks (PLNs) without the guidance and support of educators who could make that work and experience so much richer if they engaged in it.
Not only do schools need to allow and encourage BYOD initiatives, but the need to use and leverage mobile technologies in ways that support the educational goals and standards we want kids to meet in the Common Core and in life. Over and over again, business leaders tell school leaders that prospective employees need to be innovative, need to be problem solvers, and need to be able to communicate effectively via written communication. (email,etc.) Mobile technologies offer a way for schools to harness the power of a device in every student's hand and to do it at minimal cost to the district.
However, the technologies used must have a purpose in schools and in the lessons teachers craft. Teachers must consider using services like Poll Everywhere to create formative assessment feeds that inform their next steps in direct instruction in the classroom. They must ask students to do work that can't just be looked up on Google or Wikipedia. Teachers must become aware of Twitter and PLNs and Instagram and the thousands of websites kids access everyday. Instead of blocking out of fear, we need to learn how to use it ourselves so that we can teach kids the best ways to use technologies for productive learning. YouTube can offer thousands of videos to help learn how to do any number of activities and it offers hours of inspirational speeches and lectures. But right next to the TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson on creativity in schools there can be a link to a dancing flamingo. We must teach students how to wade through the millions of bits of information now at their fingertips and to make decisions about what is meaningful and important and supportive of learning. By blocking technology, by not engaging in it with them, we only teach them that there is a world out there that adults don't want you to see. As a teenager, that means there must be bad stuff and I got to get to it.
I strongly encourage you to get a Twitter account, if you don't have one and begin to follow educators around the world to learn how they are using technology effectively. Begin by connecting with someone you know and by looking at #edchat or #cpchat. Jump into the world your students are already engaged in and begin to change the way you integrate tech into your life.