I recently read an article from Emerging Edtech titled 5 Reasons Why BYOD is a Bad Idea. As an online subscriber, I immediately read the article when it entered my inbox. Not to mention, I am a huge advocate for students using cell phones in the classroom. After all, I am writing a book about it. The article outlines 5 areas or reasons why it is a bad idea for students to bring their own device into the classroom. I want to address each one of these individually and point out why it can work, even in a small rural district where I teach.
First, the article addresses, equipment inequity. Okay, so not everyone is going to have the same phone, tablet, etc. The article argues there will be many inconsistencies when dealing with many different brands, and types of devices. There are some easy solutions to this quandry. For example, my students started to use cell phones in my language arts classroom this year and I had students who had iphones, flip phones, smart phones, “dumb” phones, etc. As a teacher, I had to keep this in mind when it came to incorporating technology into my existing lessons. So, I used a social platform (Celly) that supported both smart phones and “dumb” phones. I don’t think there is a need to worry about the equipment being brought in by our students. Educators need to find website, social platforms, etc. that can be supported across the board. Furthermore, doesn’t every teacher have an alternative plan if something doesn’t work? My students can log onto the classroom wikispace to work and with the amount of students who bring in their own devices, I can get them on a computer in our lab.
Next, tech support is discussed as a downfall. In comparison to the first issue the article discussed, it basically is echoing the same thing. Because students will have different devices, there will be different issues with software and configuration. The article doesn’t give exact specifics. I suggest as a teacher who is interested in doing this to do your homework. Research what devices your students have and see which ones could potentially cause you the most headaches. Also, as mentioned before, choose a digital tool that can be supported on a various devices. Trust me, they are out there. The article also said the tech support would pick up more problems. Why? It seems to me that if students are bringing in their own device, they should know how the device works. In addition, I would hope the teacher is comfortable with using technology and perhaps could provide assistance to the students. Teachers should also know when to draw the line when it comes to how much time is being eaten away due to technological problems. As mentioned before, having a plan B helps.
The third point the article brings up called bring your own distraction is grasping at straws. Yes, students do have distractions on their devices. I had students who had apps, games, or music on their phones and it was never an issue. First of all, my students and I have a mutual respect about the use of their phones. I have never given my students a sheet with a set of rules and regulations regarding their phones. The only rules my students were solidly aware of were the school wide rules. It was really amazing how my students never had their phones out when they weren’t supposed to and the number of times I had students ask me to get their cell phones out. I firmly believe the respect given by me to them when it came to their device fed into the respect they gave back to me when it came to the use of their devices. Oh, and the other point I want to argue is any teacher who has quality classroom management will have very few issues.
Internet Content Filtering is the fourth issue addressed in the post. I completely understand this point, however, if students are bringing in laptops or tablets, students are going to have to connect to the network being used at the school. Then, the content can be filtered. On the other hand, I know students who have 3G and 4G on their phones and I also have both on my phone. There isn’t a big difference between the two. When using cell phones, there can be an issue about accessing inappropriate sites. With firm acceptable use policies in place, student expectations aren’t a guessing game. If students aren’t using the device for what is was intended, then they lose the privilage of using it at school. Teachers can’t just sit at their desk either after giving the student an assignment. They need to circulate and monitor their students the best they can to make sure the students are on task.
Finally, the mine is better than yours syndrome is not a solid enough reason to not incorporate a BYOD policy into a school. I am around middle schoolers and high schoolers every day and I don’t see this with technology nearly as much as I do with a pair of shoes, or clothing. Some students are going to have a better or different device and I am sure there are going to be instances where students don’t have anything at all. Growing up my best friend had the latest Nintendo, Sega, etc. and I never hated him or made fun of him. He never flaunted it to anyone either. The only grade levels I could potentially see this would be in the elementary levels. Nevertheless, this argument shouldn’t deter anyone from wanting to use tech devices in their classroom.
I normally don’t look to be argumentative with what I read online when it comes to professional publications, but this particular post/article struck a few nerves. I had a very successful year with students bringing their own cell phones. Like with any lesson or unit in the classroom, I did have hurdles from time to time, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t overcome. I had a wide array of phones brought in and I had students who didn’t have them. As a teacher you make adjustments and have alternative methods to meet the needs of all of your students.
This post has been long overdue. I wanted to outline the connections I can make to the Common Core Standards (CCSS) with Celly. Below I have chosen three strands from the CCSS that I use with Celly. Each strand is followed by what I do in my classroom and what I hope my students take away from it. Though these aren’t the only strands I can connect to, this is where I started at the beginning of the year.
1.) 8.W.6 – Production and Distribution of Writing: Use technology, including the internet to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
With the Common Core calling for teachers to use technology in their classroom, this is an easy connection to make. Celly is internet based and requires students to use technology (a.k.a. – cell phones). One of the greatest benefits of this digital tool is the fact students can interact and collaborate about ideas presented either by the teacher or other students. One of the ways my 8th graders are going to collaborate is to discuss their ideas about alternate endings for The Giver by Louis Lowry. Then, after discussing their ideas, they will extend their ideas by working on an alternate ending using Google Docs.
As my regular followers know, I am passionate about using cell phones as a digital tool in my classroom. In addition, I have really enjoyed exploring Celly in my classroom, a texting platform that allows my students to communicate through text messaging on their cell phones. What is really nice for me as a teacher who teaches in a low-income, rural district, Celly allows my students to use smart phones and “dumb phones”.
My intention of this blog post is not to discuss Celly or how I am specifically using cell phones in my classroom. I want to put something out there that I am passionate about. Over the past several days as I have been doing research for some writing I am doing on cell phones, I came across several articles, blogs, and comments about cell phones being used in the classroom. In my readings and observations I am still seeing a huge number of educators taking on a negative attitude towards the use of cell phones in the classroom. Now, I am a language arts teacher and I want to tell everyone that reads this, I am still focusing on making my students better writers. Yes, it is true, I don’t always have my students writing with paper in pencil in my classroom. Why is this so bad? I am still helping my students grow as writers and I am using digital tools to help them achieve confidence as writers and my students are engaged. Yes, I truly believe we are seeing a paradigm shift from paper/pencil to laptops and cell phones. What I embrace the most is the use of cell phones while connecting the Common Core Standards. Things change and in this instance, I believe it is a change we need to embrace if we want to reach our students. My students see my genuine excitement for writing and know I am not abandoning paper and pencil. In addition, I am not asking any other educator to stop using the typical writing tools in an language arts classroom. As a matter of fact, my students write in a journal daily using a composition notebook and pen or pencil and enjoy it. But, that is a whole separate blog post.
Though not everything I have read is completely negative, I see a lot of apprehension and excuses emerging from educators shifting in this new direction. Teachers are afraid by using cell phones in their classroom they are going to open up a pandora’s box of problems where they will never get their students to put the cell phone away when they are not using it or supposed to be using it. Bottom line, this comes down to classroom management. Yes, it is possible to build a community of writers with cell phones. I have not had one issue with my 7th/8th grade students this year and their cell phones. As a matter of fact, my students are constantly asking permission to use their cell phones in my classroom. My students and I have a mutual respect for one another when it comes to their cell phones and what my expectations are in the classroom. I have built this community within the walls of my classroom and I have taught my students how to be digital citizens and this citizenship carried over to other classes too.
On the other hand, I also am learning there is apprehension from teachers because of the current policies their schools have in place. The thought is if the policy states students can’t use them in school or they are supposed to be in their lockers, they can’t use them in their classrooms. Well, my school policy echoes the idea that students should keep their cell phones in their locker, but I use them in my classroom. It starts with having an open communication with you and your administration. If you haven’t had a conversation with your principal about the possibilities cell phones can bring to your classroom, then you have no room to complain about your school’s policy on cell phones.
Bottom line, there is a “cellular divide” that is going to continue to exist due to the strict policies, apprehensiveness, and the overall refusal to change the methods being used in the classroom. Educators need to see the benefits and the power that digital tools such as cell phones can have in the classroom and on the students. I may be only one of the few who believe in the benefits, but I am willing to do the convincing.
When my students return from spring break next week they will be embarking on the research portion of the year. The past few weeks I have really struggled with the term “research paper”. Though I see the purpose of doing a research paper, I am not sure having my students turn in a 4-5 page “research paper” is best practice. To be more clear, I am thinking about my 7th grade classes.
My 8th graders, on the other hand, do a multi-genre research project which I absolutely love and I love their enthusiasm about the project. It also falls under the CCSS because one of the Common Core Standards is doing a “research project”. Please see my multi-genre project on Digital Is. The easy solution would be for my 7th graders to do the multi-genre project as well, but with different expectations. The reason I am not considering this option is because I do not want to grade over 110 projects that could include up to 6 pieces of writing. I wouldn’t sleep this spring if I decided to take this route.
Regardless of what direction I go in, I know that I am going to have an absorbant amount of paperwork and I am fine with knowing this, but having 5 classes doing a multi-genre research project could have the potential of me grading over 500 pieces of writing. WOW! What I really struggle with is knowing if I am going to reach students. In my district, if I don’t do some sort of research with my students, they will not see it again until 11th grade. Besides, I know that I have too. And it would seem with the CCSS, my colleagues at the high school level would have to as well. Why do we do a research paper anyways? I ofter wonder how dumb of a question that really is or do others have this thought too.
At our last department meeting I asked what is the value of a research paper and we had a really great conversation about how it isn’t the paper itself that is important for the students, but rather it is the process that the students go through. For example, students should know how to research effectively, they should know how to site sources and give credit where credit is due, and they need to be able to clearly convey what they learned from that research. So, my question is can I get students to show this without it being a 4-5 page “research paper”? Or is it in the best interest of the students to change my attack on this particular genre of writing. I am a huge advocate for technology being used in the classroom. Google Docs would be a start in the right direction. In addition, I am considering letting the students use cell phones to help with their research. I will explain what my thinking is on that in a later blog post.
So, I wonder, what are other middle school teachers doing in the realm of the research? What are others doing in their classroom? Are there other teachers out there that feel the same as I do? I would love to hear feedback and suggestions. More to come…