How would I prepare to teach a BYOD class?

7/24/2011 12:59:00 pm

I've been thinking and reading about what it would be like to teach a (math) class in a school with a Bring Your Own Device policy.

Apple mobile devices / Kenneth / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

My answer: "My class will teach the world what they learn with me. Everything will be accessible online and on a mobile device."

Here's what I would set up:

1. A class blog to tell the learning narrative of the class. It will also serve as assignment distribution hub and reflection archive; the kids will blog. A distinguishing feature of a blog over a wiki is that everything is time and date stamped. It preserves a narrative over time and easily shows growth. Also, with a well thought out tagging scheme, the content can be flexibly reorganized on the fly to show the learning narrative of an individual student or the class as a whole across a unit of study or the entire course.

2. Create a "Hand-It-In" form in Google Docs for each class. The form will include entries for Name, Assignment (from a popup list to ensure consistently), link to [Gdoc, wiki, blog, flickr page, whatever], student assessment based on co-created rubric. That last entry is really important to me. I want the students to  be reflective learners but I also want them to have clear targets so they know what excellence looks like. This also creates a bit of push-back for me to always ensure the students know the assessment criteria before they complete each assignment. They will also know how those criteria will be applied because they had a part in their design.

3. We'll use a group texting mobile app/service, like a closed twitter network, for ongoing communication and peer support such as GroupMe or Swaggle or Grouped{in} (iOS app). Please let me know if you know of other alternatives. I'm not sure which of these would be the best service to use in class. I like that Swaggle limits the number of txts the group can send in each 10 min period. I foresee conversations that are more focused with less "LOL" "OMG" and "ha!" replies although I would encourage "tnx". I would really enjoy the class conversations we'd have as we work together to figure out the best way to do this.

4. I'll set up a group posterous to aggregate SGC (student generated content). (I've done this before for teacher workshops.) This space can also be used to Hand-in work, and share resources w the class. A few nice things about posterous: It just works. Everything you email to posterous as an attachment (photo, video, document, PowerPoint, whatever) is automatically displayed interactively on the site and all the content can be downloaded/remixed at will. It might be a good place for students to collect and share digital artifacts created while learning or working together on projects.

5. I'd also want to have a tagging protocol like I do on my class blogs. We'd use the same protocol on all our digital work wherever it may be: posterous, flickr, wikis, project blogs, etc.

6. I'll create a Diigo group to aggregate links and create ad hoc discussion groups (teacher or student initiated). We'll also aggregate links that respect the class tagging protocol here. Everything on Diigo has RSS feeds so I can move the content around any way I like. I'll likely have windows to the group discussions and link archive on the class blog. In the past I've done something close to this using delicious but delicious doesn't have the group discussion feature built in.

7. Each student will need a flickr account. With younger kids I'd buy a flickr Pro account (about $25/year) and we'd all share the one account. They'll need this for their flickr assignments. I want to use flickr more with students; work more on thinking visual. I've seen some awesome riffs on my idea in other subject areas.

8. We'll need a wiki for our Wiki Solutions Manual. I imagine a wiki or Google site will likely come in handy in many ways for students to collaborate.. Create it and skin it with visuals that identify each class. Ill ask the students to create the images themselves. Past classes have created a mascot like the one on this class blog (top right corner.)

9. I'll want certain apps to be on all their phones, iTouches or tablets; it's easy to find laptop equivalents of all of these. I want this list to be short. I'm not sure yet how this will play out but it'll be fun figuring it out together. One thing I do know for certain is that I'd like the class to make their own student authoured multimedia etext for the course in ePub format. It's dead simple with Pages.

Create Instructional Videos
iMovie ($5) or vimeo (free) app
[laptop equivalents: iMovie, MovieMaker, or jaycut (online alternative, but RIM just bought them out)]

Create Audio Summaries or Instructional Content podcasting apps: ipadio, audioboo, cinch, recorder & editor (99¢)
[laptop equivalents: audacity or garageband]

Create & Publish Multimedia docs ePub (register each class in iTunes, put a subscription link on each class blog, wiki, etc.)
[laptop equivalents and more info about the ePub format]

NB: Every time you see the word "create" I mean the kids do it, not the teacher

I'll also want each student to have the following apps; I want this to be a short focused list:
iBooks (or other ePub reader)
Google (Search, YouTube, Maps, Gmail, Docs, Reader, maybe G+)
SonicPicsLite (there are some digital storytelling ideas I want to play with)

I've left out some math specific apps. I'll share that in a future post.

10. The classroom routine will include a different student each week (maybe 2/wk) publishing to the blog and/or sharing in class "My favourite app for this class is ..."

Bonus: Who's going to design the "class app"? We might use Bloapp.

Did I miss anything or do you think this is all too much?
Hand drawn icons by Aleksandra Wolska

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  1. Wow - that is a terrific integration of technology for the classroom. I am overwhelmed just reading it but I can see it all happening. The tools available are incredible and only getting better. Now that students do have devices in their own hands we had better keep up!

    Thanks for leading the way!

  2. HI Laura, thanks for dropping by.

    If you try any of these ideas out in your classroom please come again and let me know how it goes. ;-)

  3. Hey, great post, Darren. Many wonderful ideas and reasons for each. I will be sharing this post with my students - good PRACTICAL stuff! - better still want to come and present it to them?:)

  4. Thanks Mike! And, sure, I'd love to talk to your class about this stuff. Maybe we can make it interactive; I'm thinking something very hands on. We'll ask them to bring their devices and see what we make of it all together; together they'll figure out how they can wrap their pedagogical heads around it all. ;-)

  5. Fantastic post, I love your ideas - I am planning a BYOD class for next term and you have given me some great ideas. Will look forward to putting them into action and starting the journey with my Yr 6's.

  6. This is great - thanks! One question: does your school have easy wifi? We have a pretty (sometimes almost unusably) secure wifi which I suspect would take time to configure on each device. Any tips for working round that?

  7. @carob That's awesome that you've got a year 6 BYOD class. Please let me know how it all goes.

    @Piers that's a hassle. The thing is though, if you can get the kids onto the network once, give it a class if you have to, their devices can all remember the network password so you won't have to go though that every day. I'd also build a good personal relationship with the tech person in your building. They'll be able to help you out a lot better. You might suggest installing a wifi hub in or near your classroom with a unique login for your class but I wouldn't start with that. See if you can make it work within the system first. Then, keep advocating for your kids. Keep talking about the kids every time you talk to your admin team. Tell them you're just trying to make your kids a little more awesome. "Don't you want to make the kids a little more awesome too?" ;-)

  8. Darren ... You are AMAZING! Not only do you define the critical steps in preparing to teach a class using supportive technology, you provide links to practical, classroom-tested exemplary, resources. This wealth of ideas will indeed provide a long-serving resource to help teachers engage their students. Although the apps might change and evolve, the framework, ideas and resources provided, will continue to serve educators in need.

    Thanks for caring & sharing! :-)

  9. Thanks Brian!

    I'd love to unpack what you said here a little more:

    "Although the apps might change and evolve, the framework, ideas and resources provided, will continue to serve educators"

    I'm most fascinated by "frameworks and ideas". Maybe we should do a podcast together? What do you say?

  10. Some fabulous ideas! I love your vision. I will be trying some BYOD next year (if I can convince admin)Lots of "dumb phones" though, so I'm somewhat limited, but I can do a lot with polleverywhere and Google Voice (I'm a French teacher)

  11. Tracy, last year I was Conseiller pédagogique pour l'apprentissage numérique for the French sector of Manitoba. Feel free to get in touch of you want to knock some ideas around.

    There's lots you can do with the dumb phones too. Even the worst phone today does at least 4 things:

    text (you can use polleverywhere for student quick responses in and out of class)

    shoot photos (you can email pics directly to flickr and there's lots of edugoodness you can do there)

    shoot video (have you seen this from a while back: film on the fly. What could your kids make of it? Video can be emailed from a cell phone directly to a YouTube account. YouTube recently added a host of creator tools too.)

    talk (free & simple podcasting via ipadio)

    Think of all this as being "creatively constrained" rather than "limited". ;-)

  12. I teach math as well and I like many of your ideas. One problem I've had with math and technology is that technology does not easily allow the communication of math. This has been an impediment, at least for me and/or my students.

    How have you or how will you plan on making the type-setting and graphing of math easier/convenient enough for students to blog and otherwise include in their digital creations?

  13. Hi Darren ... I'll try to explain what I meant by my earlier statement ... "Although the apps might change and evolve, the framework, ideas and resources provided, will continue to serve educators in need."

    What I liked about the ingredients in your recipe was the framework. You provide the "big picture" of the important tools/strategies that a teacher needs to manage an engaged classroom e.g. a blog, a hand-in form (to maintain consistency in any database), aggregator, tagging standard, wiki (to foster collaboration and opportunity to reflect on growth), and multimedia opportunities to demonstrate creativity. On the other hand, specific apps have a shelf-life. We all know teachers who felt comfortable with the free version of an on-line app, who were devastated when the app became popular. Once the app owners started charging for use, the teacher stopped using it and, unfortunately the students lost out because the teacher did not look for alternatives or belong to a supportive PLN to suggest other possibilities.

    However, I see this post as having benefit to other, less technologically-inclined teachers, who may just be exploring the possibility of using technology or a class blog with their students. Knowing that they should create a tagging standard, a hand-in form, and student collaborated rubric will be immensely helpful regardless of the specific apps they choose to use.

    In answer to "Did I miss anything ...", I would include (and I'm sure you will in a future specific post), your engaging process of having older students take on the role of writing "Scribe posts" for each lesson on the class blog.

    As to your invite to a podcast ... it might be a lot of fun once you slow down ;-).

    Take care & keep smiling :-)

  14. Thanks for this resource, DK. I tried a pilot using iPads this summer, and you've given me a few more apps I might use this year in a class using iPads.

  15. Hi Darren,

    Great to meet face-to-face at BLC11.

    A short comment, a thumbs up for the collaborative rubric idea. I had great success with co-created rubrics at my previous school, Island Pacific School. We'd spend at least one full class co-preparing a rubric for every major assignment. The students even redsigned the IB rubrics using smileys instead of numbers as they felt those better conveyed the essence of the grade than a number or letter. Then, at THINK Global school we built a collaborative rubric-making tool into our web platform.

  16. Thanks for creating a menu of strategies for BYOD. I teach in middle school so will need to choose different apps due to sign-in requirements, etc. I'm interested in the group txt apps/platforms because most of my kids will have txt ability. I'm also thinking about Diigo as an eportfolio -- see Tracy Watanabe's post Thanks for sharing what we all need to consider!

  17. Thanks for the very practical advice. I am a teacher in a BYOD Grade Two class. A handful of children bring in their own iPods and iPads. Each day I suggest ways they can use their device In lessons, and they also nominate how they will use their device to enhance their learning in each lesson. Your practical ideas on blog set up will really help me to share the learning with those in the class who do not bring an iDevice, and with the families of the students. Thanks again.

  18. There are some wonderful ideas here--I have been teaching Algebra 1 for many years--my problem would be how to incorporate all these great things into my course and still teach the kids to think mathematically and logically. It takes a lot of time for them to master skills like factoring and solving quadratics. On every exam I give, I do thell them that they can either bring in their textbook(or an online verson of it, their laptop, or a lucky or religious charm. The only student I have ever taught who had a perfect exam brought in a Buddha statue.

  19. Thanks for the great article.I find twiducate great for "closed twitter" vheers

  20. This is a great post! Thanks! My plan for the weekend is to create my summer letter to my parents explaining BYOD and my hope that they will allow their children to bring their devises to school. We just got WIFI in May at school and the opportunities to use their own devices are really exciting. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens this year.

  21. Darren, I am in awe of the way you have tied together the roles of tech and thinking and collaboration. I need time to think about all of this, and to do more than skim the surface with my knowledge of the apps you mention. I will definitely be doing or adapting some of what you have described. For the person who commented about display of math, I have started using a Livescribe pen for this, and will be building more use of this into my class this year I hope. Thank you so much for focusing my thinking about this important subject.

  22. Thanks for all the comments and in particular suggestions how to make these ideas better! i.e. @vanost twiducate

    Please come back and share how it all plays out in your classrooms. I'd be fascinated to learn about that from you.

  23. This is a great resource for teachers, thanks for putting it together! I am the cofounder of Celly, a company that is working on a group texting and SMS service that is tuned for schools and community groups.

    Based on a lot of feedback from teachers, we have a powerful "curated chat" mode where you can decide which messages are sent to the whole group, and which are just private to you. We find this works great in school environments, and are making other improvements all the time (for example we just launched polling). Check us out at and let us know if you ahve feedback!

  24. Thanks for the comment Greg. I'd be interested in exploring the use of Any plans to make it available here in Canada? ;-)

  25. Loved reading this post. Would you offer laptops to be checked out by students throughout the day if they didn't have their own device to bring home from school? Also besides a class blog, would you consider having a class facebook page as well?

  26. @Unknown I wrote this with the assumption that all students had access to some sort of device. I figure if a school requires each kid to have a device they ought to also have something in place to create opportunities for kids whose families cannot afford the hardware.

    As for the FB page, that's up to you. I think it depends on your workflow. If you use FB regularly with your classes, and it's an important part of your class learning ecology, weave it in. Personally, I'm not a fan of FB. But that's just me. ;-)

  27. Jason Roy1/1/12 18:48

    hey, you have lots of tools there! When I head back to math teaching next year I am gonna try to use with my students. Some of my kids who are now at college are using this tool and really liking it. Last year I used Google Tools for almost everything I did. I'm also investigating Question Press for more formative assessment in class.

  28. Thanks for the comment Jason. You've left behind a few suggestions I'd like to explore further.

    @all This blog post has evolved into a workshop. You can find the digital archive of it at