Posts Tagged tools

Day 3 of BYOT

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.)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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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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A BYOT Intro

For two years, my school district, Forsyth County Schools, has been officially implementing a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative. I say officially because we all know that students have been bringing their own technology devices to school without specific permission for a long time! For the last two years, however, we have encouraged students to use their technology tools to help facilitate their learning experiences within the classroom and beyond school. After 20+ years of teaching, BYOT is one of the most effective innovations that I have utilized with teachers and students to positively transform teaching and learning.

Engaging Students with BYOT!

Students are now bringing a variety of personal devices to school each day to benefit their learning, but of course, not every student has a device.  However, we are better able to utilize our school-owned desktops and laptops with students who need them. Additionally, BYOT does not mean that everyone is constantly using a technology tool; rather, students have greater access to technology tools, both personal and school devices, to use them, as needed. The different devices within the classroom provide greater opportunities for differentiation of instruction as the teacher makes the pedagogical shift to guiding learning rather than directing it.

Some of the devices that students are bringing to school include Nintendo DSi’s, iPod Touches, Cellphones, Smartphones, iPads, netbooks, laptops, and many others. This sounds like a lot of technology for the teacher to know how to use; however, the beauty of BYOT is that the students are knowledgeable about the technical aspects of working with their devices, and the teacher can focus on the learning and content rather than the technology.

The implementation of student-owned devices into the design of instruction has led to improved student and teacher collaboration in the process of learning.  Dynamic student networks have begun to develop, and the students have become more self-directed and motivated in their academic activities.  Understanding and advancing these networks are two of the goals of the BYOT Network blog in addition to sharing resources for promoting BYOT initiatives.  By inspiring students to employ their own technology devices in school, educators can assist students in making meaningful, personal connections to their learning.

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