Students and teachers in the Francis Howell School District (FHSD) are taking advantage of the district’s new technology initiative, B.Y.O.T. which means, “Bring Your Own Technology.”
Students at Francis Howell High School (FHHS) had the opportunity to utilize their personal digital devices to conduct research to complete an English research assignment during end of course assessments.
Freshman English teachers at FHHS were unable to access the school library computers due to testing; however, this did not stop students from completing their assignment. Teachers and students gathered in the upper commons area at the high school, where they were able to conduct research using their digital devices. Students without digital devices used books that were wheeled in on book carts and students with smart devices were able to download mobile apps, such as Encyclopedia Britannica, to finish their research.
Teachers were amazed at how well students worked, as they were engaged for the entire 90 minute scheduled course time. Although, all teachers have not begun to incorporate B.Y.O.T. into their curriculums or teaching practices Gina Hartman, Educational Technology Specialist for the Francis Howell School District, says that B.Y.O.T. is important for student learning.
“It allows for ubiquitous access and learning, anywhere and anytime,” said Hartman. “In a B.Y.O.T. classroom the teachers’ role shifts from the expert to the facilitator, allowing for 21st century learning to take place.”
Brian Santos, Spanish teacher and Instructional Technology Specialist at Francis Howell North (FHN) High School, has incorporated B.Y.O.T. in his classroom curriculum in numerous ways by allowing students to use their cell phones. Santos uses the online website www.poleeverywhere.com, a real-time inexpensive mobile and web technology, to conduct surveys or ask multiple-choice questions about a specific topic. Students use text messaging to submit their responses to a provided number and instantly the results are displayed in graph format in the teacher’s PowerPoint presentation or web browser.
Santos also uses Google Voice, which allows students to answer questions in Spanish to practice their speech and pronunciation as well as practice self-editing techniques. Yodio.com is a program that Santos recently used for a family history project, where students were able to upload images and narrate audio clips from their mobile devices about their families. Santos also uses ipadio.com to create live broadcasts and podcasts from any phone to the Internet live.
Additionally, Santos is also heavily involved with professional development at FHN and says that because there has been a culture shift of digital immigrants (those of the pre-digital age) and digital natives (native speakers of the digital language); many teachers fall into the digital immigrant category.
“Teachers fall into a distinct population; some are digital immigrants and some are digital natives,” said Santos. “A lot of teachers are digital immigrants and are apprehensive about using technology; my job is to make teachers more comfortable with technology usage in the classroom.”
However, some teachers are apprehensive of allowing students to use their personal devices in the classroom because every student does not have access to digital devices outside of the school environment. In a recent survey conducted at FHN, Santos found that 75 percent of students owned a cell phone and 60 percent of students owned a Smartphone, for example Apple iPhone, Blackberry or Android. This may seem to pose a problem, but Santos encourages students to share devices or submit answers in an alternate form for in-class assignments.
Hartman says teachers have the option of checking out mobile devices from school libraries. “Teachers can check out mobile devices that are available in the library for those students or incorporate cooperative learning activities where students are in small groups working and each individual students doesn’t need their own mobile device,” said Hartman.
Although, B.Y.O.T. is only currently being offered at the middle and high school levels, Hartman says the ultimate goal is to encourage more teachers to incorporate B.Y.O.T. into their teaching curriculums next school year. Hartman encourages teachers interested in B.Y.O.T. to sign-up for district workshops or look for professional development opportunities that will be offered during the school year.
“Students have cell phones and use them for entertainment, why not use them for learning,” said Santos. “I think teachers should try to incorporate new digital technologies into education; thus bringing entertainment to education.”
Click here to access the FHSD B.Y.O.T. Guide for students, teachers and parents.