BYOD: It Can Work!

I recently read an article from Emerging Edtech titled 5 Reasons Why BYOD is a Bad Idea. As an online subscriber, I immediately read the article when it entered my inbox. Not to mention, I am a huge advocate for students using cell phones in the classroom.  After all, I am writing a book about it.  The article outlines 5 areas or reasons why it is a bad idea for students to bring their own device into the classroom.  I want to address each one of these individually and point out why it can work, even in a small rural district where I teach.

First, the article addresses, equipment inequity. Okay, so not everyone is going to have the same phone, tablet, etc.  The article argues there will be many inconsistencies when dealing with many different brands, and types of devices.  There are some easy solutions to this quandry.  For example, my students started to use cell phones in my language arts classroom this year and I had students who had iphones, flip phones, smart phones, “dumb” phones, etc. As a teacher, I had to keep this in mind when it came to incorporating technology into my existing lessons. So, I used a social platform (Celly) that supported both smart phones and “dumb” phones.  I don’t think there is a need to worry about the equipment being brought in by our students. Educators need to find website, social platforms, etc. that can be supported across the board.  Furthermore, doesn’t every teacher have an alternative plan if something doesn’t work?  My students can log onto the classroom wikispace to work and with the amount of students who bring in their own devices, I can get them on a computer in our lab.

Next, tech support is discussed as a downfall.  In comparison to the first issue the article discussed, it basically is echoing the same thing.  Because students will have different devices, there will be different issues with software and configuration.  The article doesn’t give exact specifics.  I suggest as a teacher who is interested in doing this to do your homework.  Research what devices your students have and see which ones could potentially cause you the most headaches.  Also, as mentioned before, choose a digital tool that can be supported on a various devices.  Trust me, they are out there.  The article also said the tech support would pick up more problems.  Why?  It seems to me that if students are bringing in their own device, they should know how the device works.  In addition, I would hope the teacher is comfortable with using technology and perhaps could provide assistance to the students.  Teachers should also know when to draw the line when it comes to how much time is being eaten away due to technological problems.  As mentioned before, having a plan B helps.

The third point the article brings up called bring your own distraction is grasping at straws.  Yes, students do have distractions on their devices.  I had students who had apps, games, or music on their phones and it was never an issue.  First of all, my students and I have a mutual respect about the use of their phones.  I have never given my students a sheet with a set of rules and regulations regarding their phones.  The only rules my students were solidly aware of were the school wide rules.  It was really amazing how my students never had their phones out when they weren’t supposed to and the number of times I had students ask me to get their cell phones out.  I firmly believe the respect given by me to them when it came to their device fed into the respect they gave back to me when it came to the use of their devices.  Oh, and the other point I want to argue is any teacher who has quality classroom management will have very few issues.

Internet Content Filtering is the fourth issue addressed in the post.  I completely understand this point, however, if students are bringing in laptops or tablets, students are going to have to connect to the network being used at the school. Then, the content can be filtered.  On the other hand, I know students who have 3G and 4G on their phones and I also have both on my phone.  There isn’t a big difference between the two.  When using cell phones, there can be an issue about accessing inappropriate sites.  With firm acceptable use policies in place, student expectations aren’t a guessing game. If students aren’t using the device for what is was intended, then they lose the privilage of using it at school.  Teachers can’t just sit at their desk either after giving the student an assignment.  They need to circulate and monitor their students the best they can to make sure the students are on task.

Finally, the mine is better than yours syndrome is not a solid enough reason to not incorporate a BYOD policy into a school. I am around middle schoolers and high schoolers every day and I don’t see this with technology nearly as much as I do with a pair of shoes, or clothing.  Some students are going to have a better or different device and I am sure there are going to be instances where students don’t have anything at all.  Growing up my best friend had the latest Nintendo, Sega, etc. and I never hated him or made fun of him. He never flaunted it to anyone either.  The only grade levels I could potentially see this would be in the elementary levels.  Nevertheless, this argument shouldn’t deter anyone from wanting to use tech devices in their classroom.

I normally don’t look to be argumentative with what I read online when it comes to professional publications, but this particular post/article struck a few nerves.  I had a very successful year with students bringing their own cell phones. Like with any lesson or unit in the classroom, I did have hurdles from time to time, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t overcome. I had a wide array of phones brought in and I had students who didn’t have them.  As a teacher you make adjustments and have alternative methods to meet the needs of all of your students.

Cheers!


Dodging Digital Difficulties: Implementing Digital Tools in Rural Schools

Is there anyone else out there who get the feeling from time to time that people are either reading your thoughts or they are on the same wave lengths as you when it comes to specific topics.  I have been freaked out twice by this in one day and though it can be a little spooky, I feel like I am making connections with people and it feels great!  This is how I felt when I found this great video on what it is like to teach teaching in rural America, that was tweeted by my national writing project colleague from West Virginia April Estep. You can follow her at @MsEstep on twitter.

I am not going to lie here folks, I know funding is an issue and every school district could use more money.  On the other hand, throwing money at the situation doesn’t always fix the perplexing problems we have in our rural schools.  And yes, I do teach at a rural school! With that being said, I know there are many rural schools that face technology issues in their district and each district can be very limited when it comes to students being able to access technology.  Believe me, I am guilty of crying and whining and wanting to kick my feet in frustration because I don’t have access to working computers or my students can’t use computers on a regular basis. Realistically, I strongly believe we waste more time complaining when we can find ways to improvise the use of technology.

First, I urge you to open up the use of cell phones in your classroom or your district.  My district is going to re-write the policy it has on cell phones just so students can use them in class.  I currently use Celly in class and Wiffiti has been suggested as a great tool to use too.  Second, I would like to suggest using something like Grammar Girl in your classroom.  There are multiple podcast for free available on many grammar issues.  My students love the fact they don’t have to always listen to me preaching about grammar.  Most audio sessions or lessons are no longer than 6-8 minutes.

Finally, as one last suggestion I would like to offer up the idea of students doing a paper blog.  Blogging on a computer can be challenging for teachers and educators that don’t have technology readily available to them.  However, that doesn’t mean we can’t teach students what a blog is and why people write them. Give students an opportunity to create a “paper blog”  This is a lesson I plan on sharing with my students on January 30th and then they will create their “paper blog” on February 1st.  There are many different ways to approach this lesson.  You can check out some paper blog activities on http://langwitches.org/blog/2008/12/27/blogging-lesson-plan-writing/.

So, channel that valuable energy for positive use and be creative in your classroom to help our 21st century learners.  Other simple ideas could be to allow students to bring in their Kindles and Nooks and designate some time to let them read.  Allow students to have their iPod or iTouch in class to use for a day.  Calculators on cell phones are also ways we can get around budget constraints for our students.

Although my suggestions may not fix the bigger problem, there are still other avenues to explore for implementing a digital world into our classroom.  My school isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  However, I have hard-working colleagues who are willing to put in the extra time to find grants and figure out what it is going to take to make our school more 21st century friendly.

Cheers!