Making A Way In A Wasteland

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When you think about a wasteland, you probably don't think technology. More likely, you think of a vast, barren openness that has been destroyed by storms or fire or even war. If you do happen to conjure up an image of a technology wasteland, it would be more like a vast dumping ground of devices that seem go out of date almost daily.

But there is another meaning for wasteland… a land that is uncultivated. And that is the kind of wasteland I see when I look across the vast openness of education technology. There are so many technological devices available to "do" school these days that the land is overgrown for sure. Unfortunately it often falls upon teachers, especially in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment, to cultivate that wasteland and find the best tool, or tools, for themselves and their students. Personally, I think that's the wrong approach.

Fort Worth Academy is in its 7th year of a standardized 1:1 program...and by standardized I mean the school mandates what device the student will have for use in the classroom and provides it for them. We took this approach for a variety of reasons...one primary reason was to ensure that the teachers knew what the students had and what they could expect them to accomplish. I think that was a reasonable approach seven years ago...honestly, it was pretty much the only approach since laptops were still a bit pricey for the families to have one or more to send to school with their students…and, believe it or not, it was pre-iPad also and even the iPhone was only about a month old when we launched.

But what about today?

A staggering number of mobile devices have been introduced since 2007. Does a BYOD vs. Standardized program make more sense today? If your classroom still functions within a traditional 50 to 55 minute schedule, I don’t believe BYOD is the best approach, especially in a middle school environment. Even with only a few different devices, much of your class time could be consumed helping students simply access your teaching resources. Additionally, with the variety of options for doing homework and submitting it in a format you can deal with electronically, little time maybe left for actual content learning.

So do we ignore all the devices students possess today? I don’t think so. I propose a hybrid approach; provide the students with a base-line device that accomplishes what is needed and if students want to supplement with any of the other devices they have available, we let them. Also, we should support them from a network perspective as well. After all, I walk into the school every day with no less than three devices in my possession…and I use them all in various capacities to get my job done. Why should our students be treated any differently?

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