Thursday, January 10, 2013

Everyone Is Doing It, With Good Reason

Last night, after teaching, transporting my kid to a dentist appointment, and dropping him off at my sisters, I dragged myself over to the Sacramento County Office of Education to hear Catlin Tucker speak at the monthly ETLN (Education Technology Learning Network) meeting.  If you don’t know who she is, she is an amazing classroom teacher who utilizes technology to make her life easier and learning more meaningful. Joe actually wrote about her book, Blended Learning a few weeks ago. I left the meeting energized and even more committed to using technology in a meaningful way.

Tucker has a common sense approach to blended learning. One thing she discussed was her bring your own device policy (BYOD). Truth be told, I have been allowing students to use their own devices once or twice a semester. However, this week I jumped in with both feet. What I discovered wasn’t that exciting. I mean, I didn’t get to bust anyone looking at Facebook or looking at inappropriate websites. Instead, my students got a lot of work done. Students used their cell phones and tablets to work on shared documents for their presentation while discussing their work with group members. Why allow them to do this? Why not? Why make them write down their information on paper and then go home and type it out on a Google Doc? They were using the same collaboration and communication skills they would have used with a paper and pen. They were working smarter by cutting out the middle step. The group who did not have a personal device to use, was happy using the one computer I have in the classroom. I took pictures to prove they were actually working. The added bonus, since they did the word processing in class, I was able to view their work that evening and provide fast feedback.

The conversations I had with my colleagues about this experience proved to be more exciting. Performing and Fine Arts teachers are using personal devices to inform their instruction. Did you know that Gary Wong uses as a formative assessment in his English 10 classes? Gary Wong gets instant feedback from students by allowing them to take polls using the text feature on their cell phone. Within seconds he can assess the student’s understanding of a chapter and use that information to guide his lecture for the day. Personal devices also allow students to produce digital content. Jeanne Feeney’s 6th grade students filmed stop motion animation videos using a free Lego app on their mobile devices and then uploaded the file via their Google Drive app their device. They were able to edit their movie on the classroom computers using iMovie for free! The only thing keeping them from doing all of the movie work on their devices was that the iMovie app for phones costs $4.99! Jeanne’s students also use their phones in science to take pictures of complicated diagrams or hands on activities they want to capture for future reference (portfolio!).

Leading Edge students actively use their personal devices in Technology to save passwords, retrieve pictures or videos for class projects, take pictures of important information on the whiteboard, and send reminders to themselves. In Josh Senge’s class they use their devices to perform online research, video creation, and voice recordings in class. Our students have valuable pieces of technology in their pockets. How do you use them to inform your instruction, create efficient learners, and enrich the classroom experience?



  1. Also- using personal devices makes classroom material more accessible to students with disabilities! It allows them to integrate into the classroom experience in a more natural way, without being the "weird kid using the laptop" in class.

    We have more power in the palm of our hands than anyone could have imagined, even 13 years ago when I started my credential program. It's time to put it to use! Good for you KS!!

  2. Tracy, totally agree with your comments on accessibility. I have seen students who are allowed to use their Ipod as part of the IEP. It is actually what started me thinking about letting all students who personal devices in class.