Posts Tagged Strategies

Learning from the Journey with BYOT

I recently participated in the Family Online Safety Institute’s (FOSI) Annual Conference in Washington, DC.  My 13 year old son was fortunately able to go along for the trip, and as a history buff, he was eager to tour the notable sites in DC.  I arrived the day before the conference and was able to explore the city with him and my wife.  We took the DC Metro, and he immediately searched for a possible app for his iPhone to make navigation easier.  He discovered that there were several mobile apps for that purpose, and he decided on DC Rider.  With that app, he was able to see the arrival times of the different trains and to compare possible routes for each trip.  He owned this whole adventure, and I found myself following his lead as he directed us along the path to each destination.  Sometimes he selected some clever and creative ways for us to arrive at a site, when I might have chosen the direct route, but the journey became as essential to him as the final, planned location.

Later I reflected on this experience through the lens of the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom.  It is necessary for teachers to know when to make suggestions in order to guide students, but it is often more essential to understand when to get out of the way and encourage students to lead.  Students usually know more about their own technology than their teachers, and with BYOT they can use these tools to access all of the information that exists in the world.  They can explore authentic problems and discover creative solutions and design innovative products.  It is fine to have a destination in mind, but there really is no end of the line in the process of learning, and teachers and students should enjoy exploring all of the alternative paths along the way.

Finally, I realized the next day, as I had to navigate the DC Metro without my son’s assistance, that I had become dependent on his leadership and skills.  I floundered for a little bit until I was able to orient myself.  I decided that next time I would try a little harder to learn from and with him as he used his technology instead of just being a passive observer and follower.  Then we could both be learning from the journey with BYOT!

, , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Day 1 of BYOT

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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Intro to the First Week of BYOT

I recently wrote a post called the First Five Days of School with BYOT that was inspired by the challenge of Alan November’s  First Five Day’s project to use the first five days of school to set the stage for further success.  That post was focused on the big picture or vision of Bring Your Own Technology to build learning communities and to make learning more relevant by connecting instruction to students’ personal technology devices.

The post was well-received, yet in thinking about teachers dealing with the day-to-day challenges involved in working with students, especially at the beginning of the year, I decided that a more hands-on, practical approach would be appreciated.  However, one post that specified strategies and activities that a teacher could conduct each day for the first week of school could be overwhelming.

Therefore, during this week, I wrote a daily post for each day of implementing BYOT within the classroom for the first week of school.  I tied to provide advice about the types of tools and strategies that I would employ during the week to address the needs of my students as well as develop a learning community in my classroom that could support learning for the rest of the year.

Since there are so many subject areas and grade levels involved in K-12 education, I generally tried to address particular tools and strategies.  I welcome teachers to customize my suggestions to their classroom communities and curricula.  Please share your insights to assist other teachers with the implementation of BYOT by responding to the daily posts.

I hope you find these posts useful to your BYOT implementation.  All of the daily posts and the goals for those days are listed below… 

, , , ,


The First Five Days of School with BYOT

I recently read an article by Dennis Pierce in eSchool News that discussed Alan November’s “First Five Days” project. November announced this project at his Building Learning Communities conference in Boston in July 2012 with the goal being to make the most out of the beginning of the school year in order to set the stage for nurturing further success.

From my conversations with teachers around the country, many educators are returning to schools with new policies aimed at encouraging students to Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) to facilitate learning experiences. In thinking about the first five days in a BYOT classroom, what kinds of things should happen to successfully begin this transformational implementation?

I brainstormed my own list and tried to organize it chronologically according to each of the five days. However, I again realized that in the BYOT classroom, many things have to happen just in time (or simultaneously), and a sequential list of orderly items was impossible (for me). As Anne Collier explained in her blog at NetFamilyNews.Org, all kinds of learning [happens] all at once with BYOT. Instead, I’ve enumerated a simple list of five strategies for the first five days of BYOT and provided links to additional resources whenever possible.

Construct a learning community. You will need an online space to house your learning community. Wenger, White, and Smith referred to this online space as a digital habitat, and the teacher becomes the steward or facilitator of that habitat. That space could be a blog, website, wiki, LMS, etc, and this is the environment where you and your students can learn more about each other, participate in on-going discussions, and practice digital age skills. As you decide what type of space you should use, think about the needs of your students. This may include the accessibility they have to various types of technologies; their ages, interests and capabilities; and your goals for interaction. For more information, review these strategies for designing an online learning community.

Discuss responsible use. Empower your students to talk about the appropriate ways to use their technology tools at home and school. Students need time to share their devices with each other and to demonstrate how they use them. They can also provide scenarios regarding technology use that illustrate the importance of using them responsibly. When is the right time to utilize technology tools, and when should they be put down in order to be “present in the moment” as suggested by Jen LaMaster in her blog of Ed Tech Reflections? Encourage your students to develop these group norms for behavior in your learning community along with your input, and provide them with multiple opportunities to practice and reflect on responsible use during the first five days of school.

Model your expectations. It isn’t sufficient to just say that you have high expectations for every student. Show the students that you trust them to do the right things with their technology devices. For example, every student can participate in a class wiki to develop guidelines for responsible use so that everyone contributes to the body of knowledge of the learning community. Students are actually smarter in the appropriate use of technology, than most people think (see here). A free class wiki can be organized in Wikispaces to ensure the input of all students.

Practice the 4 C’s of Digital Age Learning – Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. Begin a week long project that supports inquiry and the use of the students’ technology devices. If some students do not bring technology devices, encourage collaboration through sharing and maximize the use of the school’s technology resources. Projects need to engage students in higher level thinking and authentic work. Bernajean Porter explained different uses of technology: Literacy, Adapting, and Transforming in her Grappling’s Technology and Learning Spectrum, and in the first five days, the students will have to participate in some literacy and adapting activities. However, the ultimate goal should be to achieve transforming uses of technology in that students become producers, rather than solely consumers in their learning, and the implementation of BYOT can lead to greater student agency and empowerment within the learning community.

Be patient. Understand that students will occasionally make mistakes with their technology devices, but these mistakes are essential during this learning process. Use these situations to reinforce the appropriate ways to use technology at school as well as to learn new technical skills. Although they may know how to use these for entertainment and communication, they don’t always know how to learn with them as members of a community. If you don’t know how to resolve a situation, be willing to learn alongside and from your student experts. Consistently challenge students to do their best work and look forward to an outstanding school year!

Can you think of some additional strategies for BYOT in the first five days of school?

, , , , , ,


5 Leadership Strategies for Implementing BYOT

Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) is essentially a “bottom up” initiative  in the sense that students already have personal technology devices in their pockets, and they often provide the incentive or demand to begin using those tools for instruction.   Educators usually have to scramble to catch up to students in the personal uses of technology and have to be willing to learn alongside them to facilitate BYOT effectively.   This shift entails the transformation of learning experiences as students progress from solely being consumers of information to becoming producers of original content.  This can be a challenging metamorphosis in many learning environments, but by utilizing some key strategies, school leaders can purposefully nurture a culture that is beneficial for transformational learning with BYOT.

1. Empowering – Learning to share ownership of the BYOT experience can be difficult for classroom teachers as they begin to empower students to develop a sense of agency.  Students have to use critical thinking to make authentic choices about how they will learn with their devices and creativity to show what they have learned.  This agency involves trusting the students and maintaining high expectations for responsible use of technology.  School leaders demonstrate trust of their teachers and students as they recognize the inherent leadership of others and begin to open communication about technology uses rather than insisting on blocking and banning technology tools.

2. Modeling – School leaders need to model learning with BYOT as they work with teachers and students.  There is no “one size fits all” learning community, and professional learning has to become differentiated for the teachers so that they can choose among the tools and strategies based on their individual interests and needs.  As school leaders begin to focus on developing processes and skills within the learning community instead of only on content knowledge, teachers will also emphasize those abilities in their classrooms.  When a school leader continually reviews only numerical data from standardized test scores, then the instructional message becomes “teach to the test.”  By being a personal lifelong learner who is willing to learn from others. a school leader can model a passion for learning and trying new things.

3. Practicing – A key strategy for promoting a BYOT initiative is for school leaders to begin using their own technology devices by exploring ways to use social media for personal and professional learning.  Through the use of Twitter, they can develop networks that can help them connect with other educators to share ideas and strategies for instruction, technology, and leadership.  They can also use Twitter and personal technology devices to lead professional learning activities and encourage collaboration.  As leaders practicing BYOT, they can begin recommending apps and tools to teachers and students as they promote digital age skills within their schools and learn new uses for personal technology.

4. Encouraging – As teachers and students begin experimenting with their devices to discover new instructional approaches, they will occasionally make some mistakes.  A school leader has to encourage the learning community to persist in the use of their technology tools and remain understanding through this process of trial and error.  This encouragement reinforces a culture that is supportive of growth and innovation. It includes being a cheerleader who is excited about students bringing their technology devices to school and embraces the pedagogical change that occurs when students own the learning.  This enthusiasm for learning with BYOT is contagious!

5. Advocating – Members of the learning community may not have an understanding of the need for BYOT within schools.  After all, many children often receive their first technology devices to keep them entertained while they are sitting in the backseat of a car or waiting in a restaurant.  Parents are more accustomed to seeing their child’s attention being absorbed by a device, but in a school setting, students are eager to share and collaborate with their technology rather than use them in isolation.  A school leader has to communicate the possible uses of personal technology for learning opportunities to hesitant parents, community members, and school system personnel.

On a final note, instead of viewing BYOT as a bottom up or top down initiative, school leaders can choose to view it as a community endeavor in which everyone plays a vital role in its successful implementation.  What other leadership strategies involving BYOT can you suggest for school leaders?

, , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

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?

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Coaching BYOT in the Classroom

Students create videos to assess appropriate form and their use of the weight equipment.

In a recent tour of a high school implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT), I was somewhat surprised to learn that some of the early adopters of BYOT in that school were the coaches in the PE department rather than in the academic areas.  After reading a recent post in Edutopia entitled Telling Isn’t Teaching: The Fine Art of Coaching, by Dr. Richard Curwin, I realized that the successful implementation of BYOT by coaches makes a lot of sense.

According to Dr. Curwin, coaches can help students develop new abilities through repetition.  With consistent practice, students learn how to transfer skills into automatic behaviors and habits.  Coaches guide students into exploring their various alternative  responsible choices and to carry them out successfully.

Coaching and BYOT

Likewise, in the BYOT classroom, students need their teachers to become good coaches to guide them in learning how to use their personal technology devices appropriately and responsibly.  Students have traditionally used their technology for personal reasons, such as communicating with friends, listening to music, watching videos, and playing games, but the shift into using their devices for learning academic content is often an unfamiliar experience.  Furthermore, instead of solely consuming media, the ultimate goal of BYOT is to provide students with the means to become producers of original content that encompasses their personal interests as well as academic information.  Practice in these types of activities can help to create new automatic uses of their own technology.

Steps for Coaching in the BYOT Classroom

Teachers can try employing the following strategies, as they become coaches within their BYOT classroom:

A student models his exercises with the use of an app on his smartphone.

  1. Provide students with ample time for practicing new skills with their own technology.  Remember that although they know how to use their devices, they are now being expected to use them in new ways.  It takes practice time to make learned behaviors part of a routine.
  2. Personalize the help you give students based on their personal needs, interests, and abilities.  Good coaches observe their students and understand how to motivate each one individually.  Encouraging differentiation of processes and products helps in the personalization of the learning experience.
  3. See mistakes as opportunities to learn new skills and strategies.  Mistakes can be helpful to highlight where additional coaching is needed.  When students feel that their coaches will be understanding and will offer guidance as necessary, then a sense of trust develops.
  4. Model appropriate behaviors.  Coaches are also learners.  They need to know how to find answers, and this can happen by asking open-ended questions and utilizing technology as well as the students as resources of information.
  5. Have high expectations for the success of all students.  Students can sense when their coaches have faith in their ultimate success and will strive to achieve to that level.

From Banning to Coaching…

Students learn new uses for their devices.

Although teachers may tell students how they should use or behave with their devices, responsible use will not be actualized without practice.  Dr. Curwin suggested that the coaching to adopt new behaviors should begin in kindergarten and continue throughout high school. BYOT should also begin as soon as students have their own personal devices and continue throughout their schooling.  This is one of the biggest benefits of BYOT.  When personal technology devices were banned from schools, students often had to learn for themselves the appropriate use of their devices, often with dire consequences.  Now, that they are encouraged to bring their own technology tools to school, they can be coached into ways of using their devices that can transfer into enduring habits.

, , ,

Leave a comment