Q: What does the use of digital teaching tools look like in the classroom?
A: A multi-ring circus
Most educational institutions continually have to do more with less. This will affect Information Technology (IT) budgets. That being the case, and as already foreshadowed by EDUCAUSE, students will not only start to bring their own hardware, but bring software as well. In short, we’ll continue to move into the BYOE (Bring Your Own Everything) technology movement.
As Julia Romberger mentioned in her “Should We Teach All the Things?” post, context matters. What I’m following up with in more detail is…not only does institutional context matter, but individual access and experience matters as well, maybe even more so. Instructors cannot assume that students have access to the same hardware or software. One of my favorite ways to consider BYOE is in context of the growing number of individuals using smartphones as their primary, sometimes sole, device to access the Internet. Many of us might consider it “impossible” to write multiple page essays or access and complete assignments in a Learning Management System (e.g. Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, etc.) on a small screen, with our thumbs; however, there are a growing number of students who do a lot, even a majority, of their academic work on their mobile devices. EDUCAUSE’s 2012 Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology identifies the need for BYOE students to still have access to institutionally maintained computer labs for access to specific software (like Microsoft Word to do final page break, header, and hanging indent formatting on a paper) or printing (p. 14).
The BYOE movement does not solely refer to hardware; it also refers to software, and, this also includes, the prior experiences each individual has with specific types of hardware and software. At first, every student bringing any device and software application may seem overwhelming for instructors, thus the image of the multi-ring circus; I think it also provides an opportunity to showcase diversity. Students can share the different applications they use to get work done, demonstrating that most academic challenges can be met in a variety of ways. This does mean, however, that instructors must design assignments in a manner that allows students to complete them differently. Instructors might also worry about supporting each and every technology brought to class; allowing students to support one another as well as teaching them to build their own support networks (both people and other resources like LifeHacker and YouTube) is the equivalent of teaching students to fish!
As Julia Romberger and I argue in our recently drafted Hacker Pedagogy piece, these types of assignments provide students the opportunity to meta-reflect on their learning practices. Allowing for diversity in technology usage, and therefore assignment completion and submission, also helps keep classes interesting for instructors as well…step right up, buy your technological circus ticket now!