Category: mobile computing (page 1 of 3)

Hang Up? Crawfishing (a Little) on BYOD

For years, I have been an avid supporter and advocate of BYOD. Specifically, I have argued that students’ smartphones were powerful, pocket-sized computers with high-speed internet capable of connecting, creating, engaging. They were a fabulous solution to the very significant problems of digital divide. Schools lacking in computers or infrastructure would no longer be shackled by the technologies they lacked–just get out your pocket PCs, kids!

Lately, though, I must admit that I wonder about this idea and really have been questioning the validity of my beliefs. I more and more frequently encounter news stories and blog posts about schools or even entire countries abandoning their phone-friendly policies. Policy makers have decided the competition for students’ attention, the distractions, the discipline problems, the effects on student emotions were all too high of a price to pay for any positives the devices might promise. Surprisingly, their arguments against the devices in the classroom are starting to resonate a lot more with me.

Some experts, such as the folks at Common Sense Media, have determined that teens spend an average of 9 hours per day looking at a digital screen. I will testify that at least seems pretty accurate in my own household, even if I haven’t put a timer to it. Life is intently focused on a screen of some sort the vast majority of waking hours, riding in the car, sitting in their rooms, eating a snack, etc. The majority of the time, my kids, wife, and I are thumbing robotically through Instagram, watching YouTube or Netflix videos, checking Snapchat, or something similar.

I will say that the number and range of topics that my kids are learning about is sometimes really amazing. This is especially true for Reilly, my son, who watches videos on every topic under the sun. Also, I have much appreciation for the way that my kids are able to stay connected to their friends, particularly during the summer, as we live a half hour from most of them. I can completely understand my son’s penchant for gaming, as I enjoy an admittedly smaller variety of games almost as much. We ditched cable and satellite television a few years ago, too, so much of their phone time is a substitute for former television hours. All that to say I recognize there is considerable value, for sure.

On the other hand, though, it is unrealistic to deny that there are significant problems that come along with the devices’ constant presence. One that I think is most significant is the devices’ tendency to become the attention priority of the user. In other words, the user is so distracted by the device that he/she cannot maintain focus on anything or anyone else. Just try to count the number of times in a day when someone checks their phone while having a face-to-face interaction with someone. I’ve sure been guilty of it. Watch families/friends sitting together at restaurants. We see it (maybe take part) constantly–groups become zombies making idle chit-chat while staring at PewDiePie on their new iPhone or Galaxy. A 2018 study by Common Sense Media revealed more than half of teens acknowledged that phones distracted them in negative ways. Additional research by Common Sense shows that not only do a large number of kids check their social media feeds pretty much constantly, the negative outcomes (hateful comments, posts not being “liked” enough, etc.) more profoundly affect the kids already facing social/emotional problems.

For the teacher optimistic enough to try and use them in the classroom, a particular challenge I have heard about endlessly since basically the debut of the iPhone in 2007 is management. Even teachers who are still open-minded or enthusiastic about the possibilities struggle with ensuring that they are being used in purposeful, learning-focused ways. For a teacher who may not be experienced or especially skilled at general classroom management, this becomes an even bigger issue. I know that I and countless colleagues in the edtech world have attempted to share effective management strategies, but the dismal tales persist.

What’s the point to all of this then? Well, I suppose it is that I am probably less convinced of the power of student devices in the classroom than I was a decade ago, when my former superintendent abruptly declared our district to be a BYOD environment. Certainly, there have been some cool moments of real success, from creative student video productions to collaborative documents to engaging formal assessment and feedback apps and many more. I won’t begin to argue against those. I think, though, that more than a decade’s time passing should have ironed out many more of the wrinkles in the plan and the process. It hasn’t, and I still hear more negative feedback than positive (Okay, maybe complainers are just more…expressive.). I am currently running a Twitter survey to gauge my PLN’s feelings on student phones in the classroom and already seeing some interesting results.  My mind is far from made up, and reflection is critical to my own professional practice, so I’m going to keep mulling the pros and cons of this issue for awhile. As always, I would welcome and respect your thoughts and comments!

Student Internet Access in Seguin ISD

As a part of our ongoing process of self-evaluation and planning for the future of technology here in Seguin ISD, we recently conducted a quick, 4-question survey to determine patterns of students’ internet use outside of the school day. Over 1,700 students in grades 3-12 participated. The results are below.

A few initial observations:

  • The basically 9:1 ratio of student internet uses to non-users is pretty much what I would have expected. This tells me that we still need to be looking for options for our students without access, as they are certainly limited once they leave our buildings.  It also should be something teachers are aware of, and it should inform their decision-making when assigning homework that requires online resources. We have come far, but the divide still exists. How might we creatively close the gap outside of our buildings?
  • Slower internet speeds and data limits on cellular connections make accessing excessive amounts of video or other media online problematic. This is a potential issue for more than 40% of our students.
  • Fewer and fewer students are using traditional laptops or desktops as their home internet-access device. Mobile phones and tablets are much more common. Still, schools tend to focus budget dollars on desktops/laptops. That might be a practice we need to rethink. Might our technology dollars be better directed at non-traditional tools?
  • The “None of these” option under types of devices doesn’t just include kids with no internet at home–many kids use gaming consoles, devices such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, or a variety of other tools.

Other thoughts, reactions, or questions I might be missing? Happy to hear your comments.

 

Podcast #23: Do This

My latest podcast discusses Tech Fair, some astounding tech news, and podcasts. Remember a few years ago when everyone in education was talking about podcasting? We still should be!

DENapalooza Presentation and Links

Presentation and updated links from this weekend’s DENapaolooza event in Austin, Texas.

 

Resources for developing innovation and creativity skills:

  • Scratch–free, online tool that introduces students to programming using a drag-and-drop interface and share projects with a global community.
  • MakeyMakey–electronic “invention kit” that allows users to turn any conductive objects into computer input devices.
  • Picoboard–expands scratch by allowing users to incorporate input from a variety of sensors, including light, sound, and more.
  • Arduino–open-source, inexpensive prototyping platform that can be programmed and used to build endless electronic devices.
  • Raspberry Pi–$25 Linux-based computer; great tool for introducing students to computing, programming, inventing.
  • MinecraftEDU–educational resources and lesson plans for using Minecraft in the classroom.
  • Hopscotch–easy-to-use iPad app that teaches programming skills with a drag-and-drop interface
  • Tynker–Scratch-like programming site with ability to create classes, assign and monitor projects.
  • DIY–site with dozens of categories of challenges to promote creative and inventive thinking.
  • Squishy Circuits–conductor & insulator Play-do type dough recipes & projects
  • LittleBits–child-friendly, no soldering electronic activity kits and components.
  • Lego Robotics–robot kits and supplies for primary (WeDo), intermediate (Mindstorms), and advanced students (TETRIX)
  • MyAtoms–electronic modules that can be used with Legos to create animated objects.
  • BuildwithChrome –virtual Legos; create Lego buildings or objects and share online–requires Chrome browser.
  • Hummingbird–robotics project kits using electronics and cardboard.
  • Lego Digital Designer –free tool from Lego lets students virtually design their Lego and Lego robotics creations.
  • Circuit Scribe–pen that writes with conductive ink, letting users draw electrical components and creations.
  • MIT App Inventor–free, Scratch-like tool lets students design and test their own Android mobile apps.

Other resources:

  • Makezine–online magazine of the Maker movement, great source for project ideas.
  • MakerEd–resources for incorporating Maker ideas into the classroom.
  • Growing Innovators–resources for a variety of innovative technologies for the classroom.
  • Scratch 2.0 Starter Kit–resources for teaching coding using Scratch and other tools.

2-Minute Tech Challenge #1: ifaketext.com

The select few who have read this blog for a few years now might remember the old, 12-Second Tech Challenges from my previous life. These were (EXTREMELY) short video intros to some tech resources, followed by a challenge to find a way to integrate it into the curriculum. Well, 12seconds.tv doesn’t exist anymore, which is good and bad news, probably. On the negative side, 12seconds was a really cool site and community. On the positive side, I won’t be limited to just 12 seconds (No, that is not the negative side..ahem!). Still, in order to respect the time of the reader, I’ve vowed to myself to keep each video under 2 minutes.

Here is how this 2-Minute Tech Challenge thing works.

  1. Watch the video
  2. Use the resource.
  3. Share your result as a comment.
  4. Seguin faculty who participate will be entered to win some cool stuff! 1 entry per challenge + 1 bonus entry if you or your kids use the resource in the curriculum–be sure to specify.

That’s it. Sometime in the spring, I’ll tally up all of the entries and give away some useful, technology-related prizes. Just remember, it only takes a few minutes, but you have to do a little work to win. This first one will get you off to a VERY easy start!

Now, create your own. Think of how this might be used as a conversation between historical or literary characters, scientific things such as atoms, cells, etc. When finished, share the link to your fake text conversation by posting a comment to this blog post. That’s it! I look forward to seeing your creative responses!

 

Building BYOT

Over the next several months, we will be taking on the task of implementing a BYOT program here in Seguin. Although we are several months away from being ready with our wireless infrastructure, I am already looking at other programs and research and trying to reflect upon our experiences implementing the program back in Birdville. What I would like to do is keep something of a journal of our progress here as we go through the process. Hopefully, this will encourage some brilliant folks who visit here to share their insights. Also, it might be something of a learning tool for those who are considering, but not yet ready to give BYOT/BYOD a go.

At this point, there are more questions than answers. Among the questions we will be sorting out before we get the ball rolling…

  • What devices will be included as acceptable technology resources?
  • How will we meet the needs of students who do not own personal devices?
  • How will our current AUP need to be modified?
  • What does effective use of student technologies look like in the classroom?
  • Will we allow students to use their own cellular data networks or require them to access our network?
  • How can we provide technical support to students when trying to use their devices?
  • What are some classroom management strategies that will increase the likelihood of success for our teachers and students?
  • What professional development will be provided for teachers?
  • How will the program be rolled out? High school first? All secondary? District-wide?
  • How can a BYOT be successful at a low-income elementary campus, where very few student owned devices are available?

So, any answers?

10 Curricula-Spanning, Learning-Boosting, Creativity-Inspiring, Must-Have Apps

Because there are just not enough app lists, I decided I needed to throw in one more. There are tons of lists that tout subject-specific apps for students at all levels. The following apps have broad applications in virtually any subject area, and they promote important higher level skills such as critical thinking, analyzing, researching, planning, and communicating in engaging and powerful ways. The biggest advantage each offers over similar tools on traditional desktops or laptops is their fantastic usability and short learning curves. They can also accomplish these things on the go–at the museum, on the bus, on the camping trip, etc., potentially turning any event into a true learning experience.

  • Catch Notes (FREE) – Fantastic tool for taking and organizing (via tags) text, audio, or visual notes, independently or collaboratively. Notes can be accessed via apps or through the Catch.com website.
  • Pearltrees (FREE) – Pearltrees is a creative social bookmarking tool that lets individuals or groups create collections of bookmarks organized into webs by subject. It is a fantastic organizational tool, and it gives students a powerful visual representation of their saved resources. The app walks you through setting up a mobile Safari plugin that lets you add “pearls” on the go.
  • VoiceThread (FREE) – Still one of my favorite digital storytelling tools, VoiceThread’s app makes the creation process even faster and easier. Still need to sign up for a free account at Ed.Voicethread, but now VTs can be created on the go, using the built-in cameras and microphones of the iPad or iPod.
  • Explain Everything ($2.99) – Simply a phenomenal screen-casting tool, Explain Everything lets students create narrated, annotated presentations that include drawings, images, websites, and videos. Resulting movies can be shared in a wide variety of ways. The applications are limitless and could certainly fit any subject area. This is perhaps the most powerful tool on this list.
  • Spreaker Radio (FREE) – Spreaker is my new favorite podcasting/broadcasting tool. The web-based platform has as good of a free podcast system as I’ve ever seen, incorporating tools reserved for paid services. The app lets you or your students broadcast live Internet shows on the go or record shows for future listening. It’s very intuitive for students and only requires that an account be set up on the Spreaker site to use.
  • ShowMe (FREE) – ShowMe’s ease of use and versatility make it a must-have. Students can create narrated videos explaining anything they can draw, write, or illustrate. Videos are saved on the ShowMe site, also free.
  • Popplet ($4.99) – Popplet is a slick tool for creating mind maps, flow charts, or other graphic organizers. Charts can include text, drawings, or images, and can be exported as .pdf or image files. Use Popplet for brainstorming, group planning, project management, process illustration, or many other applications.
  • Animation Studio ($2.99) – The best animation creation tool for the money, by far. The feature list of Animation Studio is too long to list, but features like text-to-speech, the library of animated characters, music tools, YouTube sharing, etc. make it the best. Students can use this app to create original videos describing, depicting, or explaining anything imaginable.
  • Dragon Dictation (FREE) – Dragon Dictation is an oldie (in iOS terms, anyway) but a goodie. It turns spoken words into printed text, and it does so pretty darned accurately. Great for many applications, such as allowing ESL students to transcribe their English practice or other special population accommodations. Also makes a fantastic note-taking tool (SOME people even use it while driving, I have heard…cough.).
  • Google Earth (FREE) – Still a powerful tool for research, the Google Earth app includes many of the standard maps and search tools, plus a fantastic gallery of user-currated maps and tours. Kids can research settings in literature (using built-in Wikipedia links), map historical events, study geologic or political processes, and more.

That’s my list. What apps would you add that could be used across the curriculum?

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