March 27, 2013

BYOD

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) programs are spreading across the country as more and more students have access to technology they use every day.  In addition to my previous mentions of BYOD, we hear about them more than ever in the news, blogs, and articles.  Smart devices (PDAs, iPads, Androids, Blackberries) are powerful tools when students can see how much more potential there is beyond the phone calls and games.  In school districts, technology is a significant investment and adequate funding for new and ever-changing technology is not always available.  So, how can students learn how to use their every day technology in a more expansive way?

Some school districts are reconsidering their policies on students bringing their devices to classrooms.  Several of our nation's schools are doing the pioneering on BYOD programs and we can learn quite a bit from them.

Says the New York Times in this article:
Volusia school officials say that they realized they should take advantage of, rather than fight, students’ deep connections with their devices. At the same time, the district found that the cost of providing and maintaining computers for students was becoming prohibitive.

Since the change, Volusia officials say, they have not encountered many tech support problems or complaints from teachers. Rather, students are more engaged, they say, and the only problem that regularly crops up is that students forget to charge the batteries in their devices.
Also found in this post on overcoming the challenges of BYOD at a school district in Vermont:
Our planning has come to show that we are really talking about using mixed devices in four ways:
  1. Continued, targeted practice of material: Using our devices to practice math facts, spelling, reading, etc.
  1. Information: Using devices to access materials in a variety of forms and from a variety of sources, by allowing students to explore content in age-appropriate ways with YouTube EDU, SweetSearch, Google Reader, Today's Doc App and BrainPop
  1. Collaboration: Brainstorming, creating and editing work together in programs like Google Docs, WallWisher, Bitly, Thinglink and Evernote
  1. Creation: Using the devices to capture images, audio and video to promote project-based learning with tools like Little Bird Tales, VoiceThread, Project Noah and History Pin
If one limitation to using multiple devices is that not all apps work on every device, the above models ways to use the devices in an authentic and transformative way.  Most smart devices have ubiquitous tools:  Voice recorders, photo and video cameras, e-reader apps, calculators, wireless access to the internet. Students can still do research for projects.  They can still access the internet, post to forums, and read documents. 


Equity is a major issue, too, which takes some imagination to address.  When overcoming equity obstacles, it's important to keep in mind that students without access to technology at home are at a significant disadvantage.  To address this, some of the districts going BYOD are making investments in "loaner" technology, by buying a device for the school and assigning it to a student on a monthly, quarterly or semester-long basis.  Others rely on grants.  Some are making use of devices donated to the school.  The idea is that while lack of equity is problem, it is not a reason to avoid implementing a BYOD program altogether.   When the student is given the challenge to create a deliverable product, what makes this challenge transformative is that the student has to creatively figure out how to make the project work, and this is an ESSENTIAL skill.

March 22, 2013

Example of a Shared Environment


In North Pole, Alaska, a 5th grade classroom has 15 iPads for 29 students.   The iPads are in the hands of the students most of their instructional time and they use them in many different ways.  The activities range from skills review and word processing to projects.

I found this video on YouTube and chopped a piece that demonstrated one of the more transformational ways to use iPads:  Collaboration.  This is an absolutely necessary component behind the success of using iPads (or any technology for that matter) for instruction.  Here is the portion I wanted to pass along, students answering how they feel about having to share an iPad and what classroom routine the teacher uses in this shared environment.