Willingness to create a new norm within the classroom such as introducing digital devices to students, can lead to unpredicted outcomes. On the one hand, it can be unpredicted in the awesome sense like when a student downloads a ‘dice’ app to help calculate the experimental probability of rolling a seven on two, 6-sided dice. On the other hand, it could also be unpredicted in the “oops…I should gone over this with them” sense too.
This post is a follow up to the BYOD reflection I provided early in the week. My hope is to shed light on some areas where the ‘devil could be in the details’ when starting the BYOD process. Keep in mind, that the reflections I provide were generated out of a need for a specific group of students, familiar with a specific type of class culture. Therefore a reader wanting to apply the ideas or strategies outlined below, should determine whether or not the ideas presented would be appropriate for the existing culture and needs within their own classroom.
1) Create a culture of using digital devices in your classroom, before you go 1:1 through the use of BYOD.
With a new group of students, it usually takes me about 2 months to construct a culture of using digital devices before beginning BYOD. But, if I have students with existing BYOD experience, then it is sooner than 2 months.
The idea here is for students and teachers to get into good habits of using devices to access, collaborate on, and modify classroom tasks. A suggestion here is to find and start using a Learning Management System (LMS) in your classroom, before you roll out BYOD. Here is a list of 20 popular Learning Management Systems, created by Jeff Dunn. By having a good LMS in place, supported of course by sound pedagogy, learning no longer becomes space or time dependent. In extreme cases, for example, a student could be on a family trip but still be able to collaborate with peers, complete and submit their work, and access missed class content. In the end, parents are able to see the benefits of using digital devices in the classroom. Once you have helped parents understand this, then asking permission for students to bring their digital devices to school becomes easy.
2) Have a comprehensive information letter to send to parents
Take the time to create a letter that outlines your rationale in having students bring devices to class. Parents need to buy into this because they will be the deciding factor as to whether or not students will be allowed to bring their devices to school. Make the time to share how their kids will be using the devices to benefit learning. You owe that much to them.
3) Many voices – same message.
As part of creating a culture around the use of digital devices, we must also create a culture around the appropriate use of digital devices. There is no need to create a new code of behaviour when using digital devices. Instead, work with administrators, other classroom teachers, Police (community liaison officer), Digital Literacy Resource teachers (consultants), lunchtime supervisors, and caretakers (read: adults in the school) to share with students how existing school and societal expectations for behaviour are apropos when using digital devices.
In the end, let students know that when using devices we want them to be safe, respectful, and productive.
4) Be proactive, not reactive when it comes to appropriate use of devices.
I believe students have a heightened sense of what is considered fair play. So have them be part of the creation of norms around the use of devices in school. Here are some norms my students and I have created to address the above.
- Be safe, respectful and productive when using your device.
- When not using your device, be safe and place your device screen down on the table to hide any private text messages.
- When speaking to someone, show attentive listening and mutual respect by removing ear phones from ears, even if the music is turned off.
- What may be okay with Mr. Aniceto, may not be okay with another adult in the school. Listen to the adult first and then talk to Mr. Aniceto later about the appropriate use of digital devices.
Provide plenty of reminders when you first begin BYOD and continue to remind the class of the norms after.
If you are in a primary or early junior classroom, then you may want to create norms around the safe storage of digital devices during recess, lunch, physical education, and so on.
5) Hit the ground running.
Use the devices productively in the classroom the day the students bring their device. That way all the work you and the class have done in constructing a culture of using digital devices, carries over smoothly.
6) Share the wealth with other teachers.
BYOD has many learning benefits, so share the possibilities. Especially with teachers who teach your class on rotary. It can be as simple as offering to scan and post a handout on the class LMS, or updating homework on an online agenda. It can also be as exciting as sharing with the French teacher that students have the capabilities to record, edit and share French videos, starring them. BYOD is something that you should try to built in your school, just not in your classroom.
After I first introduced BYOD at my school, four classes went BYOD the following year. All intermediate grades (7-8) and one junior grade (split 4/5 class). I hope more classes will add to this, next year.
7) Check back often.
From my experience, quality of work does not immediately increase as students begin working digitally. If anything, I have observed a slight decline in the quality of work, when students first engage with using digital devices for learning. So take the time to help generate good habits. Checking back often shows students that you are a willing learner and participant in the BYOD environment. By doing so, you as the teacher have the opportunity to model the social and academic norms you and the class have constructed. This goes a long way.
These are some of the important areas I feel a teacher starting the BYOD process, may want to consider. Are there any that I am missing? If so, please leave a comment below.
Starting a BYOD classroom culture is definitely an exciting prospect but it is made better by sharing the benefits with your colleagues.
The question now is, “What do I do now that I have started?” That is a question best served in a new post.