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BYOD4L July 15, 2014

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD.
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byod4l logo

BYOD/T is an area I’ve devoted a fair bit of thought to, so when the opportunity to participate in the open, online ‘course’ that is BYOD4L offered itself, I wasn’t so sure. But then I recognised that our BYOT developments in school have plateaued to some extent and perhaps need additional impetus to reinvigorate things.

BYOD4Learning is a truly open course, or an ‘open magical box’ for those who don’t like the term ‘course’ very much, for students and teachers (nothing is locked away or private and you won’t even need to register) who would like to develop their understanding, knowledge and skills linked to using smart devices for learning and teaching and use these more effectively, inclusively and creatively.

I’m always interested in exploring new ways of learning, so BYOD4L offered that chance and in so doing, to rethink some aspects of our own developments. So my intention is to participate in the daily 5Cs activities, evening #BYOD4Lchats on Twitter where possible and as always, enjoy making a few new connections. Rather than post here as I normally would, because I want my participations in the 5Cs activities to provide a resource for colleagues in school, I’ll be posting (openly) on our learning platform, a place colleagues visit more regularly than my blog. (Shed no tears for me here. I can take it. I’m a realist!) Whilst reflecting on the 5Cs and their relations to BYOD, I’ll be attempting to provide practical ways colleagues might make more of BYOD.

Last night’s BYOD4Lchat got things off to a rollicking start and my first post on Connecting is done … and almost on time too!

Is consumption versus creation a red herring in the BYOD debate? June 23, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings.
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byod:  faustian pact?

cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Makayla Lewis: http://flickr.com/photos/makaylalewis/8653801368/

I enjoy reading blog posts and articles with which I don’t necessarily agree. I find it’s a crucial part of testing my thinking, demands that I reflect on my beliefs and potentially helps me refine my worldview and assumptions. One particular field of enquiry and debate which I consume voraciously is that of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), not least because we have embarked on a BYO programme at school. A recent, considered post by Randy Ziegenfuss, in discussing several concerns of a BYOD programme, focused particularly on the issues of access and content creation versus consumption.

Randy feels that using BYOD as a means through which greater levels of access to ICTs and in particular the information they lead to is somewhat short-sighted. He’s right of course, but without improved levels of access (at times and in places the learner chooses), it’s much harder to move forward on the areas which may provide much greater gains in deeper learning through content creation and curation. Arguing that the content consumption model of the classroom is both dated and limiting, he makes the case for moving towards a different classroom environment in which students become “contributors of content and knowledge,” rather than passive consumers. Once again I agree, but perhaps even go a stage further and test the notion of the classroom itself; rather than thinking how technology can be brought in to change the classroom, perhaps BYOD affords the potential to lower the walls of the classroom (if you’ll forgive this trite expression!) and indeed extend the timetable beyond a series of fixed slots. If we maintain our ‘classroom’ mindset, are we being sufficiently ambitious?

Another problem Randy identifies with BYOD is that ‘devices are not equal’ where content creation is concerned and once again I find myself in agreement. However perhaps we can work that to our advantage? The fact that it’s harder to produce an extended piece of writing on a tablet or an amazing piece of art work on a mobile/cell phone is not the fault of the device, it’s caused by the task that was embarked upon and the outcome which was expected. That we find it harder to create content and knowledge bounded within traditional formats is not the fault of the device. Let’s take a traditional format with which I have great familiarity – the lab report. It invariably has a standard structure of diagram, method, results and conclusion which would task even the most ardent BYOD supporter to produce using a smartphone, at least it would if we want the output to be constrained to the traditional form i.e. a report in book or paper-based format. Instead we should play to the strengths of the device itself – using an app like Narrable, we can take photos of the processes and results of our experiment, narrating them either as we go. This can be an individual exercise or produced by a group, with the output being a narrated photo sequence which ought to address the same learning outcomes, but be achieved (arguably) more quickly and with fewer overheads for those for whom writing may not be a strength.


Although Randy doesn’t mention content curation, I’d suggest it too (when done properly) requires and results in a higher level of learning, and curation is another area with which the playing field of different devices can be levelled somewhat. With apps like FlipBoard or Scoop.It, content found through web searches (or brought in from elsewhere) can be filtered, sorted, annotated, presented and imbued with greater meaning.

In conclusion I’d like to offer a couple of possible answers to the two explicit questions Randy posed:

“Doesn’t BYOD make the design of technology-rich lessons more difficult?” Yes, but then surely so does anything new we bring into a technology-rich classroom, whether it’s a device or application? Like all innovations there’s an up-front cost, ameliorated when the benefits begin to filter through. The flip-side is that without BYOD, in some circumstances, maybe there wouldn’t even be be a technology-rich environment?

“How does BYOD create a teaching/learning environment that actually is conducive to the changing roles of learner and teacher in a technology-rich environment?” To be specific, I guess we’d first have to agree on what those ‘changing roles’ actually are, but I’ll make a tentative offer. What BYOD does is to help the learner own their learning in a way that 1:1 doesn’t. They’re learning with a device they already have, that they’ve chosen (equity issues on one side) and which is already integrated into their lives. It’s not a device (like so many other aspects of school – curriculum, assessment, location, timings) that some else chose, controls and provides for them. BYOD shouldn’t be a route chosen solely to improve access or reduce costs, nor should there be issues of creation versus consumption, the foundations of BYOD should be built on learner empowerment through freedom and choice.

Must it be an either or? 1:1 or BYOT? November 24, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Musings.
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Spending a leisurely weekend away allowed me to catch up on a few podcasts and become acquainted with a relatively newcomer in ‘Out of School’ from Fraser Speirs and Bradley Chambers. Many of you may know Fraser through Twitter and already be aware of the 1:1 iPad project he’s overseen at Cedars, the school where he works in Scotland. Bradley too manages an iPad project in a school in Chattanooga in the US, but with a slightly different model, one which provides access through iPad ‘banks’ in school.

Though the content is perhaps inevitably skewed towards Apple products and services, they discuss at length the planning, strategies and issues you’re likely to need to take into account if you’re considering a 1:1 programme. The episodes cover ground like networks, connectivity, devices and their management, the people (students, teachers, parents, school leaders), legal and insurance issues, breakages and support, lifetime and refresh cycles, applications and workflow … the whole spectrum. As such they’re a great listen and certainly helped me think through our forthcoming programme, revisit the planning we’ve done so far and brought to the fore some of the issues we might need to revisit.

byot comparison

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by seantoyer: http://flickr.com/photos/seanhobson/4504828599/

Now for many reasons, our project is not 1:1 in the same ways that the guys have at their schools. Ours is a BYOT initiative and about those, our hosts were rather less than complimentary. All the usual slings and arrows were loosed: bewildering variety of platforms & applications, difficult for teachers to plan/manage lessons, difficult for tech support, equity/uniformity of access. These are all valid points and ought to be addressed during preparatory discussions with stakeholders and as part of the project planning process … and indeed doubtless will need to be revisited as the project rolls out. But it’s not as though a more traditional, school-managed 1:1 project isn’t without its challenges too. Yes it overcomes some of the difficulties inherent in BYOT, but as Fraser and Bradley kindly point out during the series of podcasts, 1:1 also raises its own challenges.

For me the choice between one flavour and the other requires me to revisit the underlying philosophy. In a 1:1 programme, I’d suggest the emphasis is on the school (the devices are school-owned or school-procured or the spec. is school-determined), the teacher (a consistent platform makes it more manageable for them), tech support (techs are better able to support and manage the estate and infrastructure) and the devices (the spec., the apps, the frequency of refresh etc). But surely the starting point should be the learner? Outside the school gates, they (or at least the ones who can afford it!) make the choice of technology they want to use: tablet, laptop or desktop, phone and/or camera, phone and/or music player … though of course that choice will be different for some than others and is not immune to external influences. Oughtn’t we to allow the same degree of freedom in the device they choose to support their learning? When they leave our schools to hopefully continue their learning, won’t they then have the freedom to choose their platform and, having had the opportunity to undertake BYOT, be better placed to make a rationale choice? In the real world if they can’t connect to the coffee house’s wireless network, do they ask the barista? Back in school, are we really so incapable of designing a learning experience which is sufficiently open to enable our learners to succeed whichever way they choose to access it?

In a well-balanced blog post, Keith Rispin took a close look at comparing iPad versus BYOT programmes and highlighted several strengths and weaknesses of each. He also recognised how considering a transition from school-owned and controlled devices through to BYOT might be valuable as students become older, more responsible and more capable of managing their own learning.

In conclusion then, for me it’s BYOT to encourage learner autonomy, choice and independence, not 1:1 in order to make life easier for us … at least it is as students become older.

You might like to check out one particular episode of ‘Out of School’ in which Fraser & Bradley compare a 1:1 with a BYOD programme:

Teachers Don’t Tinker

Information … graphically? August 18, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in research, Resources, Teaching Idea.
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byod infographic

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/7803317018/

I outlined in the preceding post the results of a survey of our students; one aspect of the preparation for our forthcoming BYOD programme. But how to reflect the outcomes back for the various constituents? A report for the Senior Leadership Team? A blog post for the staff? A poster for the students themselves?

And that’s when I realised here was the authentic opportunity I’d been looking for to create my first infographic. A single output suitable for all audiences … and therefore a challenge indeed. So what would be my weapon of choice for such an undertaking. Well the data was already in a Google form, which has its own output option; whilst this isn’t too bad for the numerical aspects of the survey, it’s less than good in showing the free-text responses. Of the other tools, Infogr.am has been stealing the march on generating data visualisations just recently, but didn’t quite offer the features I needed to display the two different data types. In the end another imperative drove my choice and nudged me towards the ‘old-school’ approach with an offline application. A good few years ago, I became quite adept in using vector graphic applications and specifically CorelDraw (if I tell you I was using version 8, this article will give you a clue as to when that was!). I’ve allowed those skills to decline, am in great need of a refresher and recently became aware of Inkscape, an open source vector graphics editor. Reasons aplenty then.

Then reality kicked in! My ‘designer gene’ has always been somewhat dormant and inspiration often eludes me, though as I learned on “edtechcc“, having never really studied nor mastered the design process, there’s an awful lot to it (kudos to Design Tech teachers!). In the end then, it was more a matter of synthesising the data, translating into a more visual form and reducing its complexity somewhat, rather than making it as beautiful as David McCandless might. I hope however that I’ve at least started my journey towards making data more accessible by thinking about:

the creative organization, styling and presentation of information with the goal of increasing interest, readability and comprehension beyond that of pure text.

Joshua Johnson

Knowing the time it took to put together even this simple affair, the skills I had to develop with Inkscape, the interpretation and reimagining of the data and especially the creativity (albeit limited in my case!) involved in choosing and deploying a design, making an infographic would surely provide a worthy challenge for our students?

Wisdom of the many? July 7, 2012

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Musings, research.
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I got the following response to a question I asked about BYOD during the week:

Would they be covered on the insurance? Where would they be stored? Overall I remain unconvinced. It is probably a good idea for 6th formers but certainly not for younger students.

This was a verbatim response … from a student!

survey responses

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by The Bees: http://flickr.com/photos/thebees/4982556761/

We’re launching a BYOD pilot programme across our 6th form in the Autumn term, but with the intention of extending it across other years following an evaluation of that pilot. Our preparations have included discussions with staff, and with the students who will be included in the pilot. We also wanted to ‘test the water’ with years 7 to 10 though and find out the level of technology to which they had access, their attitudes to using it in school and if indeed they had any desire to use it. Rather than the face-to-face discussions we’ve had with other constituencies, we felt a short poll would suffice at this stage and I’ve just begun analysing the results.

In addition to finding out the types of device they have, their confidence with them and whether they would bring them to school, we also asked an open-ended attitudinal question:

Have you any thoughts at all about the possibility of being allowed to use mobile devices to help your learning? Good thing? Bad thing? Possible problems?

Bear in mind this was done in a few minutes during morning registration, there was no preliminary discussion and this was the first time any of them would have heard about the possibility of BYOD. Without performing a numerical analysis of how positive or negative the responses to this question were, I got the impression that they were largely favourably inclined to the possibility of BYOD. Some students provided positive responses, some negative and many produced balanced returns. However, whilst the general feeling was positive, it was nowhere nearly as focused and specific as the concerns they expressed:

  • Batteries often go flat.
  • You could lose them or have them stolen.
  • Not everyone has their own device.
  • Might be problems connecting to the wifi.
  • Can sometimes get distracted and go off task.
  • I wouldn’t want someone else to borrow my phone.
  • My mum wouldn’t let me bring it.
  • Some people would text rather than doing what they should be.
  • Where would be able to store them?
  • I wouldn’t want it to cost me money.
  • I prefer not to use mobile devices for learning, although laptops are OK.
  • What programmes students use wouldn’t be controllable.
  • With everyone using it, it might slow up the Internet.
  • If it breaks, you wouldn’t be able to do any work.
  • Although a good thing, we should still be allowed to use pen and paper if we want.
  • Different students might have different programmes.

How amazing that with so little preparation, forethought and time, students should come up with almost the same list of concerns that educators did during an hour-long #ukedchat on BYOD. I was stunned! And I’ve only analysed half the returns so far! The positive responses, though less clearly focused towards specific aspects of learning than the educators, nevertheless pointed towards familiarity, ease and speed of use and increased level of access.

Knowing the concerns that students actually have, rather than the concerns that we think they might have … or that we have as staff, means we can redouble our efforts into resolving them. We can then make sure that prior to taking the next steps, we ensure students are aware of how their concerns are being addressed. The one issue that still bothers me above others however is that of equity, but maybe here’s an opportunity to engage the students yet further – how would they prefer to see the equity gap narrowed. Maybe the Wisdom of Crowds could help out here too?