Posts Tagged voicethread

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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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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