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My BYOD Adventure: Part 1, where our hero maps the journey...

“Mr. Orphal!  Why?  You’re sucking up all of my battery life!”

I just had to laugh.  “Quit your whining, Whiney McWhineypants!  Get your phones out and find the answer to the questions on the overhead.”

If it weren’t so funny, I’d be frustrated.  I tell my students to put their phones away, they whine.  I tell them to get their phones out for our class project, they whine. 

Because they are basically fantastic students, the whining was perfunctorily and short lived.  Presently, androids, iPhones, and even an old iPod Touch appeared.  My kids began Googleing and Binging their ways to the research I wanted them to do.

I’m thrilled about the project we’re in the middle of right now.  It’s a revamp of our unit on International Education.  Last year, my students researched the educational system of Finland, while I was over in Helsinki visiting with teachers, professors, and their national board of education.  After studying what one of the best systems in the world, my students used their newfound knowledge to suggest improvements to our school in Oakland.

This year, we’re teaming up with an organization called Build ON.  Maybe you’ve heard about it, but they are a brand new organization in my little world.  Unbeknownst to me, Build ON has been working in my school for years.  Each week, they meet as a lunch time club.  Each month, several students from Skyline have joined in on weekend service projects throughout Oakland.  Last year, one Skyline student journeyed with Build ON to Nepal to help build a school.  This Spring, two more Skyline students will travel to Haiti, and this Summer, one of my Educational Academy students will be traveling to Burkina Faso.

So, this year, rather than study a top educational system with an eye toward improving our own school, we’re studying education in the developing world with an eye toward lending a helping hand.

Our project this year has two components.  First, we’re researching about the education system in Burkina Faso.  At the end of this phase, my students will write a short essay about their findings.  After that, we’ll begin to study and analyze children’s books.  In coordination with their English teacher, my students will write short stories about their lives in order to turn those stories into children’s books.  Our Skyline Build ON representative will take our books with him to Africa where they will be translated for use by the Burkinabe students.

Stay tuned, next week, I’ll write in more detail about using our cell phones and other devices for research.  After that, I’ll update you about our findings and our progress on our children’s books. 

It’s going to be a great project!

5 Comments

Precious Crabtree commented on March 2, 2014 at 6:22pm:

Give and Take

This jumped out at me, "~~rather than study a top educational system with an eye toward improving our own school, we’re studying education in the developing world with an eye toward lending a helping hand."

Even though students will be focusing on another country's school, what a great way to engage students about an important global issue while improving your own school. 

I have never heard of Build On, but it sounds like an amazing resource to help you bring meaning to learning and solving real life problems. I am curious as to how you will structure the lessons so that students are successful in helping the school in Burkina Faso.

I have lessons in fifth grade that focus around globalization and students focus on global issues that are important to them.  They create posters to bring awareness of global issues and create a mask for a global super hero... but I would love to learn more about how you will connect with the other country, engage students to take action, and make this happen!

Dave Orphal Dave Orphal commented on March 2, 2014 at 6:42pm:

Thanks for the comment!

Hi Ms. Crabtree,

Thanks for your comment.  In regards to helping the village in Burkina Faso - our school is doing two things.  First, one of my ED Academy 11th Graders (Philmon) will be a part of the BuildON delegation actually building the new school.  You can check out this project on BuildON's site.  Second, we're hoping that Philmon will have the 15-20 children's books that my current 10th graders are writing along for the journey.  Once the books arrive in Burkina Faso, a local teacher will translate our English to the language(s) of the village.  This way, the Burkinabe children will have some books to help them learn to read in thier own language(s), plus an introduction to English, plus some stories about life in America (half a world away!)

Harmony Jones commented on March 3, 2014 at 7:19am:

BYOD

We started BYOD this year and it has been a difficult transition. We had to have parents sign a form giving permission for one type of technology to come to school, including the devices's serial number and then as teachers we have to compare that number to a list on the shared drive to make sure the kid was using something their parents allowed. Needless to say this put a damper on things. The final kick came from the administration who said we are responsible for any problems that occur within our class in regards to the technology (vague, definately and a little scary). Anyway, my question is what do you have for students that don't have cell phones? And do you have any suggestions on rules/guidlines I could use in my room?

I love all the cross curricular activities you are involved in!  Build On looks so cool I can't wait to hear more about your project.

Dave Orphal Dave Orphal commented on March 3, 2014 at 8:37am:

Killing Creativity

Hey Ms. Jones,

Thanks for the comment - Wow!  With all of those restraictions, I don't know if I would have tried this project in your school.  Rather than set up research question on the PowerPoint slide for students to Gogole, I might have just printed and copied the pages from the internet and handed out yet another graphic organizer (read: worksheet).

In my school, not everyone has a smart phone.  However, I have my students sitting aroudn 6 tables rather than in traditional desks in rows.  My students ahve been working together at these tables all year.  We change seat periodically, but when we do, a part of that day is getting to know and sharing contact information with their new table-team mates.  So, even though everyone at the table didn't have a smart phone, there were two or three smart phones at every table.  Teams handled this in a coupleof different ways.  At some tables, I saw one student designated at the searcher, who them read aloud what s/he found.  At other tables, I saw students passing thier phone to one another or two students looking at a phone set on the table between them.

That said, I do agree that I am the bottom line vis-a-vis any "problems" that occur in my classroom.  I still need to walk around and look over shoulders to see if students are doing thier work, rather than looking at a video on YouTube or texting.  That said, I do that kind of walking around, anyway, and warn student to put away their phones when our lesson doesn't need them.

I feel responsible to make sure that phone - or any student personal property - isn't stolen in my class.  I didn't send any kind of letter home to parents, and I haven't checked that students are using a pre-approved device.  In hindsight, I think this actually may be a wiser decsion than the one your school chose.  When I asked students to take out their phones and look up some information the first time, I didn't make a big deal out of it.  So far, asking my students to use thier technology in class hasn't casued an increase of students bringing technology to school - so I haven't seen an increase in any of the class-disruption issues that I typically face during a school day.

Harmony Jones commented on March 3, 2014 at 7:27am:

BYOD

We started BYOD this year and it has been a difficult transition. We had to have parents sign a form giving permission for one type of technology to come to school, including the devices's serial number and then as teachers we have to compare that number to a list on the shared drive to make sure the kid was using something their parents allowed. Needless to say this put a damper on things. The final kick came from the administration who said we are responsible for any problems that occur within our class in regards to the technology (vague, definately and a little scary). Anyway, my question is what do you have for students that don't have cell phones? And do you have any suggestions on rules/guidlines I could use in my room?

I love all the cross curricular activities you are involved in!  Build On looks so cool I can't wait to hear more about your project.

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