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

3 Tech-Savvy Powerpoint Alternatives

We’ve all snored through text or slide-heavy Powerpoints before.  The next time you have to create a presentation, consider some of these more engaging alternatives!


These 3 resources each explore the what (how the resource works), the when (uses in the classroom), and the how (how they can replace Powerpoint)!

Thinglink

What

Take any image and turn it into an interactive dream as you link in videos, pictures, articles, and comments!  They work particularly well if you have a classroom blog or other website your students can access.  The Thinglink above contains more links with details on introducing you to this fantastic resource.

When
  • Introduce yourself to your students in a fun new way!
  • Instead of assigning your 30+ students to all make Powerpoint reports (taking endless hours afterwards presenting in class), assign them to make Thinglinks, publishing them to a class account or on the class blog!
  • Rather than taking class time to go through a Powerpoint, give them a homework assignment to explore a new Thinglink that gets them thinking!  You can just put up an image with questions for them to start wondering and thinking (see example below), or include multimedia to really familiarize them with the subject before doing further study in class!

How

Say you want to present to your students information on documents and systems that helped influence the United States Constitution: the Magna Carta, the Iroquois Confederacy, the Mayflower Compact, and the Articles of Confederation. With a powerpoint, this would be a very linear discussion, covering each topic consecutively, perhaps with videos sprinkled throughout.  With a Thinglink, however, you can link all the videos, media, and thinking questions into one image, and then publish it to a classroom blog or another platform your students can access.  Students can then explore all the links in a manner that best suits their learning–re-watching videos that were confusing for them, or reading articles at their pace that give them even more information!  Check out an example of how we put this together below.

Prezi

What

A Prezi is a zoomable presentation that engages viewers as it flows from idea to idea in unexpected, animated ways.  The video above chronicles the development and benefits of using Prezi as it goes through an actual Prezi!

When
  • You can embed a Prezi into your classroom website any time you want your students to be able to explore a concept at their convenience.
  • Great when you want to help your students really “be there” with regards to your big idea in presenting.  The Prezi below does a beautiful job of this!

  • Especially amazing when you want to teach about anything connected to timelines.  Check out the Prezi below for an example of what we mean!

How

A Prezi can be used exactly as you currently use Powerpoints–in fact, it even has a feature for you to upload existing Powerpoint slides into a Prezi template!  Only, then, you get to play with the 3D templates and zoomable features to help bring it to life!

Skype Virtual Field Trips

What

The definition of what makes a Skype virtual field trip is confined only by your own imagination!  Watch this video on Skype’s education page for a wonderful introduction!  Connecting through Skype, you can interview activists, have docents show your students around museums, or even take students on virtual road trips (see that field trip described in more detail here, along with 4 other amazing examples)!  An article from Scholastic explains how it provides “customized curriculum” and “global connections.” You can either pick existing lessons from Skype’s page on classroom use that you can schedule right away, or connect with other teachers around the world with similar project goals using your Skype account and profile!

When
  • Meet classes with whom your class is quadblogging
  • Give students an opportunity for authentic learning experiences when budgets for actual field trips are tight!
  • Explore other cultures as you connect with people and places outside your own country!
How

Forget making a Powerpoint with the who, what, when, where, and why of wolves in North America: Schedule a Skype interview with an actual wolf expert for students to interview and learn from after they have prepared some questions!  Not only does this dynamically bring learning “off the page,” but it hones students’ communication skills as well!

Photo Credits: Photographer (featured image)

SourcesWays to Use Thinglink in the Classroom