5 Strategies for Building a Powerful BYOD Classroom

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photo credit: Barrett.Discovery via photopin cc
photo credit: Barrett.Discovery via photopin cc

Moving to a Bring Your Own Device school or classroom is a major transition. I’ve heard many horror stories of monumental failures from first-year BYOD teachers, and most could have been avoided with some simple planning.

For a balanced and healthy classroom, it’s important to unplug occasionally.
It’s one thing to tell your students to bring their devices one day, so the class can engage in a text messaging activity using Celly, only to return to standard class activities the next day. However, entering a new school year with the intention of using mobile devices daily is entirely different and requires careful planning for success.

5 Keys to a successful BYOD classroom

1. Anticipate problems, they will come–Whether you are in a whole BYOD school or one BYOD classroom, problems will arise. Some are difficult to foresee, but many can be anticipated. For example, a school transitioning to BYOD must consider bandwidth. If you have a few computer labs and classrooms with a handful of desktop computers, chances are the use is sporadic, so your bandwidth is sufficient. When you convert to a BYOD school, Internet use will increase exponentially; you have to be ready. Be sure your technology experts have done their homework on this issue, before the school year begins. There are likely to be many issues with devices, student skill levels, etc. A good strategy is to brainstorm potential problems periodically and consider how you will deal with them. Again, you won’t anticipate every issue, but you will be prepared for most.

2. Teach appropriate device and Internet use constantly–One of the worst mistakes a teacher can make is to teach complex lessons once and assume they have been ingrained in students. Teaching appropriate use of technology and the Internet is much more than simply telling students to avoid inappropriate searches and texting friends under the tables. Boundaries for device use must be set, and a conversation about appropriate use must be ongoing. Rather than shielding students from the dangers of the Internet and of social networks, share these dangers with students and have them discuss the stories and even write about them. Yes, the subject can be frightening, but discussing it openly can stop bullying and can ultimately save lives. Some basic guidelines, like devices must always be on desk or tabletops, help maintain an efficient BYOD classroom. Learn more about appropriate use in Teaching the iStudent: A Quick Guide to Using Mobile Devices and Social Media in the K-12 Classroom.

3. Blend the learning–Kids love their mobile devices, applications, and websites; in fact, they’ll remain on them all day, if you allow it (according to PEW, teens interact with media for an average of seven hours daily). For a balanced and healthy classroom, it’s important to unplug occasionally. This is easily accomplished by routinely blending the learning. Take lengthy breaks from the mobile devices for some good old fashioned face-to-face social interaction. Students may hate it, but assure them that it’s still a necessary part of everyday life.

4. Have extra devices on hand–Sure, this sounds costly, but it’s important to have some devices on hand for those few students who don’t have them. You will get the pulse of your classroom the first few days of school, so you’ll know who does and does not have Internet-ready devices. Be sure to have extras. There are ways to get them on the cheap–PTA grants, community donations, fundraisers, etc. Let your social networks know you’re always in need of old working devices for your class. They don’t have to be the best, but they do have to work.

5. Plan your curriculum around BYOD–So you have technology. What do you do with it? I once knew a teacher who had a mobile laptop cart that sat untouched in her classroom for an entire school year. “It just leads to trouble,” she told a colleague. “I don’t know how to use it.” Consider how you will teach using all this wonderful technology. What websites or applications will your students use? Do you have a Learning Management System, like Edmodo or Schoology? Are you using a blog host Kidblog or WordPress? Building curriculum around technology is challenging, but it is rewarding, as it will engage students in remarkable ways. So, be sure you don’t enter your amazing new BYOD classroom blind. Test the waters, before you teach your first lesson.

These are 5 strategies for building a powerful BYOD classroom. But they aren’t the only ones. Stay in touch with your Personal Learning Network to learn more BYOD tips. Talk to colleagues about their successes and about their failures.

And, of course, stay tuned to Brilliant or Insane’s Technology section for constant updates.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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