On Having a Big, Fat Mouth

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Uh, oh…I think I’m in trouble. Whenever I “find” my voice (as if it was lost), I recognize I’ve increased the likelihood that I’ll have to put up or shut up…and that um, scares me. Yesterday, I tweeted this out:

That’s a pretty bold statement, particularly for a lifetime people-pleaser like me. It was my good friend, M.E. Steele-Pierce that called me out on it when she tweeted:

“@charrod Eager to see the BYOL post. ~~ Is the “you” in “you’re not ready” the teacher or the student?”

My big, fat mouth once again took over and I replied to M.E.:
@steelepierce “administrators, teachers, students…”

Sensing I had perhaps been a bit too bold, I backpeddled a bit and sent a new tweet to M.E.:
@steelepierce Would like to change what I said before…the “you” refers to admins and teachers…students will follow suit…

To which she replied:
@charrod Looking forward to convo about the BYOL question…what does ready require? who goes first?

Like I said…put up or shut up, right? So, okay…here goes…

We launched our BYOL in January 2011 but not before six very intense, challenging months of planning and preparation. During that time, we spent incredible amounts of time working with teachers, students and parents to help shift some very long-held beliefs about what it means to learn in the 21st Century. Here is some of the work we did to prepare for the BYOL:

Teachers
•Put 40 teachers and administrators through Powerful Learning Practice with Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson (2009-2011)
•Brought Sheryl into our district to work with middle school teachers for a day
•Designed a year-long professional development plan that focused on personal learning networks, the compelling case for change, attitudes & beliefs about the needs of students and the nature of 21st Century learning, TPCK and 21st Centurizing Your Classroom
•Created an online community to share ideas, resources, content (Ning)
•Adopted a Digital Citizenship curriculum
•Invited expert voices from other BYOL schools to share their experiences

Students
•Organized a tech camp
•Held tech workshops
•Invited students to “Lunch with the Principal”
•Had them share their work at the technology showcase
•Created a beginning tool box

Parents
•Established a Parent Voice group
•Held tech workshops
•Scheduled three meetings: Overview of project, Choosing Your Device, Learning Showcase
•Invited them to the tech camp
•Skyped with Christian Long to share his vision of learning in the 21st Century

We also adopted Google Apps for Education and Schoology to create cloud-based spaces for our teachers and students.

I’m sure there is more but you get the point; we did a great deal of front loading before jumping into something so very large…and important. For me, this was so much more than simply putting devices into the hands of students. It was and continues to be about shifting the very nature of teaching and learning. It’s about the kids owning the learning. It’s about teaching students to choose tools wisely to assist them on their learning journey. It’s about collaborating and connecting with people from your immediate spaces and beyond…whenever and wherever. It’s about creating artifacts that make the world a better place. It’s about opening doors to authentic, powerful learning opportunities.

My advice to districts considering a BYOL? I strongly encourage districts to step back and think first about laying a foundation for administrators and teachers…helping them to understand the reasons for the changes; immersing them in personal learning networks; becoming comfortable and fluent with the technology. That won’t guarantee a successful BYOL program but it certainly lays some important groundwork for transforming learning. When you experience networked, passion-based learning firsthand, you will truly begin to understand what it means to learn.

Are we done? Have we “arrived”? Oh, my no. We knew this was just the beginning; in fact, the next phase promises to be even more work as we continue to dig more deeply into learning and try to solve for the equity issue. . (A second post is in order.) We expanded the BYOL to 8th grade this year and will open it up to grades 9-12 next year. This is a marathon, folks and while I may be a bit out of shape, I have a healthy dose of determination and hope…

oh, and a big, fat mouth.

About charrod

I have been in education for 30 years. I spent the first nine years as a third and fourth grade teacher. The next 10 years were spent as a gifted specialist. From 2006-2016, I was the Instructional Technology Specialist for our district. Beginning in August 2016, I returned to the classroom where I plan learning experiences for my amazing students. Who's the lucky one here?
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