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Lessons from a BYOD Classroom

Updated: Mar 28, 2020

Regardless of whether the school provides the devices or the students are required to bring their own, there are some vital lessons to learn.

So you've just started teaching a BYOD programme and you want to make sure you're managing it well.

First, it's important to note that BYOD and e-learning are not the same thing.

E-learning is the paradigm of using digital technology in a teaching programme - most commonly, and most effectively, in a blended learning environment.

BYOD is simply the answer to the question "so where do the students get the device from?"

I hope that the tips in this article will be helpful to those who are teaching in any tech-enhanced teaching environment, whether the school provides the devices or the students are required to bring their own.

What does a good BYOD lesson look like?

You already know what a "good" lesson looks like in the traditional space - students are engaged; their creativity is sparking; they are bouncing ideas off each other and refining each others' ideas with feedback; they are constructing understanding by making deep connections with their prior knowledge; there's a variety of learning activities, with students getting up and interacting as well as opportunities for reflection and evaluation.

These are all features of a "good" BYOD lesson too. Or in fact a "good" e-learning lesson, regardless of whether the devices are owned by the students themselves or provided by the school.

How much should the device be used?

As with many things in life, balance is key.

Using a device for every minute of every lesson would probably mean you'd miss great learning opportunities for students to engage in different ways that don't involve the tech.

On the other hand, using a device only occasionally would probably mean students would get sick of lugging around their machines and never using them; they'd give up bringing their device to class, so then when you do want the students to use their devices, they won't all have access to the necessary tools to complete the learning activity.

The happy medium involves using the device as much as you can, without overdoing it. This way you'll build a class culture of bringing devices regularly and using them effectively, while honouring the parents' financial investment, without giving up the most effective screen-free activities you already use.

You'll get the best out of the device, leveraging its potential to transform your blended learning programme, without being enslaved by the technology.

Getting Started: Quickly BYODify your lesson

It may help to think of it this way: in a BYOD class, your "go-to" activity should use the device, rather than pen and paper. That doesn't mean paper activities are out of the question, just that your default mode of working should involve the device.

  • Giving instructions or course info at the beginning of year? Try making a quick video instead and put it in Teams or Google Classroom

  • Giving a printed handout? Put it in OneNote or Google Classroom instead

  • Make yourself a rule/guide: if you ever hand out a piece of paper, it must also be available online, and should only be paper if it has to be. This might help you to make the brain shift required to get BYOD up and running!

  • Substitution is OK! Substitution means replacing a paper activity with a digital equivalent, with no real improvement - for example, uploading PDF notes instead of printing them out. It's not "best practice", but you're trying to establish a culture shift, so there will be plenty of Substitution in the early stages. In fact even once you’re fluent, Substitution will still have its place (as will pen & paper for some!)

Yes, BYOD activities that foster critical thinking, creativity and collaboration are the ideal – but be kind to yourself – everyone’s on their own journey.

Keep focused

Remember what you're aiming for:

A solid BYOD programme is a balanced, responsive, relationship-driven teaching programme which leverages digital technology naturally and seamlessly using BYOD devices.


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