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Noelene Callaghan

My Blog

My Blog

How BYOD Programs Can Fuel Inquiry Learning

Posted on 22 July, 2014 at 4:55

Launching a Bring Your Own Device program can be both exhilarating and scary. The opportunity to extend access to technology in the classroom and at home is enticing, but school districts can get hung up on important details like providing a strong network, making sure each child has a device, and questions around distraction. Of course, no one answer will work for all teachers or students, but one guiding principle that’s shown to work is for schools to focus on how mobile technology will help shift instruction to be more collaborative, learner-driven and inquiry-based.

“Kids already know how to use their devices, but they don’t know how to learn with their devices,” Clark says in an edWeb webinar. It’s the teacher’s role to help them discover how to connect to content, one another and learning with a device that they may have only used for texting and Facebook previously. “It’s about the kids being empowered in the classroom to make decisions about the ways that they are learning,” Clark said.

To achieve that level of decision making, school culture has to shift to one that encourages an on-going conversation, often filtered through devices. “Anytime I see students watching a video in the classroom I expect them to be back-channeling,” Clark said. Back-channeling is an ongoing conversation on Twitter or an app like Socrative about what students are watching. The teacher then knows how students are responding to the material and can decide how to move into the next activity.

Inquiry-based learning grounded in authentic projects go hand in hand with BYOD, Clark said. “What we are trying to do is get to transformative use of tech, where kids are doing things they wouldn’t be able to do without the tech,” Clark said. He recommends using big picture questions to frame ideas and help students identify the many smaller questions within the topic. “I expect that if I go to a student and ask them what’s the big question you are working on they’ll be able to tell me and talk about,” Clark said. “There’s not just one right answer. I want more questions to arise out of that one big question.”

Asking the right questions, developing a research approach, collaboratively deciding on a grading rubric and using all the tools available to complete a project aren’t skills that necessitate the use of technology. But having many devices in the classroom throughout the inquiry process gives educators and students more opportunities, including more authentic ways to showcase student work beyond turning an assignment into a teacher.

The most important thing is to take the focus off of the final product and place it on the process of discovery. “Find ways to ask the right questions to lead students to discover the apps they need to show what they know,” Clark said. He admitted that while the goal is to use the technology to transform learning, much of the time teachers and students are actually only adapting an old task to the new medium. Often that means work can be turned in more quickly and graded more efficiently.

Categories: 2014, Education, Technology