Friday, 18 October 2013

BYOD - Fits, Farts, and Misstarts

When the option to bring in any device that works wirelessly is available, the diversity of devices that comes in is amazing. It is both a blessing and a curse. When everything works it allows for a wide variety of ways to create a finished product. For example a girl in my class was wondering what kind of spider she had caught at recess, so she searched for the spider using her iPod. She then found some information, put some notes on her device, and then shared it with the class. In that moment BYOD feels great. The wide world of information is at our fingertips, just waiting to be tapped and harnessed, but... it isn't always that easy. 

Sometimes the internet and the device don't seem to be willing to get along. The moment of excitement, and engagement can be lost. But here is when the variety of devices becomes a good thing. Another student has a Blackberry device that finds the wifi signal, when an Android device won't, and so two students partner up and all is well. 

I often feel like I am in an infomercial when I stand in front of my class. I am there to sell them on the next awesome idea that we are going to start to explore, or on their own capabilities to succeed. Once I have everyone on the edge of their seat, I bring out the new technology that will help us to reach our goal. It is the first time they have seen it, and it should be magic! But sometimes it isn't. 

One day this week everything that could go wrong... did. A perfect storm of electronic mishaps, that ended with a class slipping away from the moment. Attention spans stretched to the breaking point, chairs shuffled, and the dreaded sound of off-topic giggles began. I lost the moment when the technology didn't work the way it was supposed to. The moment of engaged excitement had passed. 

That is why there always has to be a backup plan, waiting in the wings, engaging, interesting and on topic. The analog savior, to our digital disaster. When the internet is not cooperating, when the Google Doc is insisting they have a log in on devices, when the QR code creator, that worked flawlessly for two years, suddenly doesn't work anymore, when the Google Maps Street View of Nunavut is unavailable without a Google account on an ipad, then it is time to power down, and switch gears.

I constantly try to let my students know that failure leads to success, and that we can't be afraid to fail, whether we are conducting a science experiment, or working on a math problem. I have to remember that the rule counts for me too. Letting them see that I fail too wasn't easy, but role modelling patience, and perseverance as we went through the process of problem solving was a good experience. 

Today the same lesson worked, the glitches were fixed, and groups were working successfully. We learned that things can be difficult, but every problem can be solved if we are willing to keep trying, and work through the problems. I guess in the end, we learned more than I thought this week. 


  1. In my fourth grade class, BYOD means iPods. I have had an iPad come once or twice. About a third of my class bring their devices daily. There are bumps for sure. Our school has superior wifi installed, yet our division has experienced bandwidth problems with the increased demand. BYOD-student has been suspended for a week once. It is back up, but I don't know if the issue has been resolved. Our class has talked extensively about responsible use.

    They are a distraction in class. A few students lose their devices daily while they learn to manage their use. I've adopted the rule that devices must be used on top of the desk, rather than in their laps.

    My class is connected to a variety of classes through Edmodo. The iPods have been excellent for that. Some have experimented with their creative writing using Google Docs. The app is good, but the screen size drives me crazy. I want them to use their personal devices more for research and reference. Despite the bumps, it is a satisfying development.

  2. I'm curious Scott, how are the devices handled during non-instructional time? Are students able to keep their devices on hand or are they required to be submitted to the teacher in charge? How are they handled during rotary times - French, Music, Gym? These are questions in the system and not that there is a 'one-size fits all', but I am looking for models of practise. Thanks for sharing!

  3. We are lucky enough to have a locking cabinet in our classroom. The devices are locked up when other teachers are teaching in the room, and at lunch time. The students are very good at locking up their devices, and handing them out when we need them. The devices sit on their desks during class, and are always available as a choice when they are working. It is not a perfect system, but it is the same basic system I used last year.