Tag: mobile_devices

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.

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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