Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Polleverywhere.com

 

The concept of the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) movement in education has been around for a couple of years, however, its feasibility is increasing as more and more students have high tech gadgets in their pockets. While the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) allows for students to have these devices at school, they must be turned off while on school property. The DSBN does allow individual schools to make the call whether they will allow devices to be used in classrooms, however, and has been embraced by Eden High School in St. Catharines.

The negative points of having devices in the classroom can be easy to come up with: easy distractions, disruptive for the teacher during lessons, etc. However, as these devices become a normal part of the students’ life, it will be harder and harder to regulate their use. Embracing BYOD policies could help encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning by allowing themĀ  to use their own technology to create, respond, and learn within the classroom.

One such approach to using BYOD is through the service PollEverywhere.com. This service provides an easy, cost effective way to allow students to respond to questions posed by the teacher by texting, tweeting, or using a web browser. The responses are collected and results are shown almost immediately. The cost of response clickers from distributors such as SMART runs about $1500-$2000 for a classroom (20-30 students), while Poll Everywhere’s service is free for classrooms smaller than 40 students. This means that the same experience of class polling can be reached, while having little to no cost as long as students can bring their own devices.

Setting up polls is simple. When you have registered for the service (free), you can start by making polls/questions through the “Polls” link in the top left of the browser. Once polls are created, they can be viewed in the web browser, or exported to PowerPoint as an interactive, self-updating slide. This option is available for each question on the right hand side of the browser when you are looking at an individual question. These slides can be copied and pasted to any presentation you have, without effecting functionality.

The instructions on how to respond is on the PowerPoint or web browser (the slide includes what number to text, and what the responses can be), although it can become overwhelming initially due to the amount of information displayed. However, once the teacher and the students are used to the technology, Poll Everywhere becomes an effective tool to engage students, allow full class participation without singling out students, and create the same experience as expensive clickers for a fraction of the price.

A tour is available on their website to further instruct how to use their service, found here.

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Programing and Pedagogy: Can They Mix?

An article this morning in the Telegraph (UK) highlighted an education problem occurring in Europe, but I’m sure it is occurring here in Ontario as well. The author explains in the article that UK schools are teaching computer skills that are limited to Microsoft Office, and are not branching out to other areas of computer science such as coding and programing. While computer science is a growing field in the world, companies are struggling to find adequately trained personnel, a problem the article attributes to the school system. The article highlights attempts to mediate this situation at an early level, referring to the effort from MIT Media Lab to build an interactive creative software, Scratch.

Scratch is easy to understand, and powerful at creating games, videos, and other interactive activities for the computer. Best of all, the software introduces key concepts of coding and programing to its users in a fun, interactive way.

The greatest thing about Scratch is that it can be used in all disciplines. Doing a unit on story elements in English? Have the students create a short video to demonstrate the parts of a story. Need to get kids involved in geometry? Have the students create an interactive game to use shapes to build different objects.

However, all these applications are easier said then done. Teaching the students to use the software could be laborious, as can learning the software yourself. While unique individual student projects might seem more plausible than whole class involvement, Scratch adds another tool to your arsenal to encourage creativity, as well as foster an interest in programing through any course or discipline the student might find themselves in.

Introduction

A hearty greeting to everyone (and possibly no one) who will stumble across this website in attempts to improve their classroom by utilizing technology. While I am a mere teacher candidate at the time of this post, I hope to convey effective strategies and techniques involving tech that relate to the 21st century Ontario teacher. While my area of study is in the sciences, this blog hopes to equally represent all subjects in how they can effectively integrate technology without elevating frustration. Join the fun.