BYOD? They Already Do

A short post today on how the debate about bringing your own device to school is superfluous and antiquated.  After all, they already do.

Case in point: when a student wants to borrow a pencil, I have them leave collateral in the front of the room.  I accept shoes, keys, wallets, and of course, cell phones.  Cell phones are the collateral of choice.

The collateral pile yesterday during district testing.

Now, when you think about the kids who are always handing over the phones, these are typically not the most responsible or prepared of students.  After all, when asked to get out something to write with in Language Arts, some seem genuinely surprised at the request.  These are the generally the kids who say they don’t have a computer at home.  These are generally the kids who allow schools to make excuses about not using technology in the classroom because teachers and admin worry about keeping equipment safe and intact.

Yet,  these same students are always packing their phones, and unlike their backbacks, when they hand over the phone, I know that they will never walk out of the room without it.

So let’s stop the debate and start using the real life resources around us.  We want students to have some ownership in their learning?  Have them provide some of the means in which they learn.  If our job is to help bridge the gap between school life and real life, let’s stop blocking students from using that which they already own, use, and respect.

Oh, yeah.  Going back to my collateral pile.  And if one of the phones from the pile buzzes while class is in session, I give you permission to answer it.  I’ve also been known to text someone back.

Sorry, M can’t come to the phone right now. She’s busy learning.  TTFN! – Mrs. WG


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  • I teach 7th graders – you don’t state what grade you are teaching. Happy for you that your kids do not play video
    games, watch porn, post photos of their friends in awkward
    positions, photo themselves nude in the locker rooms, send
    test questions and answers, etc. How about just catching
    the sunlight on the metal to shine a horrible light in
    someone’s eyes?

  • Mike says:

    Sounds like a great opportunity to teach acceptable use and responsibility…

  • MomToThree says:

    As a parent, I would bow in worship to the person or organization that published materials to better teach my children AT HOME that technology’s primary use should be to enhance learning and not engage in addictive gaming and hedonistic, base desires. Completely get Steinberg’s rant. Goes back to the privilege, not a right defense we adults need to stick together on. There’s a technology monster out there that needs to be tamed. If not, these high standards will never be realized. Hang in there, Steinberg, and don’t put up with that crap!

  • Ron says:

    Cell phones can be used to cheat as well…and they do

  • Mike says:

    At home, it’s your responsibility. At school, I’ll monitor to be as sure as I can that they do not have their phones out during tests… if cheating goes on at other times, there is little anyone in the world can do to stop it. This technology is a reality that students will have to learn to use responsibly. Should we make it taboo so they learn that it is a tool for evil or teach them how it can be a tool for good? That education is a shared responsibility of all of who are parents as well as those of us who are teachers.

  • CJS says:

    Bunch a BS, teachers need to teach, not cell phones. Seems like the teachers are teaching less and less and the computers are teaching more. So sick of kids that don’t know how to read, write or count change, because the teachers are getting lazier and wanting to let computers teach. Need to go back to old school ways and teach kids. Pretty soon we won’t need teachers in the classroom, cause the computers will be teaching our children. How sad :*( And when this happens we will have a society of people that don’t know how to read, write or anything else, because the computers will do all the work.

  • Teacher says:

    We are teaching to a digital age. Students and adults communicate in high percentages through some type of device, whether it be computers, tablets, or smart phones. Jobs require high use of technoology and if we don’t teach our students the proper way to use their devices in a productive manner by teaching digital citizenship along with allowing bring your own device so that we can acheive greater access to the necessary technology then we are doing not only our students a disservice but our nation in preparing our students for college and career readiness. Phones can be used in a variety of positive ways for educational purposes. We have middle school and high school teachers who allow their students to lay phones on corner of desk upside down and use when asked to do research, answer questions through texting where it gives immediate responses for whole class to view the poll or question. They can be used for so many things that are productive. Students can email or send assignements, take pictures/videos for creating multimedia projects, etc. I thinnk Mike hit the nail on the head by it being a great opportunity to teach acceptable use and responsibility. Teach them to use them appropriately and most will during class.

  • Mike says:

    When you were in school, you probably used whatever was available to find information… Perhaps dictionaries and encyclopedias? The current world does not find information in those ways, like it or not. Those who do find information in those ways get passed by others in the business world. Why educate students in a way that will not translate to the world into which they will graduate? They must be prepared for a high-tech workplace. As a teacher, I find keeping up with technology to be a great challenge. It is not an easier way to teach, but indeed more difficult. Think about the world our students must be prepared to enter and then think about how they can truly be prepared for it. That is how we must teach.

  • Tish Wodetzki says:

    Our school in Ohio started a pilot program of bringing your own device. I teach fourth grade, and I finally jumped in. My students could not function with a dictionary. When I started allowing devices, now they all want the dictionary when they don’t have their device. And, they have learned how to navigate the dictionary. It has brought each and every student engaged into the process. When we see something in any subject we don’t know, etc. we just assign someone with a device to google and then share. It actually helps keep the class moving at times and at times we can take that needed break to follow the important rabbit trail. I really believe devices, especially phones, are like a watch to this generation. We are not going to reach and teach them until we begin to use their language! Education can not improve if we don’t start making changes outside of our (teachers’) comfort zones. I can not explain in words how much more engaged my class is when we are using such devices. I do post a sign that shows green when it’s ok to have out and use, etc. and Red when it is not. Simple and works!

  • Joe Garcia says:

    I belong to the old school because when I was a child there wasn’t much technology available to the public as it’s today. I started using a PC when I was studying abroad. Nowadays, I feel comfortable using a PC at home and school. So that I encourage my students to use computers for learning. However, since every day new technology devices appeared for everyday use, I have the feeling that I’m getting behind in this tech trend. But I’m confident enough to accept that my students know more than me when using such tech devices that I’m not afraid of showing my tech ignorance to them. Throughout my professional life, I’ve learned many things with them.

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  • Joshua says:

    Great article! Your example of students forgetting simple things such as pens or paper but rarely leaving their smartphones behind really illustrates just how much students are connected to these devices. To ignore how they want/like to communicate as well as the devices/platforms they embrace is doing them a great disservice.

    Teaching them to use these devices in ways that will benefit them rather than banning them, seems to be the logical response.

  • Mary Anne says:

    I appreciate your comments, Heather, as well as those of Mike and others who support teaching students how to use technology responsibly and for positive purposes. Like any other teaching effort, this is also about holding high expectations for our students and believing in them, believing in ourselves and holding both parties accountable.

    A second point point I’ll mention to all in the conversation, from Ron Miguel Ruiz’s ” The Four Agreements”: presume positive intentions. In all encounters with our students and our colleagues, whether in school or wherever, it makes for more productive relationships!

  • Tim White says:

    How about teachers write assignments and projects that can’t be googled? If you write an assignment and I can find the answer on the 1st page of google, its not more than location skills being tested and not critical thinking. Learning how to access multiple data points to draw new conclusions is where technology steals the show and a skill that computers will never be able to take away from us.

  • […] in the classroom – this is one topic I have engaged in for a decade. Heather Wolpert-Gawron’s comment about the debate being “superfluous and antiquated” is true and her picture of […]

  • A student says:

    Agreed. This clearly proves the dependency for some kids on their phones. I am not attached to my phone at all. You should consider using the Internet less, unless researching a topic. Then there’s always the option of decreasing modems, so that they can’t use their phones in the class.

  • Rachel says:

    As a future English teacher, I very much like this post (and overall blog). I had a professor in college who would take a phone, answer it, and tell the caller that their friend/family member couldn’t talk. It was always a bit awkward, but mostly everyone thought it was funny. It seems like that is a good way to assuage the existing tension between teachers and students when it comes to technology. You’re right. They already bring them, and we know they care a great deal about them, so why don’t we let the students use their technology more? I do also recognize the importance of not feeding the “addiction” or enabling a child far too old to continue to suck on his/her pacifier, but at the same time, not allowing use in the classroom of the very technology we encourage them to use for good elsewhere seems hypocritical. Plus, sometimes they may just need it to look up a definition or other quick fact. Is that bad?

  • Didi says:

    haha, cell phones can be used for a lot of things, not only for cheating… but if you ask me personally, it’s kinda bad to speak on the phone while classing… really bad

  • Olivia London says:

    To CJS:
    Wow, are you a politician? Because what you write is so incredibly ignorant that it’s almost pointless replying to you!! Before you put out the statement that teachers are lazy please just spend 1 hour in any classroom. So you think we should use no technology in school? Sure, that’s going to prepare children for working life!! Technology has incredible benefits YES yet any teacher will tell you that we don’t use it as an excuse not to TEACH (and you clearly have an image of your ideal ‘teacher’ as a Victorian standing at the front of class talking the entire time) we use it to ENHANCE TEACHING.

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  • John Burns says:

    It will not be long when we will not need teachers in the classroom, because the computers will be teaching our children.

    Oh well that is the future i dare say!

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  • This is really awesome, thanks for sharing this. Happy Teacher Day

  • Corbin says:

    I know all to well about the powerful collateral that is the cell phone. I once forgot my wallet when filling up my car. Fortunately the clerk allowed me to run home in exchange for my phone, which was likely worth more than the fuel I bought.

    I was back in 10 minutes and retrieved my phone. All was well. haha

  • Ferhan Patel says:

    Ferhan Patel

    Heather Wolpert-Gawron » BYOD? They Already Do

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