BYOT – A Middle School Play

As we were tasked with sharing a technology policy, there was one that instantly came to mind. The policy that has had a major impact on me as a teacher is called, “BYOT: Bring Your Own Technology.” This policy has been created by Regina Catholic Schools for students in grades six and higher.
Our educational technology department describes it as, “The Regina Catholic School Division Bring Your Own Technology policy is designed to give each classroom teacher options in how they implement and utilize this opportunity in the classroom.” As all of my teaching experience has been in grades 5-7, I have experienced many successes and a few issues with this policy. As technology integration can be very complex, there is a lot to learn about technology usage in our schools. Here are the following elements of the BYOT play.

Dramatis Personae:

Students: These members of the cast play the largest role in our play. Once they have reached grade six, they now that have the opportunity to bring their phone to school for “educational purposes.” But these cast members are very young, most 10 years old when they are finally given this privilege. These cast members slowly begin to realize that there are many valuable ways to use their phones for educational purposes. At the same time, they realize that they can now access Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube using the school wifi. Unfortunately, they realize very quickly that some other cast members, such as the teachers don’t like when the phone is used for non educational purposes. Most cast members do an amazing job in their role and realize that educational purposes is the main reason for their device. As in many things in life, there are a few members of the cast that make a bad name for everyone else. In certain situations, a few bad apples ruin the experience for the rest of the cast.

Teachers: These members of the cast have a very important role in the play. From the very beginning, these cast members repeat themselves about how we only use phones for educational purposes during instructional time. The teachers talks about some ways in which the students can use their phone, such as: Using the calculator, Google translate, researching for a project, looking up images, and creating visual representations. This cast member is also aware of the reality of 2019 and doesn’t try to fight the device usage in the classroom. This cast member has the power to take away a device from the students when they see him/her using it inappropriately. As the year goes on, the teacher will probably take away a phone or two and send a student to the office regarding inappropriate technology usage.

Parents: Parents play a major role as they supply the students with the cell phone for school. Some parents will say they provided the phone for safety, and others will say they were pressured to get their child a phone. There will be times when a parent will text a student during instructional time and distract their child. Mr. Kerr will remind that student that the parent can contact the office if they need to communicate with their child.

Principal/Vice-principal: These cast members have the most power out of all the mentioned cast members and can make significant changes if they feel the need. They must fully support and trust their staff to properly implement BYOT in the classroom. They will generally consult with the teachers about how to implement BYOT in the common areas of the school, such as the playground, hallway, bathrooms, and gymnasium. This cast member generally has to deal with the most severe cases of inappropriate technology usage at school and at home.

Scenes

Classroom: During instructional time, the students and teachers utilize the BYOT policy for educational purposes. In one corner of the classroom, a group of students are filming their Rube Goldberg machine to discover where it is failing and find ways to improve it. In the other corner of the classroom, a student is using their phone to code the Flappy Bird game for his Genius Hour project. Sitting at his desk, another student is using his calculator because he lost his on the third day of school and Mr. Kerr has already given out his three extra calculators, which have also magically disappeared. Somehow the phone doesn’t seem to go missing though…

In the hallway, we have a group of students recording a Flipgrid response video to a classroom from another country. There is also a group of students connecting via Skype with another classroom in the city that is mentoring them with a project they have been working on. There are also a few EAL students using the immersive reader function on their phone, which has helped them learn to read in English.

As you can see, when this scene plays out perfectly, there are many amazing examples of the students properly using the BYOT policy.

Library: Down in the library, we have a group of students reading the book reviews completed by other students on their phones. They’ve also been introduced to a new app called Sora, which allows them to download digital books from our library and Regina Public Libraries. There is also a group of students using their phone to record the connections they made to the book they were reading as a class.

Playgrounds: This is one of the few scenes where the students are able to use their phone for reasons other than educational purposes. At one end of the playground, we have a group of grade eight girls recording a Snapchat video to send to their friends. There are also a few boys who are sitting around playing some sort of video game. For the most part, there are very few students actually using their technology on the playground.

Home: This scene plays out very differently for students. For some, they use this technology to record a video on SeeSaw or finish reading the Science textbook on OneNote. There are also some who will send their teacher an email regarding a visual art research assignment they just started. For others, the use of technology at home only entails watching hours of YouTube videos or snap chatting their friends.

Props:

The main props used in this play are phones, tablets, and laptops.

Conflicts:

Inappropriate Usage: As students are very young when they are allowed to bring technology to school, there is inevitably going to be a few students who choose to use technology in an inappropriate. There are going to be some students who frequently go on social media, watch useless YouTube videos, play games, or spend countless hours searching for songs on YouTube. In the classroom, teachers must use these experiences to teach students what is appropriate and inappropriate technology usage at schools. Students need to learn the proper skills to differentiate when they should be using technology for education and when they can use it for pleasure. I think this skill is important for students to learn as they will need to utilize this in the workforce. In my experience, I have always framed technology as something that students are privileged to use at school. I explain to the students that learning can be achieved in many different ways, and technology is just another way in which students can learn. I also never shy away from these potential problems and address them head on. Overall, the appropriate usage quite heavily outweighs the inappropriate usage in my experience as a teacher. I have been able to see so many positive things come from the BYOT policy.

I don’t think this would be possible without very strict routines and procedures regarding the technology usage in the classroom. Students benefit from having very clear guidelines of when it is appropriate, where, and why can they use the technology in the classroom.

Infrastructure Constraints: I see major problems with educational technology infrastructure as we move forward with the implementation of more technology. In my school division, Regina Catholic Schools, there is an amazing program called Connected Educator. This program has put thousands of laptops directly into the classroom. Mix this program with shared technology and student devices, there is a large amount of technology being used in our schools. At my school, if all six connected educators are using their technology, there is significant issues with bandwidth usage and creates very slow internet speeds. This leads to less productivity in the classroom, frustration from students and teachers, which could lead to less technology being used based simply on the poor infrastructure. Another potential conflict is that replacing large numbers of laptops and tablets could prove to be very costly moving forward. In a time where education funding is not increasing, it will be interesting to see how school divisions will tackle this problem.

Overall, I think there are many positive things about schools that allow student to bring their own technology. For one, there are many valuable resources and tools that the students can utilize to improve student learning. There is so much potential if the students are taught to use these tools appropriately. At the same thing, it would be very naive to think that it is all positive and there will be no problems. There will be problems. Students not using things appropriately, saying inappropriate things to others, or damaging the technology. I believe that educating and preparing our students for what lies ahead in the future is far more important than outright banning technology. As we live in a world of evolving technology, it’s very clear that this will have a very important impact on the lives of our students.

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Disruptive Leadership

As I have been reading about leadership, I ‘m slowly beginning to see that leadership is not as straight forward as I thought it was. At the start of this course, which is also the start of my Master’s of Education, I think my opinion on leadership would have been very narrow. I’ve also realized that I have not been exposed to a wide range of leadership styles in the educational setting. I’m slowly beginning to realize that many aspects of leadership are very complicated, without a right or wrong answer. Rather, I”m starting to see that there are a few core components that I need to implement into my leadership philosophy to become a “great leader.”

Leadership, more or less? A processual, communication perspective on the role of agency in leadership theory.

“This suggests that leadership theories and practices should place more stress on the promotion of dissent, difference, and the facilitation of alternative viewpoints than the achievement of consensus, or the promotion of an organizational view wholly originating in the perspectives and values of formal leaders”


David Geitgey Sierralupe

This quote resonates with me for a variety of different reasons. For one, we are taught from a very young age that challenging those in power is wrong and should be avoided. We are taught that the values and perspectives of those formal leaders must be right based largely on the fact that they are the ones who possess the power, they have been around the longest, or they are the most knowledgeable. As a leader, we must not immediately look at dissent as a challenge to our position of power. We also cannot assume that our perspectives or values are automatically more important due to the number of years in an organization or the amount of degrees on our walls.

As a leader, we must also consider that dissent, difference, and alternative viewpoints may actually improve our organization and make it stronger. Historically, dissent, difference, and alternative viewpoints allowed various groups of people to escape persecution and injustices that were thought to be normal at that time. Applied to education, dissent, different, and alternative viewpoints will ensure that we do not make the same mistakes that were made in the past.

Critical and alternative approaches to leadership learning and development.

“This use of non-cognitive methods such as art enables participants to access intuitions, feelings, stories, improvisation, experience, imagination, active listening, awareness in the moment, novel words and empathy (Taylor and Ladkin, 2009), which contribute to a wider appreciation of leadership in and of organizations.”

I found this quote and perspective on emotional development in leadership to very interesting. For one, I think that a strong leader must have a good understanding of their own emotions and how to control them in a wide range of situations. I have always considered myself that “non-artist” who have very little appreciation and understand of the arts. I find this approach to developing the required skills to be a good leader very interesting. As this is not a traditional method, I am curious as to how many leaders would benefit from an approach in this manner. I think there are many leaders who would excel given this alternative method to leadership development.

Avoiding Repetitive Change Syndrome

By surveying small samples of employees at regular intervals, they can measure the current rate of organizational change and the degree of organizational stability and, more important, the damage that excessive change (an in some cases, excessive stability) had inflicted on the organization’s capacity to make further changes, on its routine operations and on its relationship with customers”

As I was reading this article, I could not help but to see the connection to educational technology within our school systems. In my personal situation, I have only ever known education with a high amount of technology integration. This quote makes me think about those teachers who have been forced to integrate a large amount of technology over a small amount of time. Has this technology integration had a detrimental effect on the routine operations of their classroom? If we apply this quote to education, with the customers being the students, how has the teacher/student relationship changed due to the high levels of technology integration? Furthermore, I wonder if this excessive change and focus on technology has hindered their ability to make positive changes in the other areas of teaching.

The stupidity paradox: The power and pitfalls of functional stupidity at work.

The people who run schools end up allotting less time and resources to teaching and learning, and more to image-polishing exercises. Schools become machines for persuading others that children are getting a good education, rather than institutions for educating children.”

In today’s society, we spend so much time trying to polish our image, whether that be personally or professionally. This might be through our personal Instagram account, classroom Twitter feed, or our school website. Although I think this is an important aspect of gaining to trust of the community, we must take some time to consider how much time and resources we allocate to these activities. Are we simply showcasing and creating activities to look good for our community or are these activities in the best interest in student learning? If there were no pressure to uphold and maintain this specific image in our communities, would teachers be able to dedicate more time to developing and improving as a professional?

As a young teacher, I am quite aware of the pressures to create and maintain a certain public image. Technology has clearly played significant role in the changing of this in education. For me, I think it will a challenge to find a healthy balance between the “image-polishing exercises” and best practice for student learning.

Cross-Cultural Understandings of Leadership.

“She noted that the Native American leader might believe that another person needs something, that an intervention is necessary, that, for example, teachers would benefit from a particular kind of staff development. But that native leader would be unlikely to take any action without permission from the individual needing help. Consequently, the native leader would not assume a responsibility for others. Rather, the native leader might hope that a person will come to desired levels of understanding”

I find this quote very interesting and could have a lot of value when applied to our leadership approach. For one, I think it is very important for a leader to have the awareness when someone in his or her organization is having problem or struggling. I like this approach, as it is not a top down, “this will fix your problem” approach. Rather, there is a sense of collaboration between the one in power and the one needing an intervention or support. The article also suggests that the non-interference approach creates a sense of trust between the two parties. In regards to teaching, I believe the system is healthier when there is a collaborative approach to meeting teacher needs, rather than ideas imposed from those in power or disconnected from the actual issues.

Leadership Reflection

As I reflect on my own personality, I believe there are a few core characteristics that are the building blocks of my leadership style. The first thing that came to mind about my personality is that I truly enjoy the presence of other people. When I am around my colleagues, friends, or students, they give me an extra dose of energy and spirit. In terms of my interests, I really enjoy attending social events and being around other people. I really enjoy the social aspect of teaching, whether that be in the classroom with the students or a colleague in the staff room. This can become problematic when you spend a good portion of your prep chatting with colleagues instead of marking the stack of ELA assignments…

Another characteristic of my personality that contributes to my leadership style is that I am exceptionally loyal to those who have been around me a long time. In my personal life, I have very strong relationships to the friends I met in kindergarten. In the workplace, I value stability and believe this can be maintained by showing loyalty to those that believe in you. I also believe that if there is a strong sense of loyalty in an organization, people will inevitably work harder for the greater good of the organization.

The third important component and maybe the most influential in my leadership style is my fixation and focus on organization and structure. I definitely prefer to have a plan opposed to adapting on the fly. In my classroom, I strive to have strong routines and procedures to keep order and control over things. When things become less organized than I had hoped for, I will often feel a certain level of stress in a situation.

There is one life experience that I believe had a major impact on my outlook and approach to leadership. I worked at Moores Clothing for Men for over 6 years during my early 20’s and into university. In my six years of working at this job, we went through four different store managers. I was able to experience many different leadership styles during my time there. Three leadership styles stand out to me when reflecting on my time there. I think my working experience at this job gave me a good understanding of leadership styles and how people tend to respond to them.

I have vivid memories of the autocrat running the clothing store. As an employee, I can say that this was my least favourite style of leadership, as you felt like you had no voice. I would agree that our store was very efficient and tasks were always completed very diligently. My problem with this style is that the employees generally were not happy which lead to a very negative environment. I think that employees felt unhappy because they felt very powerless and had no control over anything.

I also had the pleasure of working with the charismatic leader. Her name was Jade and she came to work with an incredible amount of energy. She had the ability to make you feel great about yourself when you walked in that door and had no problem motivating her employees. I believe that staff morale was at an all-time high because the constant level of energy and positivity from the leader of the organization. Although the organization did not collapse when she left, staff moral declined and the store was less effective..

The last leadership style I experienced while working in the retail setting was the Laissez-Faire style. As employees, we have so much freedom and had the ability to make our own decisions. This style worked for me because I was highly motivated in the position, mainly due to financial incentives. For those working in positions with set wages and no financial incentives, I found that they often lacked the motivation of others. As the reading states, “It can be damaging if team members do not manage their time well or do not have the knowledge, skills, or motivation to do their work effectively.” I think this problem can occur in any setting and this style does very little to support those people requiring the training or support.  

I truly believe this experience was very influential in shaping my view on leadership. As all of these people were tasked with completing the exact same job, their approach was significantly different. Now that I am taking an educational course on leadership, it’s quite enjoyable to reflect on these experiences and apply what was learned from the reading to my lived experience. I learned a lot from these different types of leadership styles and what I felt worked the best for me. In saying that, I recognize that there are various other personality traits that would determine whether someone enjoyed the leadership style.

After reading about the leaderships styles, I found many of them to be very interesting for a variety of reasons. The first style I found interesting was the charismatic leadership style. I am interested in this style because I believe I need to add this to my leadership style. I have worked for an administrator that demonstrated this on a consistent basis. I feel that this style injects a lot of positivity into the climate of the school. I think this positivity brings a higher level of optimism and team spirit among the employees. I personally enjoy this style because I feel really good about myself.

The second leadership style I am interested in is the democratic/participation style. If I connect this to my role of a classroom teacher, I always appreciate when I feel like my ideas are recognized. I think that classroom teachers generally have amazing ideas and know best in many different situations. When I think about this leadership style, I cannot help but think of the quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” As someone who played many competitive sports growing up, our coaches were always preaching this to us as athletes. These days, my role in sports is that of a coach. I think there is a lot of value in the team first mentality and working together to achieve the greater good. I think about the quote, “Win as a team, lose as a team.” I think the most successful teams, whether that be at the elementary or professional level have some aspect form of democratic leadership.

The last style I found interesting is creative leadership. I really enjoyed the section about creating a compelling vision within an organization. As I think my style can be rigid at times, I think there is a lot of value in rewarding innovation and tolerating failure. I have witnessed first hand the success and innovation that can be accomplished when students are given the flexibility to be creative and own their learning. There is much to be said about experiencing failure and the ways in which we respond to it. I think it is important to experience and teach people how to respond to failure.

Critical Theory: Unjust Power Structures in Society

As I read our first unit on critical theory, I could not help to feel worried and concerned about the various examples of unjust power that exist in our school systems today. The most concerning aspect of this is how normal and acceptable this has become in our society. When I was reading the critical theory unit, I try to apply this learning to my role as a classroom teacher. I would consider myself to be that “busy and caring person” who truly wants the best for all of my students. When you dig deeper and really start to think of our role as classroom teachers, we are unknowingly perpetuating many of these power structures in our schools. This is isn’t to say that teachers are bad people and abusing their role in power. Rather, we are part of a very powerful institution with clear intentions to benefit those who are in control.

“Literacy and Numeracy are held above other equally-valid ways of knowing that develop human capacity and promote human fulfillment”

I would be lying to you if I told you that this does not happen in my very own classroom. I can honestly say that I am aware of this issue and see how it plays out in our school system. But why do I do this? Who taught me to think this way? We can start my looking at how much time we allocate to each subject on a weekly basis. Based on a 1600-minute week, a grade 6 student should receive 680 minutes of English language arts and math instruction, or 42.5% of your weekly instruction. Therefore, a teacher is left with 920 minutes a week to teach social studies, science, health, French, career education, arts education, physical education, religion, and fully alive. Our curriculum has been created in a way in which it significantly values English Language Arts and math while pushing the other ways of knowing to the back burner. Not only does this limit the amount we can teach the other subject areas, it leaves us very little time to teach the other things required to live a fulfilling life.

A colleague recently introduced me to a concept called “positive education.” According to Adler (2017), “Education systems try to prepare students for productive lives, but they do not provide them with the tools to have healthy and fulfilling lives with meaning and purpose. Positive education teaches these traditional skills for success, and also the tools that allow the individual and their community to prosper and flourish (p.51-52). The way in which our curriculum has been developed truly limits the amount of time a teacher can dedicate to teaching the tools to live a happy life. We can attempt to alter and change the focus by introducing cross curricular teaching and incorporating other topics into our English Language Arts program. The biggest problem I see with this is at the end of the day, we are still required to perform a standardized test that only focuses on the reading, writing, and math skills. As a young teacher with over 25 years left in my career, I question what significant changes we need to ensure we aren’t just focusing on reading, writing, and math. It’s clear that we need to challenge these systems and make people aware that living a successful life is much more than achieving high grades in a few subjects deemed more important than the others.

Next, I also see the maintenance of this power in the amount and types of assessments that we are required to complete in our classrooms. I want you to take a guess as to which subject areas we are required to perform standardized assessments. I bet you guessed health, physical education, and arts education. Of course not! The assessments required from our students are reading, writing, and math. How does this maintain the power that exists? As we are required to submit the test results to our school division, teachers are more compelled to teach to the test. I do not think there are many teachers that would be comfortable with submitting tests results that show the majority of students are “not yet” or “beginning” to achieve grade level expectations in reading, writing, or mathematics. The problem with teaching to the test is that we are reinforcing the notion of uncriticality. These standardized tests eliminate all critical thinking opportunities and teach our students to perform tasks exactly how we want them to. If students are unable to do exactly what’s expected of them, they are simply determined to be a winner or loser. Not only is this very narrow minded and create significant stress for our students, standardized testing doesn’t account for cultural differences, language differences, and favours the dominant western perspective. As we all know, this is not the reality of our students in 2019.

“Standardized Test Close-Up” by biologycorner is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 CC BY-NC 2.0

What’s being done about this?

Although there are many challenges and obstacles that teacher’s face on a daily basis, there are many amazing teachers doing things in their classroom to challenge these norms. In my first year of teaching, I was introduced to a project called Genius Hour by a fabulous teacher in this course named Matt Bresciani. I can honestly say this project had a significant impact on my career as a teacher. As a young teacher, I was so concerned with covering every single curriculum outcome and improving my writing, reading, and math marks. This project opened my eyes and allowed me to see that teaching and learning is so much more than simply performing well on tests. If you’re unaware of the project, Genius Hour allows students to choose something they are truly passionate about and learn about it over an extended period of time. Students are not choosing to learn about various writing and reading strategies to improve their marks on the reading and writing assessments. Rather, students are choosing to learn how to play the piano, how to survive in the wild, and how to improve their free throw in basketball. From my short time doing this project, I have witnessed many students explore a true passion in their life. Not only do students learn about a topic that interests them, they are able to develop some of those skills deemed less important by the traditional school system, such as critical thinking and problem solving. This is just one small example of teacher’s challenging the norm in my school division.

References:

Adler, Alejandro. (2017). Positive Education:Educating for Academic Success and for a Fulfilling Lie. Psychologist Papers, 38(1), pg. 50-57.