BYOD: Build your own depth

multiple pathwaysToday I’m sharing a thought to conjure with. My recent presentations to schools have increasingly emphasised the inclusive nature of effective learning design. The importance of designing different pathways around the learners, those people, both students and teachers, who sit at the heart of how we think about learning programmes.

Dimensions of effective teaching

A recent browse back through Hattie’s research – particularly this paper, Teachers make a difference: What is the research evidence? –  reminded me that the dimensions that differentiate between novice and ‘expert’ (my inverted commas) teachers can be identified as being able to:

  • ” identify essential representations of their subject,

  • guide learning through classroom interactions,

  • monitor learning and provide feedback,

  • attend to affective attributes, and

  • influence student outcomes.” (p.5)

What is of most interest to me, taking an e-learning lens on this, is that effective teachers are those who are able to make decisions about differentiating content knowledge on the fly. They don’t just have deep content knowledge, but they understand how to adapt their teaching so that this knowledge is taught effectively.

Implications for a BYOD environment

As we move into increasingly one-to-one environments, be it BYOD, 1:1 or similar, the pathways into learning  multiply, the possibilities that a teacher needs to conjure with widen. And so they should. With different devices in the hands of learners that can potentially open  multiple doorways into learning, it would be a wasted opportunity were every learner to to be lock step in identical activities.

Not only is this a management challenge, it becomes a learning design challenge.

It seems to me that teachers who are operating in a digital environment not only need to confidently hold models of effective use of technologies (e.g. TPACK)  in their heads; they need to have deep, conceptual understanding of the curriculum learning areas and how best to adapt this, in multiple ways, for their diverse learners. A challenge indeed.

The implications for schools are interesting here. How many schools address content-specific learning as part of e-learning PD? How often does a session on BYOD unpack the conceptual nature of science and the different ways to offer pathways into scientific knowledge? How are teachers supported to understand the specialisms of the curriculum as they discuss ways to effectively use digital technologies?

It’s an interesting idea that I shall keep grappling with into 2014.  Perhaps we can start to consider e-learning as actually being about understanding concepts in learning areas, being confident in your pedagogical choices and then quietly positioning digital technologies in the supporting role that they deserves.

And the challenge for school leaders is to consider how to have these conversations around technologies, so the focus is firmly on those dimensions of effective teaching. Because, after all, the answer to supporting our learners

“lies in the [people] who gently close the classroom door and performs the teaching act –the [people] who put into place the end effects of so many policies, who interpret these policies, and who are with students during their 15,000 hours of schooling.” (p. 2-3)

[Image source]


3 thoughts on “BYOD: Build your own depth

  1. Hi Karen,

    I think it is correct to say that this kind of learning, when student directed, and discussed collaboratively with a teacher can be inclusive. The idea of student’s coming up with their own direction as long as it meets an attached criteria for assessment is great.

    I felt like I was using this model of differentiated e learning T4 of 2010.A broad persuasive speech topic divided into different aspects that learners could then focus in on. Although a small class, it required trust in my students ability to problem solve together. I also had student conferencing time where they could check in with how their project was going. In addition to their own study time on the integrated topic, they were involved in directed learning experiences and opportunities to present and learn from each other ie: the science aspect of the topic.

    Students in this class had been fed on e learning and thinking activities for some time, thanks to the vision of Indira Neville my former Principal, and were quite capable, although by this time she had left us. The integrated curriculum topic for this term was my design and I am proud of the three terms I led after Indira left, before choosing to leave myself.

    Breaking the constraints of traditional teaching methods can free up the e journey and enrich students. I have not seen an example of this kind of magical learning since, although I wait hopefully to see it occurring in the classrooms of my two younger sons.

    Kind regards, Fleur.


  2. Hi Karen
    I have just begun a 1to1 iPad BYOD trial this year and I can identify a lot with what you are saying. It has been hard to individualise right from the start but now we have the majority of the systems (docs, blogger etc) set up i am looking forward to encouraging learners to find their own interests, methods, topics etc and go from there. The doors BYOD opens for differentiated learning potential learning is huge but as is the challenge to manage learning in this manner. Organising and keeping track of 32 learners doing 32 different things can be tricky but with tools available such as hapara dashboard etc this can be minimised. If a teacher strives to focus on the learner rather than the learning surely the learner will begin to take more interest, ownership and self management for their own learning thus making the challenges of BYOD less substantial. I have found already that my class are so onboard and motivated they are completing learning at home & before the bell even goes in the morning. The next step is to have them create the learning not just complete tasks that i have set. Thanks for a great read, provides me with a lot to think about for my journey ahead.


  3. Thanks for your comments, Kate and Fleur. Appreciated. Your reflective views on what the next steps might be, however challenging, are heartening. That shift from technologies to content knowledge and how to help young learners engage and understand such knowledge is a far bigger challenge than setting up the infrastructure, in my view. The thought of trying to personalise for every individual is certainly overwhelming – and may be impossible…although a clear framework, like Universal Design for Learning [‎] can help a busy teacher design with technologies primarily with a view to removing barriers (in terms of pedagogy). In addition, clarity around learning outcomes (e.g. using SOLO), shared with all students, can go a long way to building independence for learners, too. There is clearly no magic bullet! But conversations such as this make a contribution to the dialogue:)


Thank you for your comment. Much appreciated:-)

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