The final quarter of last year, our classroom was a limited B.Y.O.D. zone, meaning yes, bring your own device but check it at the door unless we had a purpose for it. I instituted this because I felt we were getting distracted, myself included, we were having a hard time resisting the instant temptations that our smartphones seem to provide for us. So we left them out of the room and the students were just fine with it. I was too. In fact, there were times where I knew that our conversations, our reflections, our thinking traveled to deeper levels because we did not have a device nearby to distract.
Yet, I felt like I had taking the easy way out. That declaring our room a device free zone was limiting the students. So I have been thinking a lot about meaningful purpose lately, because much like I would not take a pencil away from my students unless I had to, I don’t think we should be taking devices either. What we need instead is purpose, and purpose starts with us. Especially in our literacy classroom where we have such an opportunity to use the devices to further a love of reading.
The beauty of students with devices is not just the instant access to information, but the ability to give them a voice even if we are not discussing. To give them a further purpose than just the immediate one in the classroom. To create a digital platform for them to share their voices with the world. Therefore, this coming year, we will not be device-free but rather device-purposeful. Together we will be deciding how to use, when to use, and what to do with our devices. There will be clear student-set expectations and they will be a natural part of our classroom, not something to always leave at the door.
A few ideas so far for the purpose part are: (For students with no devices we will have access to Chromebooks to do some of these things. )
An ongoing TodaysMeet backchannel. This idea, shared by Ira Socol at ISTE, means that I am creating a TodaysMeet room for each class and having that as a place for students to discuss, ask questions, and also to take the pulse of my classroom. Because, of course, students will probably veer off the prompted conversation, but will they do it all of the time? This will allow my shyer students a way to speak up, allow students to help each other, and also a way to leave me questions that perhaps they don’t feel they need the answer to right away. This backchannel will also allow me a way to assess to see engagement, interest, and confusion. All useful tools as I prepare and plan.
A Goodreads community. I plan on using Goodreads with my students this year as a way to log their books, share recommendations, and explore new books. It is the same tool I use for myself and so adding it will be a natural extension of what adult readers use. For those who teach younger students, you could use Biblionasium to do this as well.
A Padlet Wonder wall. I really want us to start being more curious and wondering more, so having a Padlet with things we wonder about will be another tool for the students to access. I plan on sharing a daily wonder as well, and may use Wonderopolis if we have time.
A Padlet book share wall. This idea shared by the inspiring Kristin Ziemke at ILA is having a place for students to post “Book shelfies” plus a recommendation of the book. I loved Kristin’s idea especially of opening this up to the world and having students around the world sharing their books as well.
Those are just a few ideas, but I am sure more will come soon. I cannot wait to discuss these ideas with my students and see what else they have to offer. What ideas would you add?
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.