To BYOD? Or not to BYOD?

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” -John Dewey

There are many tools for learning, collaboration, and creation that are available online.  Unfortunately many students don’t have access to a home computer, don’t have a study hall to come to the school library, and can’t get to the public library because of geographic distance or restrictive hours.  Many schools are shifting instruction to a digital platform by incorporating google apps for education as a learning management system.  These apps are essential tools for maintaining communication outside of school hours and adding flexibility in instruction.

Instruction can go beyond even google apps to allow students create unique products to demonstrate learning using the myriad of web sources and Web 2.0 tools that are available free online.  Incorporating online tools also allows students to learn and practice online research and digital citizenship skills that they will use for the rest of their lives in a place where they are moderated by teachers.  These tools have many benefits including accommodating various learning styles and special needs.

A Pew study found that teens living in the lowest-earning households (under $30,000) are just as likely as those living in the highest-earning households ($75,000 or more) to own smartphones. That study also found that they’re “just as likely and in some cases more likely than those living in higher income and more highly educated households to use their cell phone as a primary point of access.”

According to the same Pew study, 41% of students who live in a household with a yearly income of $30,000 or less go online using a mobile device(Pew, 2012).  Yet, these devices are not allowed in schools.  Students from higher-income homes are more likely to have an internet-connected computer at home.  They are provided with instruction on how they can use their internet-connected computer to enhance their learning and connect to learning environments at school.  The students who have only mobile devices are denied this instruction because the devices that they own are persona non grata in the school building.  Many apps for learning (including google apps for education) are widely available on mobile devices, and a BYOD device policy can allow teachers to show their students how their mobile device can work for them.

Until shown differently, a cell phone is a window to the world of texting, games, and communications with friends.  These uses are fine for leisure time but do not impact learning in a meaningful way.  A trained teacher can unlock the learning potential in a cell phone or other mobile device by teaching students how to collaborate with google apps, have a Q & A with a famous author via twitter or skype, access articles and other resources for learning during downtime, and compose emails to ask questions as they come up.  In short, students will become familiar with the information-seeking behaviors that most educated professionals take for granted.  We are all most comfortable working with our own personal devices, and teaching students to unlock the learning potential of their own devices is one step toward creating a community of lifelong learners.

A clear BYOD policy lets student know where they stand.  There is a lot of well-justified concern for student safety when implementing BYOD.  There needs to be not only a clear and well-understood BYOD policy for use in the school, but also a clear policy for misuse.  There are many grave concerns with young people and internet use, from bullying and inappropriate content to simple inefficiency and misuse of instructional time.  The school can balance these concerns with the need to provide 21st century instruction by focusing on student behaviors rather than trying to establish bullet-proof filters and security measures.

GIE: Minecraft with Joel Levin

Benefits of Minecraft: Problem solving and critical thinking, independent thinking, creativity, engagement because kids love it and it is relevant.

Minecraft is flexible: you don’t change your lesson to fit the game, you change the game to fit your lesson.

The game has a wide appeal and is rapidly gaining in popularity.  Kids love it!  Student-driven collaborative learning.  It is immersive and encourages kids to do research and develop transferable skills.

Michele McColgan: Can be used extensively in STEM programs: create worlds and have learning objectives.  Use Minecraft as the focus of the lesson and find lessons that really belong in Minecraft.

Digging in a virtual sandbox

Potential is limitless.  It is a constructive game and people work together to create farms, working pianos and computers, cities, or roller coasters, to name a few.  It inspires creativity.  It inspires people to make things in real life!  It can connect to the real world.  Problem-solving skills blossom!!

Digital Citizenship

Allows students to work problems out in their little communities in a virtual space.  Minecraft can start a discussion about digital citizenship: privacy and how to treat people online.  Should you steal in Minecraft?  Can we start a convo about colonization perhaps?

Massively Minecraft Miner's Guild combines the best ideas and mods of all of the teachers who are using the game in school.  There are lesson plans and ideas out there that are ready to be plugged in.  Quests and badges!  Programming experience!  It can be combined with creative writing or journalism.  It encourages kids to research their project.  Minecraft can be like authentic problem-based learning in a virtual world!  What??

GIE: When the Internet Chooses You with Lucas Gillispie

A primer on Viral Videos, Memes, and Internet Subculture for Educators

I have been interested in integrating internet culture into education for a long time, in fact I have made lesson plans that have kids create political memes.

Soooooooo why?  Why pay attention to memes?  They are funny, current, and relevant to kids.  And also they are the most completely democratic media messages we receive, where people are in control, and they hold up a mirror to society.  It’s a sometimes scary and often absurd reflection.

Memes are ideas that become mainstream, and they are pretty easy to make since the internet has become a thing.

So how did we get here?

1982.  :-) ;-) :-P :-0  Emoticons!!!! 1989.  Internet Oracle. 1993. Trojan Room Coffee Pot is first ever webcam

Then………..worldwide web!!!!!!!!!!!

Dancing baby!!!  Email chain letters!!  Photoshopped silliness!  Hilarity ensues!!

Flash!  Homestar runner!!!

Youtube, meme generators, social media for distribution, RICKROLLING!!!

So what place do these have in education?  Can memes be a starting point for substantive discussions.  Take a look:

Science and science deniers?

Presidential debates?

Memes hold up a mirror to our culture.  People take control of the culture!  Democracy in media!

I think that this Marxism in media is a mostly good thing, and even if I’m wrong it is an unstoppable force.  Contrary to the wishes of dictators everywhere, you can’t just unplug the internet.  We live in a remix time.  SO DIG IT!

This presentation is awesome.  Take a few minutes and click through.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”When the Internet Chooses You – Memes, Viral Videos, and Internet Subculture for Educators” target=”_blank”>When the Internet Chooses You – Memes, Viral Videos, and Internet Subculture for Educators</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Lucas Gillispie</a></strong> </div>

GIE: Academic Portfolios with Mark Eisenhardt

 Mark Eisenhardt is the director of technology and middle school technology teacher for the Albany Academies. 

Benefits of Google apps for education:

  • Free
  • Platform independent
  • Embedded security
  • Cloud-based
  • Organized by subject and year
  • Private

Why do portfolio? Teaches kids about web safety, how to build websites, how to maintain a positive image online, how to promote themselves using strengths and interests, production processes, how to write about and promote their work in a way that will get the reader’s attention, and develop their voice.  This program also encourages inter-curricular collaboration among teachers, connects parents to school activities and work, encourages reflection for teachers and students. 

How to use it to collect and organize student work.  Students will:

1. Design a banner about themselves for their page

2. Build a slideshow in presentation about themselves, including a personal statement and quote

3. Use a design process to organize their page (define-imagine-plan-create-test-improve-share-reflect)

4. Use spreadsheets for assignments: teaches students how to use and be comfortable with spreadsheets and takes the work out of grading by calculating grades and percentages. 

Advice: start small and find a collaborative partner(English teacher?).  Work your way up to school-wide subject-wide portfolios. 

Side benefit: you can measure effort by seeing who contributes what when and for how long through revision history. 

GIE: Games and Violence with Carla Fisher

Carla Fisher is an educator, game designer and developer, and victim of gun violence.  After her violent experience she wondered why and how someone so young would have a gun and feel that it’s ok to use it.  She spent some time speaking with kids and noticed that they were steeped in a media environment that was rife with anger and violence.

She moved on to work on positive media for kids: Highlights, Sesame Workshop, and video games for kids.  She tries to use her unique perspective and educational background to design good games that encourage kids to think and talk, communicate and cooperate.

Guess what: violence is here to stay so we need to teach media literacy for empathy, perspective, and sensitivity.


Approach 1:

Be well-played (like well-read).  Just like we read some books that tackle hard and sad subjects or sometimes bubblegum books, we an play violent games like first-person shooters or candy crush.  The hard ones get the conversation started!

Approach 2:

Foster dialog play.  Engage with the game, discuss while you play, interact with others online, refer to other texts.

Approach 3:

Talk about Production: How does the make you feel and what are the methods designers use to make you feel that way?

These approaches allow teachers and parents to guide kids up Bloom’s Taxonemy, starting with learning the game, connecting it to events in real life, discussing emotions in real life and in video games, ethical behavior, production techniques and process, and eventually creating their own games.


The industry, parents, policy makers teachers all have a responsibility to kids.  We can protect them by using the above approaches and playing games together.

Also, choose GOOD games!  Violence can be incorporated in a thoughtful way, asking kids to consider their virtual “actions” and be aware of consequences.



3by3by3 Three Educators, Three Grade Levels, Three Experiences

Virtual Worlds in the Classroom with Mike Beardsley: Game Access to Motivate Every Student

25 years experience as a classroom teacher

He started using games primarily as a tool to motivate and engage his students in the current educational climate. He uses virtual worlds as a platform to increase engagement with existing content.  This use of technology and games as a layer on top of existing content to get students to pay attention seemed superficial at first, almost like a gimmick.  Does this appealing presentation lead to the intrinsic love of learning that should be the goal of education?

The speaker seemed like a devoted educator who is always interested in trying new things, and ultimately I defer to his experience and would consider trying virtual worlds in the classroom.


Minecraft with Sally Bisaccio.

Sally is a tech integration specialist for Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union in Bennington, VT.

She started using Minecraft as an after-school program because teachers want to know how this tool will help teach skills and content and she needed to figure out how it works and how kids interact with it first.


Social skills: collaboration “we formed an alliance”

Self-awareness and exploration of skills “I’m good at keeping my inventory organized”

Connection to knowledge, known and new “The nether is like the Greek underworld”

Virtual “responsibility”: they have to keep track of their “stuff”

Ownership that builds confidence “I made it!”

It was constructive to start as an after school program and learn how to understand the game, manage the environment, allow student to teach teacher and each other before trying to “sell” the game to teachers for classroom use.

Pedagogy of Games: Teaching teachers in virtual worlds with Jane Wilde
Faculty/Instructor, Marlboro College Gradschool
Brattleboro Vermont
Transitioning from the classroom to a virtual world allows students to get out of their own skin and experiment with different ideas and attitudes
 The best things about games as a learning tool: room to fail.  It benefits kids who struggle because games and virtual worlds are low-stakes, and it  also benefits over-achievers because the are not used to failure and it offers a new perspective.
Pathway to gamifying the classroom:
 Second life/authentic learning –> quests, chuncks, badges —–> WOW and storylines  ——> Jokaydia——>3-D Game lab
Students know about about technology!  They are more comfortable with it than adults; more confident about clicking around and learning by doing.  What they don’t know it what technology can offer them, how it fits together, and how they can make it work for them.  It is up to teachers to connect those dots!