The advent of 21st century learning, the call for the use of technology in the common core standards, and the new standardized testing required have placed growing demands on schools to provide learning opportunities with technology delivering content and being used to create outcomes. These initiatives have placed a huge financial burden on schools, including the cost of hardware, software, support and training. Shifts in attitudes have been slow in coming, leaving students at risk of not having the skills necessary to succeed. One way schools have chosen to soften the cost issue has been the implementation of BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. Students bring the laptop, tablet or smartphone they already own to school to communicate, collaborate, create and deepen their learning.
Clearly there are management issues associated with BYOD, but those can be mitigated with strong planning, established rules and a quality school-wide student technology use agreement. The benefits of BYOD do outweigh the issues when one considers the possibilities for learning and skill building that can occur.
Students learn early in life that they have to take care of their toys. It’s the same with their technology. When parents have a financial investment in the devices students bring to school, students tend to take better care of them. This is not always the case when students used the classroom “loaner” devices. Devices are left uncharged, logged in, and “the cart” is often in disarray. Care became a teacher issue, not the student’s responsibility. The reverse is true with BYOD. Students, not the teacher, are responsible for the care and feeding of their own device.
One “detriment” of BYOD that’s mentioned is the teacher’s inability to require certain applications on all student devices. Let’s turn that around, instead. Teachers can create lessons that offer students choice in the outcomes they create. This allows flexibility in the use of applications. If the teacher wants a visual presentation, students can use any application - from Animoto to Haiku Deck - to create their outcome. Students get a choice to use the app or tool with which they’re comfortable. The focus is on the learning, not fumbling around learning the tool, or force fitting what they know into the teacher-chosen tool.
Students move the result to the web, and can then share the resulting URL with the teacher through the classroom Learning Management System, a Google Form, a Padlet wall, or even email. The URL can also be shared among students and more globally over social media, which encourages students to produce something “great” and not just “good enough.” The novelty of different presentation software holds viewers’ interest too!
Since thousands of school have implemented Google Apps for Education, students can produce work on any web-enabled device. Cloud-based creation and storage of work eliminates the need for identical hardware. Students can create, save and access their work on any device, anywhere in the world. No longer are they tethered to school to work on a school device. Opening up the four walls of the classroom so students can “do school” anywhere, anytime is another BYOD benefit.
The BYOD platform also encourages student collaboration and teamwork. As students determine the best way to demonstrate their learning, they have not only their own apps, but multiple options to research, curate and create. Most current web applications allow for the sharing of work, and many are device agnostic. Some even allow work to be done on both a mobile device (iOS or Android) OR the web, another ease of use benefit.
There are certainly issues regarding BYOD that must be addressed to successfully implement the approach. Digital equality - equal technology access for all - is critical, and must be supported. That said, in many schools there’s a golden opportunity to open up the effective use of technology in the classroom, and one way to rapidly do so is to implement a thoughtful BYOD approach to maximize student learning and better prepare students for our modern world.
Here is a list of free applications that work well in a BYOD environment:
Google Apps Suite - Includes Docs, Sheet, Slides and Forms. Students can create, share, store and organize their work and access on any device. Promotes student collaboration. Many third party applications (e.g., LucidChart, SnagIt and Notability) seamlessly connect to Google Apps for Education.
YouTube - Find, edit and curate videos. Upload student-created video and create playlists to share class products.
Thinglink: Using the web version or the app, students can add web-based content to images, making for a new type of learning tool.
Canva: For graphic designs of all kinds - with free icons, shapes, image frame, text design. Easy to use, lots of training and ideas available too.
Curation and Note-taking
Evernote - A note taking app that syncs across all devices. In the classroom, students can use Evernote to take notes, develop their writing, and share their notes through chat or email. Use the Chrome Web Clipper to curate sites for later reading.
Padlet - Teachers create a wall, or “pad”, for students to post their thoughts, images, and videos. Teachers can choose if the wall is shared just with the class or to a broader audience.
Symbaloo: Teachers create a webmix of tiles that take students to vetted websites. Great way for students to start organizing their own links.
Google Classroom - Teacher shares announcements and assignments with students. Students complete work, then turn in to teacher. Great way to create the “paperless” classroom.
Edmodo: This tool posts assignments, announcements, and quizzes to students, as well as space to blog and comment to each other.
Socrative - Teachers can quickly assess students by creating an online quiz or exit ticket that students can access on any device.Kahoot - Create a fun, interactive multiple choice quiz that students can take on any device. Include video and music to add interest.