Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Discovery Education Student Center & Board Builder

I attended the official launch of the new Student Center in Discovery Education (DE) yesterday. Sessions were offered throughout the day that highlighted pilot programs around the country that had been using the new platform. Discovery has created a user-friendly learning management platform for DE users. All of the schools I work with have Discovery Education for their schools, but I do not believe they are taking full advantage of the DE Student Center. Here are some reasons why this is a great resources for students.

1. Multimedia research anywhere, anytime -- Back when I was in school, research meant going to the library and searching the card catalog for a book that would meet your needs. You would write down the call number and head to the stacks with your fingers crossed that the book would be there. If it was, you would check it out. If it wasn't, you would start over. Using Discovery Education Student Center, students can search for images and videos that provide information on the topic of their choice. They can save the resources to access later, and more than one student can access the same resource. Plus, students just need a computer with internet access to find great resources for projects and learning.

2. Great learning management functions -- The LMS in Discovery Education is not new. It has been available for several years to give teachers the option of teaching some of their class online. This platform is useful for teachers who want to get students caught up after an absence, for blended learning, or a complete flip. Connecting to the great content in DE makes it very easy to create lessons and push them out to student accounts. On the student side, the new center gives students a better timeline for assignments and management of their assignments for all of their classes in DE. The teacher side has easier navigation for finding student assignments and assessments.

3. Board Builder rocks! -- There are several web sites out there that allow users to create an interactive online poster. DE's Board Builder (BB) does this too, but better. Students can customize the board with color and background but the true magic is the content. BB let's you use DE content or upload your own including videos, images, and files. There is no worry about copyright since DE users have rights to use DE content plus adding your own videos to your board makes the projects uniquely yours. Another major bonus over poster web sites is the ease of turn in to the teacher. When a student finishes a board they simply share it with the teacher within DE. No need to post online and email the teacher a link. With BB the sharing, grading and feedback takes place in DE and can be tracked by the teacher. With some schools worried about online safety and publishing, this is a great solution for interactive projects with security.

If you are not using Discovery Education Student Center, try it today!!!

Friday, May 24, 2013

BYOD - Must have a purpose and goal

I attended the Victoria Spring School Board Conference hosted by TASB and Region 3 ESC this week and heard Michael Kuhrt, Superintendent of Dayton ISD, speak about their BYOD experience. His presentation made me reflect on my own BYOD experience on a high school campus. Here are 5 "Ah-ha" moments for me:

1. Infrastructure is important - As exciting as kids using their devices in the classroom can be, without wireless connectivity and proper bandwidth there will be more frustration than learning going on. Dayton ISD started their BYOD initiative by giving students permission to use their devices during lunch. The district quickly realized that they needed more bandwidth. I think this is a great idea for getting a snapshot of whether the current infrastructure can handle increased traffic.

2. Devices are not a pacifier - If you want students to have their devices so they work quieter and cause less disruption in class, shame on you! Adopting more technology in classrooms is about engagement and increasing learning opportunities. Mobile devices should not be used without a strong educational objective. Classroom Management 101 says that structure and expectation by the teachers is necessary for running a productive learning environment. Saying, "Ok, guys, you have free time on your cell phones for the next 15 minutes" flies in the face of good class structure.

3. Get your goals, policies, and timelines in writing - Adopting a BYOD initiative is a process. You can't come in one day and say let's go BYOD today. Months of planning and discussions with all stakeholders is required. Talk to the school board, administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Update your Acceptable Use Policy to reflect the changes in student expectation. Get all of your ducks in a row before implementation in classrooms. Even better, pilot it in a few areas so that policies and expectations can be fine tuned before going school wide.

4. Are your teachers ready for it? - For some teachers, letting students used devices for instructional purposes in classes is exactly what they need. But for other teachers, they just aren't ready for it! Provide as much professional development as possible. What kind of devices? How to I plan lessons for many different devices? What do I do if not all of my students have access to devices? Guide teachers to find answers to these questions. It may also be helpful to buddy up teachers that are tech-savvy with teachers that need more assistance.

5. There will always be someone that messes it up! - Adopting a BYOD initiative is a learning experience for everyone. I can tell you now that there will be some students who break the rules. They will do something like tweeting or texting in class or posting to their personal Facebook page. If those activities violate your policy, treat it as a discipline referral. It would be no different than punishing a student for writing on a wall at the school. There is always some part of any population that doesn't want to follow guidelines, laws, and expectations. Don't take the learning opportunity away from all students because a few can't handle. If issues continue to arise, look at what is causing them. Do we need more direction from teachers? Do we need more training? Do expectations need to be tweaked? Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

I love the BYOD idea. I would be lost without my devices. Our students are growing up in the same world and are constantly tethered to a device. Let's show them how to learn at school with the powerful computer they already have in their backpack, pockets or purse. Educate them to be responsible device users and open up the world of learning opportunities in your classroom by adopting student devices.