Schools have always had an interesting relationship with educational technology, and that relationship has only grown more complex with the ubiquitous prevalence of mobile technology. More and more schools are embracing the opportunities afforded by this technology for improved outcomes, differentiation and personalised learning.
Of course, the costs of installing, updating and maintaining devices like iPads and laptops are not small, and one way schools often seek to minimise this cost is by implementing a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or BYODD (Bring Your Own Digital Device) model. In cases like this, students and their parents purchase their own device and are responsible for bringing it to school and maintaining it.
The problem is that teachers are then faced with a whole range of different devices that have different operating systems, different apps and different capabilities -- and that can make using the devices in the classroom in a meaningful way to improve teaching and learning a real challenge. You might have students with Samsung Tablets, iPods and Acer Laptops all in the same room! So what can a teacher do?
Below are 5 tips that will help you get the most from your school’s BYOD program.
1. Focus on the product and the process, not the app.
When teachers first use mobile technology in the classroom, they sometimes focus on specific apps. This can rapidly lead to trouble if the app is not available on all platforms. So, instead of insisting on a specific app, let your students find the solutions that are available to them. Instead of asking students to use Popplet, which is a mind mapping app that is popular on the iPad, ask them to use any mind-mapping app that they have access to.
Another way to get around this issue is to find apps that are OS-agnostic -- that is, they will work on almost any device. A good example of this is the Google Apps for Education Suite, which provides useful tools like word processing and slideshows that will work on almost any computer or mobile device.
2. No internet? No problem!Sometimes, different devices don’t connect well to the school’s network -- if students are allowed to connect at all. Don’t let that stop you from using the devices -- there is lots that can be down without the internet. Get students to take photos of science experiments and annotate them. Ask them to make films and movies about what they are learning. Use creative apps that let students build things 'in-app' and don't require the internet.
3. Get creative
This is linked to the point above -- if you are using the devices to do things that you could do with pen and paper, then you're not getting the most out of them.
Think about the way young people interact with technology in their personal lives - -they are far more likely to take photographs and make films and record sounds than they are to write things, so why not try to capture this and utilise it in your classroom?
The SAMR (Substitution - Augmentation - Modification - Redefinition) model is a good starting point. It suggests that we shold use technology at the level of modification and redefinition -- creating products that would not be possible without the use of technology. So, encourage students to make animations, films and infographics, and not just writing essays and making powerpoints.
Even better, moving up the taxonomy of thinking schools to levels like design, evaluate and create ensures deeper learning -- which will lead to better outcomes.
4. Formative, not summative
One of the other problems that teachers can run into is getting the material off a digital device for the purposes of record keeping and assessment. Some devices make emailing or sharing work easy, but it can be a challenge from mobile phones, for example.
If this is the case, plan for formative, rather than summative assessments. Build in time in your lessons for students to conference their work with you, and provide feedback for them as they create it. Do this by working with students on their devices at the same time, so that you can offer on-the-spot guidance about how to improve.
5. The best tool...
Just because you’ve got the technology in your classroom, it doesn’t mean that you have to use it for every lesson. If something is better done on paper, leave it that way. Teach your students to use their tools appropriately -- one useful classroom tip is to insist on devices being face down before talking to the class. This stops students getting distracted when you're trying to talk to them.
What are your best tips for BYOD?
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.