10 Tips for BYOD Classrooms

BYOD or “Bring Your Own Device” is becoming more commonplace in workplaces and conferences, but what about in the classroom?


Important Logistics

Since many students possess one kind of device or another (laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.), implementing a BYOD approach at school has the potential to address the financial concerns of funding and maintaining school-wide technology.  However, according to an article¹ by Sharo Dickerson, several essential considerations must be made before implementing such an approach:

  • Network security & systems (Make sure the school can handle the additional bandwidth!)
  • Established policies for teacher & student safety (see some examples & this fantastic Edutopia mini-handbook!)
  • Financial support for students who don’t own a mobile device
  • Apps or other software that the school will make available for all BYOD devices at the school to enable effective classroom use

Same Old Learning with Shiny New Gear?

Even when all the above procedural concerns are managed, introducing BYOD could quickly go the way of 1:1 laptop programs without care.  According to a recent study¹, “Computers in K-12 classrooms are mostly used to support the same textbooks, curriculum, and teaching practices that continue to represent traditional classroom settings” (Norris & Soloway, 2011).  Many administrators and teachers, such as Jennie Magiera², experience the pitfalls of assuming that just the presence of technology in the classroom will motivate and inspire learning to higher levels.  During one of my student teaching experiences, I witnessed first-hand a classroom that was packed with all the latest technology, including 1:1 student desktop computers, an interactive whiteboard, and Activotes–yet it still felt the same as most traditional 20th Century classrooms.  Even the high-tech interactive whiteboard was used like a regular whiteboard or, at best, a projector, with ordinary lists of math problems on the board to be solved, or Basal passages for students to read together.

So what do we do to help BYOD avoid the smoke and mirrors of other failed techno-integration attempts?  According to the Dickerson article, it’s essential to include an “adaptation of constructivism in redesigning curriculum and content delivery.”  In other words:

Bill Ferriter
Bill Ferriter
  • The creator of the above picture, Bill Ferriter³, explains that kids aren’t motivated by the technology itself, but by its potential for further opportunities to expand their learning horizons.
  • Jennie Magiera, explains in her article² her realization that she would need to “break down to rebuild” in order to foster real growth.
  • As Wolf Creek Public Schools have introduced BYOD, they are focusing on the “pedagogy before technology,” with the mentality that “It’s not a tech goal; it’s a learning goal.”
  • Edna Sackson, author of popular learning blog, WhatEdSaid⁴, describes 10 “Big Ideas” for deeper learning, including ownership, collaboration, creativity, problem solving, curiosity, diversity, flexibility, relevance, connection, and change.

The common denominator in all these examples of higher level learning with technology?  Technology has the potential to dramatically revolutionize 21st century learning; we can’t expect that to happen with same-old 20th century teaching strategies and mentalities!

Ideas for Authentic 21st Century Learning

As you implement a BYOD or any technology approach in your classroom, you will need to consider the unique needs of your students.  However, we hope this list will give you some ideas to help students authentically use devices to enhance and customize their own learning:

1. Twitter (Click here for our article on Twitter for Teachers!)

Make a unique hashtag for your class that will enable you to post questions, comments, links, or even just regular announcements.  Students could also upload thoughts on their learning using this hashtag, both in and out of the classroom!  You can even use the hashtag to organize TweetChats during class for students to experience a dynamic debate that eliminates the need to “take turns talking.” (Tweetdeck is a great resource to easily view all Tweets within a hashtag). In addition, you could use existing hashtags such as #comments4kids to publish student work and ask questions to engage with a real audience!  (See this free Twitter handbook for teachers for more ideas for classroom use, as well as information to get you started if you’re a Twitter newcomer!)

2. Skype

In the classroom, Skype is a close relative to Twitter in that both have the potential to truly take learning beyond your 4 walls!  Check out our article that goes over how Skype Virtual Field trips work for some specific ideas!

3. App Selection

To help students really utilize technology as a learning tool, choose apps that are “Creation-based over Content-based!”  My article on Practical Student Blogging also lists several resources that include creation-based apps, with Educreations being one of my favorites! Also see apps sorted by topic in my Edutopia post, “Visualizing 21st-Century Classroom Design.”

4. Differentiated Learning

Do you have students who have an IEP accommodation to have a scribe during writing?  Help them discover and use speech-to-text apps such as Dragon Dictation or Evernote, or Google Apps add-ons like Text to Speech with Google Drive!  Do you have students who struggle with remembering assignments or time management?  Help them learn to manage their time with apps like Due or again, Evernote.  Meeting every student’s diverse needs can go from being an elusive ideal to a truly attainable undertaking when we “use technology creatively” (WhatEdSaid article) in the classroom!

5.  Student Blogging

Have students keep digital portfolios of their work and progress throughout the year using blogs!  Check out our post on student blogging for specific ideas to get you started. 2016 edit: Also be sure to check out Seesaw & our privacy-friendly alternatives to blogging.

6. Google Collaboration

Turn writing assignments and other projects into more effective collaboration as students work together in real time in Google Drive!  With their work already online in highly shareable files, they can seek for feedback not just from their classmates, but other peers around the school or even the globe!  We feel strongly that this kind of technology use will empower kids with authentic problem-solving skills as they learn how and from where to seek real feedback (ie, not just their teacher)!

7. Presentations

Thanks to technology, the mediums for presentations have stretched well beyond dioramas, posters, and essays.  Perhaps students will want to make a Toontastic puppet show on their iPad. Others may want to create a Youtube video instead.  Still others may opt for a Prezi (see our post on replacing Powerpoint with 3 highly collaborative, interactive resources).  Whatever the case, with so many options at their fingertips, be sure to give students more autonomy in constructing and displaying their thinking with their BYOD devices!

8. Enrich the scientific process

From digital microscope apps to the simple camera features of devices, students can take scientific learning to a new level.  For example, you can have students take daily photos of an experiment’s progress to create time lapse videos (idea from this WhatEdSaid article), which would help them analyze their data in new ways!  Additionally, students can use Twitter and Skype to ask for feedback from experts or other classes around the world on their findings, or simply to communicate their results!.

9. QR codes

Turning any device into a barcode reader/creator is easy with QR codes!  As you consider the many suggestions available online for their classroom use, remember to hunt for ideas that give students opportunities for ownership and connection–in other words, be picky!  One idea we found that could help fit this purpose include printing and posting some codes around the classroom that take students to various photos or videos to provoke their thinking at the beginning of a unit.  Another idea involves students making QR codes for their research findings that they then post together in the classroom or virtually on the class blog!  Be sure to ask for student input for their use in class as well!

10. Revolutionize Exit Tickets

Rather than sort through exit tickets or assignments after students have gone home with misconceptions, check their progress during learning activities and projects using the program, Exit ticket!  Because you can see their understanding right away, you can adjust your approach to better address their needs.  The program is available on virtually any device with access to a network, thanks to compatibility with Android, iOS, and desktops.

Photo Credit:

Jeremy Keith

Sources:

1 Sharo Dickerson Article

2 Jennie Magiera Article

3 Bill Ferriter Article

4 Various WhatEdSaid articles

Practical Student Blogging

If you’re like most teachers, you have 47 other tabs open besides this one: your grade-book, email, lesson plan resources, and a couple articles on stress management.  So how can you implement student blogging without tipping the scale?


Blogging Benefits

The countless benefits of student blogging are likely what led you to this article today!  Some that we at the Honors Grad U family have witnessed through experience include:

  • Authentic audience: Parents, teachers, peers, and even fellow students across the globe can view, comment, and contribute to the learning!

  • Developing practical tech skills: Besides the obvious benefit of typing practice, blogging is a perfect tool for introducing and practicing skills from copying and pasting to simple HTML editing to maintaining various digital accounts.

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  • Multimedia Literacy:  Growing up, we all made dioramas from shoe boxes, wrote 5-paragraph essays, and crafted posters.  However, 21st century students can and need to also become fluent in an ever-expanding pool of digital resources.  Blogging gives them practice in creating and sharing pictures, Youtube videos, Educreations, Thinglinks, Infographics, Prezi’s, and much more!

  • Engaging Assignments/Projects Through Student Choice & Variety: It can be difficult to keep the passion burning when you introduce a persuasive writing unit.  However, when you also introduce the idea of also including persuasive imagery, as well as actually sharing their work with their intended audience, suddenly things get much more intriguing and personal for each student!

  • Simpler Teacher/Student Collaboration: You’ve experienced the dredge of writing comments on dozens to hundreds of assignments–and that’s only after deciphering questionable handwriting!  Once students have posted various artifacts to their blogs, you can easily type feedback–and depending on your platform, that can even be made private!

  • Easily Accessible Digital Learning Portfolio: Say goodbye to clunky binders with half-ripped-out pages from September by the time you get to March!  If you just consider the use of a few tags, you can already imagine how much easier it would be to navigate the archives of a digital portfolio.

Simple Steps for Success

  1. Pick a Platform:  Spend time exploring your options, privacy needs, and budget.  Most platforms are free on a basic level, but if you want more storage, you’ll want to consider budgeting for your account.  You can even try talking to your administration for some budgetary help, especially if they want to purchase a group package for your school!  Kidblog, WordPress, and Edublogs are all common options that allow you to add users with you as the administrator and moderator!

  2. Permission: Make sure you discuss your school’s privacy policies with your administration before you get started, especially if you’re the first teacher at your school to start student blogging!  You may just need to make a permission slip from parents for each student, or you may find that media permission slips have already been submitted to the school!

  3. Carve out class blogging time: This is probably the hardest step of all!  However, if you are an elementary school teacher, just a weekly 30-45 minute time slot should be enough to get them started!  For secondary levels, you may be able to do more at-home blogging assignments, but you’ll still want to establish at least a little class time for modeling how to use the resources (see below).

  4. Internet Safety & Respect:  Before students enter their blogs for the first time, make sure they are all familiar with basic safety rules, including sharing their personal information (this website is full of teaching ideas).  Also, practice proper etiquette in commenting on paper (see lesson ideas here), before launching into the real deal!  Creating and signing a class blogging contract for future reference is always a plus, too!

  5. Establish clear expectations:  Decide what’s most important to you for their blogs.  If you expect capitalized titles, tags for every post, and a reflection, make sure it’s clear from the beginning.  Let students know you won’t publish any posts missing basic expectations (but make sure they are reasonable for your students’ level as well)!

  6. Choose a few resources: While you’ll definitely want to introduce them one at a time (see below), spend some time beforehand identifying and familiarizing yourself with the main resources you want to teach your students to use.  We recommend choosing one resource for each subject you want your students to be able to exhibit.

    1. Math: Educreations is fantastic resource that allows students to explain their thinking as they draw while also recording their voice!

    2. Reading: You can use Audioboo to have students record their reading skills throughout the year!  Particularly for younger students, it would be powerful for them to literally listen to their progress from September to May.  For a free option (Audioboo maxes out after 3 minutes), you could also use Youtube, even covering up the camera so it just records their voices.

    3. Writing: Obviously, the simple text of a blog post is a great way to share student writing throughout the year. However, you can easily liven things up by introducing a word cloud maker like Wordle.  Not only would it add some beauty to their published piece, but it can also help students visualize their most common word usage in essays!

    4. Art: Older students will likely already be familiar with Photobooth to simply take pictures of their art pieces, but you may need to spend time teaching younger students how to take and upload photos to their blogs.

    5. Science/Social Studies: Thinglink allows students to collect several online articles, videos, and photos into one beautiful interactive presentation!

  7. Introduce one at a time:  Even if it takes several months, it is worth teaching and  practicing just one resource at a time!  Before moving to the next resource, thoroughly familiarize them by allowing them to explore several examples, create a few of their own on their blogs, and collaborate with one another’s work through commenting.  We’ve also found it effective to print and display a board of step-by-step guides for each resource for students to reference in the future.

  8. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL!!  Every chance you get, model how you would like them to use each resource.  Using your own blog account, create multiple examples of each resource for them to reference.  Remember to also model quality comments on their own blogs throughout the year!

  9. Make sure it’s accessible to parents: One of the most rewarding aspects of student blogging is to watch parents connect authentically with their child’s work!  Make sure links to student blogs are available on your classroom blog, and/or email reminders to parents after students have finished blogging projects!

Additional Ideas

Once you get into a groove with blogging, here are a few other ideas to consider to keep things exciting for your class:

  • Student Blogging Challenges: Websites like this one offer wonderful challenges for students to tackle in their blogs!  You can always get creative and craft a few of your own!  For high schoolers, this can even be in the form of working on scholarships, such as our very own Honors Grad U Scholarship, as students share their progress on their blogs!

  • Quadblogging:  This is one of the best ways to connect globally with classrooms just like yours!  Four classrooms form a quad, with each class taking turns being the  highlight classroom, while the other three visit their blogs and leave comments!  One member of our Honors Grad U family has experienced connecting with classes from the U.K. & China!

  • Consider social media: Another way to break down your four classroom walls is social media, including Twitter (Click here for our post on Twitter for teachers)!  Educational hashtags can allow your students to quickly find feedback from around the world.  For example, #comments4kids is specifically intended to post links to student work for others to leave comments!

  • Badges: www.classbadges.com is a fun way to motivate students to work to visually earn various achievements!  You could also use them in conjunction with your student blogging challenges!

Hopefully, these steps allow you to tackle student blogging in a manageable, practical way!  Leave a comment if you have any questions or additional ideas as you get started!


photo credits: DeathToTheStockPhoto (featured image)

Teacher Resources: Ever Heard of Reddit?

Where can you find a community of all different types of teachers who can post all kinds of resources? Ever heard of Reddit? Science, Math, English, College, Adult Ed, Art, and an almost unlimited supply of teachers can be found in this Internet community, and we’ve got a few suggestions of our own…


Reddit, directly from Wikipedia’s definition, “is a social news and entertainment website where registered users submit content in the form of links or text posts.” What does this mean for teachers? It means you now have a one-stop hub for all teaching resources you could need, not to mention worldwide feedback! Another great use for the resources on Reddit is to involve your students. There are a number of educational pages that students could use to reach out to others. See our lists below!

Don’t have an account? One of the best features about Reddit is that it takes just seconds to register an account. In the age of sharing personal information, it’s relieving to see a website ask for only what you want your username to be and what you want your password to be. Registering with an email is optional.

Don’t want to register? Fine! You can browse the site all you want, and unless you want to comment, nothing will be restricted if you simply want to “lurk.”

Now that you’ve joined the community, it’s important to understand that Reddit is divided into subreddits, which are communities of people that fulfill a particular niche. So you’re a teacher, hmm? Allow us to suggest a few subreddits to get you started:

  • /r/education: “The goal of r/Education is to provide a community in which educational stakeholders can participate in meaningful, reflective, and thought-provoking discourse about educational policy, research, technology, and politics.”
  • /r/AskAcademia: “This subreddit is for discussing academic life, and for asking questions directed towards people involved in academia, (both science and humanities).”
  • /r/highereducation: “A place to discuss and share articles related to higher education.”
  • /r/matheducation: “Anything math related that is useful for education, teachers, or students, with emphasis on usefulness for teachers, such as good internet resources, or ideas for how to teach a concept.”
  • /r/ScienceTeachers: “A place for science educators to collaborate on and contribute tips, ideas, labs, and curricula. We seek to encourage the sharing of interesting studies, experiments, videos and articles that will interest students of all ages and promote science and critical thinking in their lives.”
  • /r/teachingresources: “A place to share all your most amazing and useful resources. If we use this well, it could become a very efficient and effective way to enrich many classrooms with everyone else’s resources.”

And more:

And tons more–literally anything you could think of!

Now, get out there and contribute to the education of the masses!

*Obligatory NSFW warning, warning*: Reddit can sometimes have less-than-savory content. Most of the time, this is marked by NSFW, which stands for “Not Safe For Work.” That means you shouldn’t open that link or comments while at work, or you could violate the rules your employer likely has in place regarding Internet usage. You might also see NSFL, which stands for “Not Safe For Life,” meaning gore. If you still want to experience Reddit without these tags, take a look at the Reddit Enhancement Suite. It’s a completely free, open source browser extension that allows you filter out NSFW tags.

 

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Featured Image: Kyle Garrity

5 Creative Group Halloween Costumes

With Halloween right around the corner, you’re probably starting to stress about your costume ideas. You and your roommates/besties want to do group costumes for Halloween? Check out our thoughts on the top 5 creative group costumes! If you use any of the ideas, be sure to send us a pic…

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