Tag: cellphones

3 Student Activities For Easing Into BYOD This Year

byod

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BYOD (Bring your own device) initiatives have been around for more than a decade now in one form or another in schools and businesses. As I conduct workshops or engage in conversations with teachers on using student-owned mobile devices in the classroom, there is almost universal agreement as to the incredible potential of today’s pocket-sized supercomputers. There is, certainly, some trepidation, as well–questions regarding discipline, management, privacy, theft, etc.  The thing is, while these concerns are not unjustified by any means, we are not blazing a new trail here. Thousands of classrooms have gone before us, and there is a mounting evidence in the research of the benefits to students of the well-planned BYOD program. For those on the precipice, here are 3 painless ways to test the waters when school starts this year.

1. Student Planning/Scheduling –Instead of having students copy assignments off of the dry-erase board or projector screen every Monday morning, as is the ritual in countless classes, have them use their cell phones’ calendar apps to save assignments, due dates, etc. As quickly as young fingers nimbly text on their tiny keyboards, this isn’t likely to take up more time than having them use paper and pen. It’s also more reflective of what most college students or adults would do in 2014. My daughter’s principal told me last week that students at her middle school will do this starting this fall–kudos to Mr. Garza for a great first step.

2. Class Backchannel –Using free tools like Todaysmeet, Google Forms, Twitter, etc., teachers can easily leverage student devices to gather student observations, understandings, and questions. These can be used for quick formative assessment during class to re-direct activities or instruction as needed to clarify or correct misunderstandings. By creating a unique class hashtag (e.g. #mrsmithsmath), Twitter goes from a potential distraction to a very powerful group discussion tool, and it is not necessary for users to follow one another to utilize a common hashtag. Just search for the hashtag within Twitter and see the entire discussion at once.

3. Podcasting –Class podcasts, especially audio podcasts, are very easy to create and provide a powerful tool for archiving student learning, sharing creative works, communicating news, and more. If you’re still not sure what a podcast is, it’s like a TV or radio series, only based on the web. Here’s an example by an educator friend, Technlandia. The great news is that it doesn’t take incredible techiness to be able to put together a show like this. Basically, you or your students record an audio file and upload it to a host site, like Podbean or Podomatic. Even easier, try a tool like Audioboo for Education. Audioboo’s app is ridiculously simple to use. Students can quickly record, title, tag, and upload audio podcasts to their own or a class podcast. Ease into the idea by having a student record announcements into a daily/weekly class podcast, then move on to letting a student share a short summary of the day’s lesson(s) at the end of class, share their writing, etc.

These aren’t flashy, but they’re easy to get you and your students started. The aim is to give students opportunities to leverage the bigger capabilities of their phones and get students viewing their phones as something more than entertainment or 24/7 pipelines to their friends. Not an easy task, but management gets easier as the novelty fades. I’ve heard of teachers using many different strategies to varying effect. At the outset, a simple technique is to require phones to be left face-down on the desk’s corner when not being used instructionally.

If you’re planning on giving BYOD a shot this year, good luck! It’s likely to be a learning process, as with any resource, and you and your kids will come to see ways to use the devices naturally and effectively with practice.

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?

Live Blogging from ISTE 2010: Learning with Mobile Devices

Session title: Mobile Devices + Web 2.0 = Engaged and Empowered Learners

Click Here

The Cell Phone Nemesis?

cellphoneLast Friday, I had a very thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation with a teacher at our alternative high school. The subject was our district’s cellphone-friendly policy, which recognizes the potential positive applications of these increasingly powerful, pocket-sized computers. The discussion focused (in my mind, at least) on the need for a clear plan when a school or district implements such a policy. While I assured him plans were in the works to offer clear guidelines for students and teachers, I had to admit that no explicit direction was in place when the policy went into effect. I am a strong supporter of the plan, but the teacher, who I truly respect, offered some insightful anecdotes based upon his experiences so far. Three that stood out with me follow.

  • Students are often (usually, in fact) unaware of the impolite nature of their cellphone use. It isn’t unheard of to have a student actually take a call during class. Illustrating this adroitly, I checked an email on my Droid while we were speaking. It was nothing more than a glance lasting 4 or 5 seconds, but for that time, my attention left the teacher and communicated, albeit unintentionally, that my email was more important than our conversation. For many today, manners seem like an antiquated concept, but they are vital to an increasingly cooperative, collaborative society. I had to sheepishly apologize and agree completely with his point.
  • Cell phones are not always useful or appropriate in the classroom. Teachers who forbid their use during class may be viewed as some type of rebellious dinosaur. Just like any technology, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and teachers need to have the ability to make their own decisions about how to use or not use the devices in ways that best meet the needs of students and the requirements of the curriculum.
  • Not all students have cell phones, much less the more powerful smart phones. Equity of access is a real issue, particularly in low-income schools. I asserted that we should still try to take advantage of the resources which were available, but I see his point.

We are in the embryonic stage in our cell phone policy. Teachers and administrators would immediately confiscate phones that were seen being used in school barely over a year ago. Teachers need to see examples of their applicability in the curriculum, and students need real guidance in the proper and appropriate ways they can take advantage of this freedom. There is immense potential in the use of these little tools in the curriculum, but it is imperative that schools do their research and formulate clear plans for acceptable and effective use, or teachers will grow frustrated and resistant in a hurry, and students will end up missing out on the opportunity to leverage a powerful technology.

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Enemies to Productivity?

I just finished watching a thought-provoking presentation by Iqbal Quadir. Iqbal asserts that technology, particularly those technologies that have facilitated communication, have been critical to the growth and success of democratic societies and the economic welfare of their citizens. He states,

“If citizens can network and make themselves more organized and productive, so that their voices are heard, so then things would improve.”

Quadir, who grew up in Bangladesh, where the ratio of people to phones was 500 to 1, also states that the telephone is a weapon against poverty, because increasing connectivity results in increased productivity. Phones act like rivers or highways, improving reliability and enabling specialization. Quadir put his ideas into action, leaving a New York banking job to set up a rural cellular network in his home country. The results have had a dramatic impact, increasing productivity, personal welfare, and the country’s GNP.

This presentation struck home with me, as I considered the general view of cellphones in schools today and a new direction being taken by Birdville, my home district. By and large, cellphones are considered to be nuisances, and, if allowed at all, they are only to be used outside of classroom hours or in the case of an emergency. Within the classroom, they are detrimental to the learning process, distracting students from the “important” matters of the curriculum. Here is a typical scenario pulled from last week’s headlines. Through a new, more progressive policy phones are allowed only in high school, and only if out of sight and turned off. Notice this statement: “Last year, 1,253 high school students were cited for violating the cell phone policy.” Clearly, there are serious discipline issues in this school (Sarcasm intended–imagine how much instructional time and effort is used wasted enforcing such policies.).

I’m truly not intending to pick on this particular district, because I do believe it is representative of the typical No phonesAmerican school system. A technology that has the ability to facilitate communication between students, parents, teachers, scientists, researchers, astronauts, doctors, politicians, etc. is viewed as a distraction. A tool that can be used to take photos, record video/audio. and access the Internet is seen as a means for students to cheat (As if it requires a cell phone to accomplish that. Might as well ban paper and pencils, while we’re at it.). Rather than address their use in a forward-thinking, progressive manner, most schools opt for the easy route, which is, of course, to eliminate the “threat.” How sadly ironic it is that in a land where cellphones are moving toward equaling the total population (230 million subscribers by the end of 2006), where the devices are being put into the hands of students of almost all ages (My 2nd grade daughter has classmates who own them.), and in a time when the power they possess surpasses the capabilities of the computers I grew up with, we can’t find a way to leverage them in every classroom.

Imagine applying the same concepts put forth by Quadir in the classroom. Cell phones used to connect students, used to have instant access to information, used to communicate information instantly between teachers, students, parents. Is it not conceivable that the results would mirror those in Bangladesh? Might students become empowered and connected, and their productivity and power actually increase?

Next year will be the first in my own district to put this to the test.  We are starting a new era of cell-phone-friendly schools, as we attempt to take advantage of their capabilities and find new ways of using them in our curriculum. It will be interesting, particularly to see how some reluctant teachers respond to the new policy. Students will have to display responsibility and discipline to make it work, as well. If teachers can adapt, and if students demonstrate as much energy, creativity, and excitement in the actual implementation as they did in our recent student technology summit, the potential impact is quite significant. I will be posting further on this as we move forward with this. I’ll also be digging for more success stories of implementation, so please share if you have any!

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References:

Cell Phone Use Exploding (2007). Retrieved April 23, 2009, from http://china.usc.edu/ShowAverageDay.aspx?articleID=663&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1.

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No cell phones!

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