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A Note from Tim: Forsyth County Schools in Georgia is in its fifth year of implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). The first year was spent on developing the infrastructure, and the last four years have focused on piloting the initiative, developing personal and professional capacity, and eventually spreading the practice of encouraging students to learn with their personal technology tools throughout the district. I have been so impressed with the dedication of our teachers to transform their classrooms with BYOT! In this series of posts, I am sharing some of their experiences from different grade levels in their own words.
Guest Post by Jennifer McCutchen (
Eighth Grade Teacher – Little Mill Middle School
My BYOT Transformational Journey
Using technology in the classroom was a paradigm shift for me as an educator. I can tell you it was hard to let go of the idea that I needed to somehow take all of my knowledge and transfer it to my students. After quite a bit of self-reflection and the BYOT initiative in our district, I came to understand the true meaning of becoming a facilitator of learning. I shared with a colleague that, as teachers, our job is a lot like a parent teaching our own children to ride a bike. As parents, we know how to ride a bike, but until our own children try it out on their own, they will never learn. It doesn’t start very pretty, there may be bumps and bruises along the way, but very quickly our children ride the bike…and do it well! The same can be said of my own classroom and using technology.
I began my journey by letting go of the fact that I am not going to be an expert on every device that walks into my room. Where I am not the expert, there is a student who is in every class! They love to be the expert and are eager to help each other. I asked students to find apps that they felt like were helpful to them to accomplish tasks that I would normally ask them to simply write and turn in. Students showed my apps such as “Show me” and “Skitch” where can draw my diagrams from the board, and then use them to make their own about different concepts. I could see a shift in how students communicate results in the lab. Students create lab write ups with rich discussion posts on WikiSpaces. They were now able to capture video to show chemical reactions. They could use voice overs to explain what happened in their own lab. They began sharing and analyzing student work; applying what they were learning to other situations. They asked such enlightening questions of each other, and made comments that I had never thought of! They compared data points on graphs, and analyzed why and how their results were alike and different than others. I could see the “light bulb” go off for students regarding human error and the scientific process.
A student summed up BYOT saying, “It used to be that just you (the teacher) saw our work, now everyone sees it. I want mine to be the best.” Peer pressure can be a great motivator, and combining it with technology makes it even greater!
I have learned to leave fear out of my classroom. I have learned to look at technology as a tool that allows students to learn more, do more and become more than they had been. My classroom has become an inviting and exciting place to learn, not just for my students, but for me, too!
This is Day 3 of a series of posts to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom. These ideas are my suggestions for developing a learning community during the first five days of school that can hopefully lead to an effective BYOT implementation for the rest of the year. Please modify these activities to better suit the needs, interests, and abilities of your students.
Scenario: Through consistent collaborative work with their technology tools, students are learning and practicing new uses for their devices. Even though it is still early in the year, they are developing into a community with a common vocabulary regarding expectations for online communication and for the responsible use of technology. Although every student may not have a device, the school’s technology resources are being used more than ever to facilitate instruction. However, the students still need to learn additional ways to scaffold the use of their tools for a variety of learning activities.
Activity – Encourage Participation
On Day 1 of this week, the students began a wiki page about ways they could learn with their devices. Continue to add to this list by having the students brainstorm specific activities they could complete each day with their devices. For this brainstorming activity, have students use the Socrative Student app (iOS, Android) to encourage the participation of all the students.
Socrative is a student response system that works on all web-enabled devices (including many e-readers), and students can download the free app for both iOS and Android devices. At this time, teachers can sign up for a free account, and with the free teacher app (iOS, Android), they can lead the student response activity from their teacher laptop/desktop or from their handheld devices. Socrative enables teachers to pose multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions. The other activities that teachers can conduct are pre-made quizzes, exit ticket activity, and a space race game where students can engage, either individually or collaboratively in a game using a pre-made quiz. Teachers can also manage and share their quizzes with other colleagues.
Students do not need accounts to use Socrative; they just select the link (on the Internet) or the app on their handheld devices. Then they enter the room number that the teacher provides them from the teacher account and then join the room. They are directed to wait until the teacher begins the activity (by asking a question or starting a quiz), and then they enter their names and begin.
For this activity, log into Socrative and select a Short Answer quiz. Ask the students what ways that they can use their devices at school to complete tasks they already do without technology. Instead of raising their hands to answer the question, have students submit their suggestions using Socrative and their devices. If they do not have a device, they can use the Internet-based Socrative application from a school technology resource, or they can collaborate with a peer and submit an answer with one device.
Using Socrative is a more effective way to encourage participation than just raising hands because this models the expectation that all students have valuable insights to be shared rather than only the students who are more comfortable with speaking in front of the group. After the students submit their suggestions, Socrative enables the teacher to have the students vote on the answers. This polling can help to generate further discussion. Another student can also be involved by entering all of these suggestions in Wikispaces within the class wiki page – Ways to Learn with Our Devices.
Here are some possible ideas for additional ways that students can use their devices to enter into the class wiki page:
- Solve math problems with a calculator app
- Use an online thesaurus or app during writing assignments
- Define unfamiliar vocabulary words
- Take notes during lessons
- Enter due dates on a calendar
- Research new concepts
- Read eBooks
- Participate in online discussions
Another suggestion for using Socrative is to have students submit their own questions (using the Short Answer option) that the teacher can then use in pre-made quizzes or as follow-up questions. These questions can be based on new content or topics, and they encourage the students to think about what they are learning. Try this activity by having the students submit questions about Responsible Use and then pose those questions to the class. Their questions and answers can also be uploaded to the class wiki page – Our Responsible Use Guidelines – if additional recommendations are generated.
Homework (Post these assignments in Edmodo.)
- Develop your Wikispaces profile. Yesterday, you created your profile in Edmodo. Tonight, you should also develop your profile in Wikispaces. Again, this personalizes the experience of working within a social network. As part of your profile, you should upload an appropriate photo or avatar that represents you. As always, if you do not have a computer at home to complete this assignment, you will be provided time to complete it at school. Try to come to school tomorrow with a completed profile in Wikispaces.
- Download these apps: Research and download apps that help you complete the different class activities listed in our class wiki. Recommend these apps to the other members of the class in our Edmodo group.
This is Day 1 of a series of posts this week to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom. In order to begin this series, I made three assumptions:
- The principal supports BYOT (see 5 Leadership Strategies for Implementing BYOT).
- Some background communication has occurred with parents and community members to achieve support for BYOT in the school.
- The school has some type of wireless infrastructure and access for supporting BYOT or permits students to bring their own data plans.
Scenario: The students are entering the classroom, and some of them are bringing devices to school. They have already visited the class during Open House, and learned about becoming a BYOT school, and the reality is that, as Jill Hobson, Director of Instructional Technology for Forsyth County Schools, has stated, “You’re already BYOT, but you won’t admit it.” Therefore, many students already have devices in their pockets and backpacks and just need to know how to use them in new ways to facilitate their learning experiences.
Activity – Build a Community
In any strong community, members know the rules and expectations for how they should learn and work together. Educators and schools often just give students the list of rules for students to follow, but BYOT provides greater opportunities for student participation. Expectations for responsible use will be more meaningful to students if they help create them. This process increases student buy in by make the guidelines relevant.
- Discuss Responsible Use. Have students provide examples of how devices should be used appropriately at school and what could happen when devices are used irresponsibly. I would begin this as a class discussion because although many students know how to use their devices, I wouldn’t assume that they know how to use them appropriately within a school setting. Remember, many students are self-taught or peer-taught in how technology should be used.
- Facilitate the Discussion. Guidelines for responsible use need to address the following issues: Netiquette, Cyberbullying, Plagiarism, Security, Maintenance of Devices, Privacy, Passwords, Appropriate Content, and Safe Online Searches. As the moderator of the class discussion, the teacher can help to ensure that these topics come up during the discussion. There may also be some additional issues that should be discussed that are relevant within your particular learning community.
- Share Out about Devices. Have students take out their devices and share them with each other by discussing with a small group or the whole class how they already use their technology. There are several reasons why this sharing is important:
- It acknowledges the expertise of students in their technology tools, and it shows that you trust them to be responsible with them at school.
- Students are usually eager to share what they know about their devices, and this time to share helps them to make connections between personal uses of technology and educational purposes.
- It helps students express the excitement of bringing their technology to school so that they are able to focus and work with their devices more constructively in later activities.
- It allows you and the other students to help distinguish between all of the different devices so that everyone can assist with securing the technology and finding the experts on particular devices.
- It helps you and the students to learn more about all of the different capabilities of the technology available within the classroom.
- It is sometimes easier to talk about your technology tools in a new group than it is to talk about yourself, so it is a good way to begin communicating with others.
- Begin a Wiki. Go to Wikispaces, and sign up to begin a new wiki for your class. I like this tool because the wiki is free, and I can add students into it even if they don’t have email addresses. It is really easy to use, and it tracks each change that is made to a wiki. If a student accidentally deletes too much content, I can revert the wiki back to an earlier edition. Wikis encourage collaboration by empowering all of the students to produce and edit content that can be shared with the entire class.In your class wiki, develop two pages:
1. Our Responsible Use Guidelines
Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki. Based on the earlier discussion on responsible use, have students develop the guidelines and expectations for how they should use their devices at school. They should at least address all of the topics that were suggested regarding responsible use.
2. Ways to Learn with Our Devices
Have students use their own technology tools or school technology resources or work with a partner to add to this page within the wiki. From the sharing of devices, they should explain how the tools can be used at school for learning about new things, and students may even share new ideas and strategies through the wiki that they did not express during the discussion.
These pages can be revisited throughout the school year as often as needed. Students are continually upgrading and getting new devices, and the wiki can be a source of good collective information.
- Have students share the wiki with their parents. It encourages good home/school communication, and it is reassuring to parents that their child is learning responsible use.
- Have students download these apps: Edmodo, Socrative-Student, Comic Touch Lite (these links are for iOS devices – iPads/iPhones). Some of these same apps are also available with Android devices, and encourage students to look for them with their parents. For a more comprehensive list of apps look at this list: Apps for Mobile Devices. If students do not have a device, reassure them that they can use the school’s technology resources, and many of these activities can also be completed with a variety of technology tools.