Posts Tagged edublogs

Connected to Learning with BYOT

When students use their own technology tools within a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom, they can construct new connections that lead to new opportunities for learning.  However, many teachers are afraid of what can happen when students make these connections, but these fears are often unfounded when students explore new ways to learn with their own technology at school.  In this post, I describe some different ways that students can connect at school and some possible resources for making those connections, and I included Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube even though those sites may not be appropriate for all ages and are blocked within many school settings.

Students Connecting to Each Other

Students can connect with each other via their technology devices, and according to a recent study, approximately 63% of teens say they communicate with text messages with others in their lives (Lenhart, 2012).  Yet, when many students enter their schools, their handheld devices are banned, and communication with their peers are limited in order to listen to lectures and direct instruction in preparation for standardized tests.  In the BYOT classroom, however, students can learn and practice new ways to connect with each other through the use of social media when they are involved in collaborative activities with their devices. Participating in group assignments such as developing a class wiki or creating a photo journal can encourage students to share their ideas and demonstrate their learning.  Here are some additional resources for helping students connect with each other.

Students Connecting to Teachers

The bond that teachers can create with the students in their classrooms can help to develop the expectations and community necessary for a successful BYOT initiative.  These connections can be motivating to students and help them become persistent learners.  In the BYOT classroom, students can develop connections with their teachers as they work alongside each other to utilize technology in the discovery of new concepts and strategies. The traditional role of the teacher as the expert of content knowledge who disseminates that understanding to students through lectures is is often turned upside down in the digital age when as a community of learners, teachers and students build new meanings together.  Students can connect with their teachers through the following collaborative tools that allow them to discuss topics they are learning in class and send messages to each other.

Students Connecting to Content

Many of the concepts that students learn in school are unfamiliar and abstract.  By using their own technology devices that they have personalized with their favorite apps and shortcuts, students in the BYOT classroom are able to make greater connections to the content that they are learning.  They are also able to locate the information they need just in time to understand these new concepts. Digital Age learners expect to be find ready information as needed to answer their questions, and that information needs to be engaging, visual, and interactive to achieve maximum impact on students.   Students can connect with content to demonstrate what they know and with their technology tools they have the capability to emphasize their unique areas of strength and particular talents.  These resources can help students connect to content at home and school.


Lenhart, A. (2012, March 19). Teens, smartphones, & texting. Retrieved from

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Day 5 of BYOT

This is Day 5 of a series of posts this week 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.  Hopefully, this sense of community will lead to an effective BYOT implementation for the rest of the year as students learn and practice the digital age skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.  Please modify these activities to better suit the needs, interests, and abilities of your students.

Scenario:  This week the students have begun to construct an online presence through their collaborative work in Wikispaces, Edmodo, and Edublogs with the combined use of school, home, and personal technology tools.  By designing their online profiles in these digital habitats, they have personalized their learning experiences.  By discovering and recognizing the abilities, interests, and strengths of themselves and of the other members of their learning community, they are positioned to develop a brand, reputation, and digital footprint that can lead to future academic success and someday maybe even to new career opportunities.  Rather than to deliver a standardized curriculum that is assessed with traditional multiple choice tests, the vital role of the teacher is to guide the development of these individual and collaborative pursuits and passions.

Activity – Spark a Passion

This week, Shelly Terrell wrote a post entitled 10 Kids Transforming their World through Social Media.  That well-written post describe the efforts of 10 children and teens who are making a difference with the use of digital skills and tools about their particular passions.  One young teen, Adora Svitak gave a Ted Talk called What Adults Can Learn from Kids; she is an author who has written books, maintains a website, and speaks at educational conferences.  According to her website, “Adora believes that everyone deserves the opportunity that comes with literacy and a good education.”  In her efforts to accomplish this endeavor, she believes that learning with teachers and children should be “reciprocal,” and a major feature of this learning environment is “trust.”

Likewise, trust has to be a focal element in the BYOT classroom.  There really is no way that a teacher cannot empower students to learn with so many different devices and use so many web tools without developing a learning community that is founded on trust for everyone in the group.  As the students begin to explore and develop new interests and practice digital age skills, the teacher should model high expectations that sustain trust in the learning community.

Here are some ways to model high expectations:

  • Celebrate diversity.  Appreciate the differences among your students and recognize that those differences are important to the strength of the learning community as everyone has the potential to add something unique.
  • Challenge everyone.  A way of increasing rigor in the classroom is to expect everyone to achieve and complete high quality work that includes in-depth reflection and practice.
  • Believe students want to do the right thing.  This is a big issue.  Some teachers are suspicious that their students want to break rules or view inappropriate content.  Engage your students in their learning by empowering them to make choices and use their devices as needed.
  • Follow the teachable moment.  Don’t get so attached to your lesson plans and standards that you miss great teaching opportunities.  Many of the best lessons in the BYOT classroom happen just in time at the moment they’re needed.
  • Share your interests with the students.  The students will be more willing to share and discuss their passions when they realize that their teacher is a real person with personal interests and aspirations.

Steps to spark a passion:

Share the stories of the students given in Shelly Terrell’s post and have them listen to Adora Svitak’s Ted Talk.  As students get older, they often get more accustomed to being told what to do, and they need to understand that they are expected to get involved and make choices.  Hearing about what other young people are able to achieve through their passion and dedication can be motivating.

Another great post to motivate students is Caine’s Arcade – What Happened During a Summer Freed From Texts, Tests, & Teachers coauthored by Lisa Nielsen and Lisa Cooley.  That post relates the story of Caine who followed his passion and utilized his creativity to accomplish something amazing!

The following activity was inspired by a suggestion by Jeremy Angoff.  Have students brainstorm ideas about current issues or events that they think should be addressed.  Use one of the community’s online spaces for this discussion.  An option is to use the short answer question in Socrative to generate responses and then host the discussion within Edmodo.  Another student could accumulate all of the different options in one page in the class wiki in Wikispaces.  The page could be called, Issues that Concern Us or Ways We Can Make a Difference.

Students can work independently or in groups to choose and research an issue.  This is a good time to discuss safe searching, and what type of search engine to use depending on the age of the students.  Have the students draft what they learn about that issue or concern in their student blogs in Edublogs.  This activity also provides an opportunity to explain how to provide credit various online sources of information.  The students should then reflect on what they could do to make a difference regarding their issue and develop a plan in their blogs for putting their ideas into action.

Homework (Post this assignment in Edmodo.)

Now that you are empowered with your personal technology tools in BYOT, social networking tools, and an idea you are passionate about, begin putting your plan into action.  Document your strategies and activities in your blog so that you can share them with the rest of your learning community.

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Day 4 of BYOT

This is Day 4 of a series of posts this week 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.  Hopefully, this sense of community will lead to an effective BYOT implementation for the rest of the year as students learn and practice the digital age skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.  Please modify these activities to better suit the needs, interests, and abilities of your students.

Scenario: Throughout this week students have been empowered to utilize their own technology tools for a variety of instructional uses.  A synergy is developing between their online collaborative activities and their face-to-face classwork.  As they work together more online, the more they collaborate and communicate in the face-to-face classroom.  One fear of many teachers is that they feel as if they are losing control of their classes when students experience the agency to use their devices as needed and begin to share their ideas with each other so readily.  However, this shift represents the students taking ownership of their learning experiences, and it should be encouraged.

Activity – Nurture Communication

There are many ways that the digital age skill of communication can be facilitated in the BYOT classroom.  This week, it has been practiced through the use of Wikispaces, Edmodo, and Socrative, yet another way to promote further communication is through blogging.  A blog provides students with the opportunity to reflect on their learning, share ideas and responses with others, and highlight their academic successes.  Blogging enables students to develop their own personal portfolios as they post and document the artifacts of their learning – their writing and projects.  Although there are many types of blogging tools, my district has subscribed to Edublogs for all of its students and teachers.


Edublogsoffers free blogging for students, and this use of social networking is an authentic way to teach and practice responsible use.  There is an Edublogs app for iOS devices, or students can use other devices to participate in blogging.  Students are able to begin drafts of their writing within their blogs and when the draft is finished, they can easily publish each post.  This week, the students completed their profiles within the other web tools at home.  After the students have signed up for their blogs, they should complete their profiles and customize their blogs in class.  I advise students to use the same photo or avatar for each of their profiles in order to develop an online presence in the class that represents them and their personal strengths and interests.  Edublogs offers several themes so that students can choose designs that complement their profiles.

The following list explains just a few reasons why I think that it is essential for students (and teachers) to blog:

  • Blogging causes students to make connections to what they are learning as they reflect.
  • Blogging stimulates critical thinking as students take a stand on an issue and explain supportive reasons for that stand.
  • Blogging provides opportunities for on-going debate and discussion as students respond to each other’s posts.
  • Blogging showcases and documents student work and creativity.
  • Blogging helps students discover their strengths and share their expertise with others.

Branding through Blogging

Throughout the year in the BYOT classroom, the students will continue to develop and practice digital age skills, and this authentic work can lead to an appreciation for individual differences and strengths.  This recognition is influenced by several factors.  First, the students already have personal interests, and they have the agency with their devices to further refine and perfect those capabilities.  Second, BYOT can be the great differentiator in the classroom, Students who have mastered particular skills and concepts can move ahead more easily, and students who need additional practice can receive that support with the use of their own technology tools.  Third, when students are empowered to make choices and encouraged to work collaboratively on relevant topics, diverse sets of skills are needed by the learning community for it to be successful.  Finally, since the teacher is unable to know every device or every online tool, they have to learn alongside students, and this transformation helps everyone to assume the role of a learner.

As students discover their talents, they can offer advice and support to other members of the learning community.  They are often branded as the student you can go to when you need an effective speaker, a videographer, an artist, or a technician.  Through blogging, students are able to highlight their individual areas of expertise and this brand becomes further aligned to their personal identities.

When students have finished personalizing their blogs, have them write autobiographical drafts that will be posted in their blogs.  There is usually an “About” or “Bio” tab in the blog’s theme where the students can write this information.  The teacher will need to review with the students the importance of maintaining online privacy, so the students will need to use critical thinking (along with the guidance of their teacher) to determine what types of information is appropriate for publishing on the web.  They should not include actual photos of themselves; provide their last names; or give other identifying information (address, teams, or neighborhood).  This will become their first post, so they need to begin thinking about the possibilities of their brand!

Homework (Post these assignments in Edmodo.)

  1. Publish your first post.  Today you completed an autobiographical post that included some of your strengths and interests.  Share that post with your parents.  What do they think about what you have shared?  What qualities do they think you should include?  Revise your post if necessary and publish it.
  2. Discuss in Edmodo.  What other ways do you think we could learn with blogging this year?  Discuss this question in Edmodo by posting your suggestions as a “Note.”

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Just in Time Learning for BYOT

I have sometimes heard the misconception that before a school begins implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), students need to be trained in the acceptable use of technology that has been predetermined by the district; however, many of the digital age skills that students are developing as they use their devices at school occur just in time as they are needed in the course of the process of learning.  Just in time learning entails that as a specialized strategy is necessary to solve a problem or share a solution, then that skill is learned and utilized in a relevant way within the context of the work.  There are several just in time skills that students begin to acquire within the BYOT classroom.

Just in Time Digital Citizenship

We have all heard of students making mistakes with technology or using it inappropriately, often with devastating consequences.  Many of these issues occur because students are self-taught or peer-taught in how they should use their devices without the just in time guidance of a teacher.  When students are empowered to bring their personal technology devices to school to assume more control of their learning, they can be coached in responsible ways to use technology.  Students in the BYOT classroom, have the advantage of learning how to use their devices for instructional purposes with the facilitation of their teachers.  Students continually practice and refine digital citizenship in the BYOT classroom as they learn with each other through the use of the same technology devices that they use at home.  Skills in netiquette, the appropriate ways to communicate with others online, as well as strategies for ensuring Internet safety, can be encouraged by the teacher within the BYOT learning community.

Just in Time Technical Troubleshooting

As devices and applications continue to change, there is no one consistent method for resolving technical issues.  Technical troubleshooting and instruction must occur just in time in the BYOT classroom according to the pertinent needs of the situation.  Teachers and students learn how to use new technology tools and programs while they are being utilized, and students often provide the technical training for their peers and their teachers.  Since students are utilizing different devices for instruction, they will have to become proficient with the technical aspects of their own tools and usually become recognized for their particular areas of expertise.  In this way, students and teachers can develop critical problem-solving strategies for working and learning within a digital world.

Just in Time Collaboration

Learning how to work with others to achieve a common purpose is essential to the BYOT classroom because students are bringing different devices to school, and those devices have different capabilities.  The students also possess different knowledge, abilities, and interests, therefore, they have to pool their resources and intellect and negotiate responsibilities for the learning.  Groups need to be dynamic and fluid as students work together and with their teacher to share information and make decisions.  Many Web 2.0 sites can be used to develop online collaborative spaces, including Edmodo and WikispacesJust in time collaboration can occur synchronously or asynchronously and capitalizes on the potential strengths of everyone in the learning community.

Just in Time Critical Thinking

Critical thinking with BYOT involves being able to distinguish among conflicting information and facts as students conduct research with their personal devices.  Recognizing propaganda and determining the accuracy of content are other essential critical thinking abilities required by the digital age.  Students need to develop the capacity to use reason as they formulate opinions based on what they already know and on what they have learned from their classmates and in online searches.  Students learning how to make these decisions just in time can be nurtured by the classroom teacher through modeling, practicing, reflecting, and questioning.  A great tool for posing questions to students is Socrative.  It works across multiple devices and incorporates various types of questions, and teachers can easily create follow up questions to responses that students have texted and shared with the rest of the class.

Just in Time Communication

In the traditional classroom, communication is often one-way – directed from the teacher and toward the student.  In the BYOT classroom, there is a potential shift in communication as students use their devices to discuss content they are learning with others, set goals for themselves, and share new concepts.  This communication happens just in time as the students are encouraged to communicate, whenever and wherever, as a function and expression of learning.  The lines of communication are now multi-directional and extend beyond the classroom as students can web conference through Skype with other students in classrooms around the globe.  They can instantaneously publish their ideas by blogging using Edublogs or through other blogging tools.  Blogs can become a lasting portfolio of student work, and this process of authorship helps students to develop an authentic and beneficial digital footprint.

Just in Time Creativity

With the abundance of free and inexpensive applications for mobile devices, students are able to develop new skills in creativity.  In the BYOT classroom, teachers can help foster creativity as students utilize their personal technology tools to invent and design original products.  These inventions are often constructed just in time as solutions to problems or for students to illustrate what they have learned in imaginative new ways.  In this manner, students aspire to become producers of content that they find relevant rather than solely being consumers of static information that has been predetermined as meaningful for students.  With netbooks and laptops, students can download the free, open source, program Audacity to develop podcasts and recordings, or they can record straight to their handheld devices.  Students can also use the camera tools on their devices to take photographs and easily turn these photos into new creations with the use of iPhoneography apps (my favorite is Pixlr-o-matic). VoiceThread is a web tool (with an app for mobile devices) that can enable multiple users to upload their original photos and comment on them collaboratively.

One more note… Just in Time

By the way, just in time professional learning opportunities also emerge for teachers in the BYOT classroom as they learn alongside their students and discover new interests, skills, and strengths in the use of personal technology for instruction.

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Teaching the 4 C’s in BYOT

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has developed a Framework for 21st Century Learning that identifies key learning and innovation skills, otherwise known as the 4 C’s: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration.   In the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom, facilitating the 4 C’s becomes a logical extension of classroom instruction as students are connected to their learning and each other with their personal technology devices.  With their own tools, students are able to practice and develop the 4 C’s as the teacher coaches, scaffolds, and models the learning.  Of course, the students are the experts in their own devices, but the teacher has to create an environment that is conducive of exploration and inquiry so that students have the opportunity to learn how to learn with their technology.  One way the teacher can encourage this type of environment is by learning alongside the students.

Another strategy for implementing the 4 C’s within instruction is to promote them with the use of web tools and project-based learning.  Although there is some overlap among the 4 C’s  depending on how the tools are being used, I have provided some specific examples below:

Creativity – VoiceThread

A VoiceThread is an online slide show that enables students to upload and present images, documents, and videos and then share comments by writing or recording messages.  They can also draw on the slides in order to annotate them during the presentation.  Although VoiceThread is a great tool for supporting all of the 4 C’s, it can encourage creative expression with the students’ devices.  Students can take their own photos and create presentations to demonstrate what they have learned, and the other students can provide creative comments.  For example, in a study of similes (comparisons using like or as), a student can take a photo of an object with an iPod Touch and optimize it in a free photo app (one of my personal favorites is Pixlr-o-matic).  The student then saves the photo and uploads it into VoiceThread.  The other students can then provide interesting similies in their responses that involve the object in the photo.  There is an app for VoiceThread that can be downloaded on the iTunes store for iPods and iPads, or VoiceThreads can be created online on Macs or PCs.

Critical thinking – Socrative

Socrative is a web-based student response system that enables teachers to ask multiple choice, true/false, or short answer questions that students answer on their own devices.  Teachers can also create and save quizzes ahead of time for students to complete, or they can begin ad-hoc sessions during class discussions with students.  One aspect of Socrative that promotes critical thinking is that after asking an open-ended short answer question, the teacher can easily choose to have student vote on their answers.  Teachers can also have students participate in an activity in Socrative called Space Race in which students can compete in random or assigned teams to complete a teacher-made quiz and be the first to get their team’s rocket to the finish line.  I have seen this activity increase collaboration even in a high school AP Calculus class as the students worked in groups to solve problems and answer the questions.  It works effectively even if every student does not have a device because the students can take share a device to answer questions and the new concepts are more likely to be retained as the students learn them in groups.  The short answer option can be useful for the students to text in their own questions, and the teacher can then pose these questions back to the class or use them in a future quiz.  Socrative also provides a preset Ticket Out the Door to assess student understanding of the learned content.  There is a teacher app for Socrative (iOS, Android) as well as a student app (iOS, Android), so teachers are able to conduct the session from their smartphones or laptops, and students can participate via smartphones, laptops, or desktops.

Communication – Edublogs

With Edublogs, teachers and students can develop blogs for education that help to provide opportunities for communication in the classroom and in a global community.  When students have their own blogs, they are able to publish the results of their project-based learning and collaboration and share what they have accomplished with others.  Writing becomes more authentic as students have a purpose for their writing assignments, and students are able to customize their blogs according to their personal learning interests and styles.  Although a blog is useful for publishing creative writing, it can also be used to communicate technical concepts like the steps in a scientific process accompanied with photos of the activity.  Edublogs also publishes an annual list of the best blogs in education as well as additional web tools and apps on The Edublog Awards Blog.  This list can be a useful resource for teachers and students as they begin developing their blogs.  A teacher can sign up each student in the class for a blog, even in elementary grades, because an email address is not required.  There is no app for Edublogs, but blogs can be edited through the Internet browser on smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops.

Collaboration – Wikispaces

A wiki is a collaborative space for teachers and students to construct their learning experiences together.  Teachers can develop class wikis in Wikispaces and easily upload all of their students, even if they do not have email addresses.  In the wiki, the teacher and students can encourage a sense of community in the classroom by sharing files and creating content.  As the students edit their work within the wiki, the teacher can track who made all of the changes to determine student participation. Like a blog, a wiki makes a good launchpad for encouraging BYOT.  Since the students are working independently or in small groups, the wiki gives them a place to continue their projects or assignments while the teacher is learning alongside and coaching other students in the class.  One example of how a wiki was used in a middle school math classroom, is that the teacher divided the students into groups to explain particular problem solving strategies and mathematical concepts.  In this manner, the students in the class actually produced their own math “textbook” as an on-going project that they were able to use as a resource.  Although, there is no app for Wikispaces, the students are able to edit text on the browser of their handheld devices, and they are able to use tablets, laptops, and desktops to complete all of their other editing in the wiki.

Some final thoughts…

The above resources are currently free, at least for individual teacher accounts, or a district may choose to subscribe to them in order to receive analytics or more customization.  Their use in the BYOT classroom can be a good way for teachers to begin implementing BYOT and encouraging students to bring their own technology tools to school to facilitate their learning.

What other tools and strategies can be used to promote the 4 C’s in today’s digital age classrooms?

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