Monday, June 17, 2013

#BYOD for Dummies (No, I'm not calling you a dummy)

Smart phones and mobile devices are a seamless part of our children's lives.  Why shouldn't they be a seamless part of the school day?

I happened to have had lunch and recess duty today with the 8th graders at my middle school.  I brought my iPhone and started snapping pics of a few of the phones and devices that were either on the cafeteria tables or were being used casually by students as they ate.
These kids were doing nothing wrong and I had no reason to be suspicious of them.  Their devices are simply a part of the way they function.  Heck, my iPhone is a part of the way I function, as evidenced by my method of gathering information (taking pictures with my phone) and compiling it for this post (using a collage app called Pic Stitch).

In EdTech, a magazine dedicated to technology integration in K-12, a recent article claimed "Parents Agree Mobile Devices Can Make Learning Fun."  But I think that was only half the story.  Mobile devices should not just be used in school to make learning fun, they should be there because that's how our children are learning.  The infographic from the articles helps paint a vivid picture of how important mobile technology is for our students and their families.
Click here to see a larger version 
The most interesting findings from the study are at the bottom of the infographic.
  • Parents recognize that mobile devices open up new learning opportunities that weren't available before, but they want schools and teachers to show them and their children the best apps to take advantage of these opportunities.
  • Parents worry about expensive devices being stolen at school, but they still think schools should make more use of them in their children's learning.
  • Parents realize that mobile devices can distract from learning, but they want teachers to play a role in teaching their children how to use the technology and apps safely and productively.
Using mobile technology in school is no longer optional.  Our kids are already doing it and parents are coming to expect it.  Here are 3 easy ways to get started in your classroom:

Easy BYOD #1: QR Codes
Create a QR code that kids can scan to bring them directly to your class website or to essential resources for an ongoing project.  Apps like QRReader are free and easy to download and use.  The same app can scan and create codes.  Here's an example of one that is up in my classroom. It links to videos and resources for our research project on the Aztec and Inca Empires.  The link is also available on our online calendar for students who don't have devices.
If you scanned it, you would see these resources.
Easy BYOD #2: Self-Paced Learning
If you want your students to read online texts or watch online videos at their own pace and laptops are at a premium in your school (as they often are in mine), give them the option of using their own mobile devices.  You might be surprised how many choose their smaller screen over the laptop.  They are used to viewing information that way.  Also, they might actually go back to it on their own if the window is saved in their device's browser.  Check out these pics from my classroom to see laptops and mobile devices being used side by side.


Easy BYOD #3: "I Lost My Agenda!"
At our school, students call their homework calendar book an "agenda" and over the course of the school year MANY are lost.  We have found that the easiest way to teach students to cope with a lost agenda is to replace it with technology.  Encourage students to use their camera app to take pictures of the homework board in each class.  As long as they know how to take a clear image, and most do as evidenced by their posts on Twitter and Instagram, they will have a record of their homework assignment.

Once you get started, think about how you use your smart phone, tablet, and other mobile devices every day.  Why shouldn't your students have the same opportunity to use theirs both personally and professionally (as professional students)?  If we don't teach them how to use it properly, they will teach themselves and the lessons might not be proper.