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Friday, September 14, 2012

Implementing BYOT: A Great Critical Thinking Activity

I love to visit classrooms this time of year. Both students and teachers are excited and hopeful about what they will be doing in the coming year. This year the Mt. Olive Middle School will be implementing a new BYOT program. Starting in November, students in grade 8 and 9 will be able to Bring in their Own Technology and use it in their core content area classrooms.

This of course brings up a number of issues from all kinds of perspectives. Melissa Blitzstein, teaching a new course called 8th Grade Seminar (focusing on research and writing skills) and Cynthia Cassidy, Media Specialist (ultimately involved in the implementation) decided this was the perfect opportunity and high interest complex topic they were looking for to kick off student researching and writing! What a great way to involve students in authentic and relevant problem solving!

They recognized that successful implementation of a complex undertaking like BYOT, requires a true collaborative effort by parents, policy makers, IT personnel, curriculum specialists, teachers and administrators, each of which have different issues and concerns that need to be addressed. Although there is information about other districts' implementation, every district is different. Different demographics, budgets, staff members, etc. all play into the program’s success.
Why not let students take a crack at it?
Blistzstein and Cassidy developed a great activity based on these Key Points in English Language Arts from the Common Core Standards:
· The ability to write logical arguments based on substantive claims, sound reasoning, and relevant evidence is a cornerstone of the writing standards, with opinion writing—a basic form of argument—extending down into the earliest grades.

· Research—both short, focused projects (such as those commonly required in the workplace) and longer term in depth research —is emphasized throughout the standards but most prominently in the writing strand since a written analysis and presentation of findings is so often critical.

Students began the project by researching BYOT programs and their successful implementation then selected a perspective to represent in the collaboration. Roles included 8th grade student, parent, teacher, and US Department of Education. Cassidy and Blitzstein posted the problem and perspectives in the SCAN tool at TregoEd. When I walked into the classroom, the students were highly engaged in the discussion using the private online discussion tool which walks them through SCAN (See the issues, Clarify the issues, Ask, what’s most important, and Now, what should be done?). Of course, you do not need the tool to have students go through the process, but it is a powerful way to get ALL students in on the conversation!
Students at work!
They had written logical arguments based on their perspective and were using sound reasoning and relevant evidence to support their claims. Their issues ranged from cheating and possible theft of devices to bandwidth and teacher training! Their research had added depth to their understanding of the situation – giving true authenticity to “Research –short focused projects (such as those commonly required in the workplace)” as this was precisely the work that had to be done “in the workplace.”
Developing a plan
As I circulated around the room, many were working on the last step where they were creating some great suggestions for policies and actions that will address the concerns that their classmates had brought up. They were talking about insurance policies, collecting IP addresses, classroom rules and board policies. They understood that they now had valid input in the district discussion and would have an understanding of both the “what and the why” of district policies that would be put in place. They had a plan! (We can only hope that those who were tackling this problem in the district were using the same process. District leaders trained in TregoED’s Situation Appraisal would find the process would result in great decisions and a sure fire implementation plan)
High interest=high engagement
It was exciting to see how engaged kids were in the research and the writing when given a high interest problem that touched their lives. They took their roles seriously as they knew their input would be heard through Ms. Blitzstein.

How have your students been involved in the success of your BYOD or BYOT programs? Do your students take part in school problem solving?


  1. Great idea! Any time you can have value beyond school, kids are going to get 'hooked'! We have been studying AIW in our schools and found this is key. Authentic Intellectual Work is a huge need! I also like the idea of it being like a RAFT problem scenario. Very cool! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Kim! I have to admit I had to look up RAFT - found a great page of examples for all different content areas at You are so right that Authentic Intellectual Work is a key in getting our kids thinking at the next level.

  3. What a great opportunity for your school!

  4. It is exciting to try this out and hopefully have it become grade and district wide!

  5. BYOT sounds interesting. It can surely help many students and ordinary people. It can enhance their skills in thinking deeply that may help with activities in writing and reading.
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