I’ve been seeing a lot of “timehops” in my Facebook and Twitter feeds lately. I guess folks are interested in seeing what they were doing and posting a few years ago to get a sense of how much change has occurred. With this spirit in mind, I thought I’d do a “timehop” today and repost a blog post from last year. This post was originally shared in June 2014 and discussed the need to adopt agnostic policies with the technologies we use with our students. In an age of “bring your own device” policies, it’s becoming increasingly necessary for teachers to break free of platform dependency. Enjoy.
I’ve decided to entertain “agnosticism.” I’m setting aside some long held beliefs and attempting to become unaffiliated. It’s going to be challenging and I’ll probably go through a great deal of soul searching, but I believe my students will be better off with me as an agnostic.
Before anyone becomes concerned about my spiritual or religious well-being, let me clarify. I’m embracing agnosticism in my teaching career, especially as it relates to technology. Most of my close colleagues know that I’m a Mac user in my personal and professional life. As a teacher, however, I’m supporting a BYOD classroom. If I want my students to bring their own devices to my classroom, I have to start exploring applications that don’t just target a single platform or ecosystem. Apps like iMovie are amazing tools for iOS devices, but they’re only available on iOS devices. Students won’t be able to run iMovie on their Droid device, on their Netbook or on their Kindle Fire. To truly foster a BYOD classroom, I have to work to become more “device agnostic” and start supporting all the devices they may enter the classroom. So what does “device agnostic” mean? In a blog post, Margaret Rouse offers a great definition.
“A device-agnostic mobile application (app), for example, is compatible with most operating systems and may also work on different types of devices, including notebooks, tablet PCs and smartphones.”
So how does an instructor become device agnostic? First, I’ll have to start to examine the assignments and applications that I use in my classroom. Luckily, there are a ton of resources that can help. Searching around the web, I found a bunch of blog posts and articles that can help. Here are a few I’ve found:
The last resource uses the term “device neutral assignments.” Device neutrality means that instructors allow students to choose whatever tools that can successfully complete an assignment. For instance, instead of saying “use Powerpoint to make a presentation,” an instructor would just ask students to select whatever tool they could access to successfully create a presentation. As schools and institutions start to explore BYOD initiatives, it’s important to provide students with options to complete the assignments. Students already face numerous challenges when they come to campus. Unless its absolutely necessary, I don’t believe that we should place additional financial stress by expecting students to purchase and use specific applications or devices. The landscape of technology is too fertile to restrict student choice and ownership.