Tuesday, February 26, 2013

BYOD, Equity, and The Shrinking Computer Labs

I last blogged about the idea of the flipped classroom and what I was already doing to work my way toward the increasingly student-centred classroom that I have envisioned. Since then many weeks have gone by where I have continually thought that I needed to take the time to sit down and reflect on these ideas more and try to put into words what I envision our future classrooms looking like.

My school board has had huge announcements this school year with the intention to make all schools wireless (we are now in those first stages, working out those beginning kinks) and their ideas behind BYOD (bring your own device). There are mixed feelings on every level, especially on the equity piece.

It is true that many of our (high school) students nowadays come to school armed with a smart phone or iPod touch which have wifi capabilities and can contain many useful apps. We are armed with the ability for students to, at the very least, do simple research at the touch of a button - no computer lab necessary. But we are not armed with students who are going to want to type an assignment on their phone. We are not armed with students who are going to have devices capable of using the full abilities of a complex website that we might use to post assignments or edit work. So there is a ways to go.

Here we are at the brink of all of the new "21st century learning" and I have had the opportunity to use an iPad for the first time (I am involved in an action research project whose funding was used to purchase two iPad minis). Now I have actually been able to find and use some apps that I could see being useful (and have reason to do a bit of research and seek out people who can recommend things). But I have also run into the same equity piece - even if I were to find an app that could function in similar ways to something like turnitin.com (where students can self and peer evaluate and I can comment and evaluate) I would then have to make sure one exists for blackberry and android devices as well: or expect that my students can do this. I see this as quite the barrier. As our computers come off of warranty and have an issue they are no longer being replaced or fixed, so our computer labs are shrinking. What will I do in a year when I teach grade 9 science again and cannot take them to a lab to peer evaluate - a part of the process I have come to find valuable (but only if I get them to do it in class - at least the first time or two).

I am sure there are solutions to my concerns, but I don't have them. Hopefully somewhere down the road someone does.

P.S. There are some great, easy to use, apps on the iPad for the idea of a flipped classroom. Record lessons and post! Check out explain everything ($2.99) for enhanced functions (i.e. add photos and videos) or educreations for a free more simple experience.