Sunday, March 20, 2016

What is BYOD? And Why Do Schools Opt for It?

Last week I wrote a post about some of the things that will be taught during the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp on July 11th and 12th. As has been pointed out to me by a handful of people, one thing that I didn't do in that post was explain what BYOD is and why a school might opt for it. Here's my short overview of BYOD.

What is BYOD?
BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device. You will occasionally hear people use BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) in place of BYOD.

In school settings I've seen BYOD used as a supplement to a school's 1:1 program (programs in which schools provide laptops or tablets to every student) and I've seen it as a replacement for 1:1 programs. In either case students are allowed to bring their personal phones, tablets, and or laptops to use on the school's network.

Why do schools opt for BYOD?
As mentioned above, some schools will implement BYOD policies as a replacement for maintaining their own 1:1 programs. In a public school setting, that is the worst reason to choose BYOD as it puts students from disadvantaged homes in an inequitable position compared to their classmates. That said, if the choice is BYOD or nothing, I'll take BYOD.

Allowing BYOD can be a good way to supplement the 1:1 program a school has in place. Schools will allow students and staff to use their own devices for a variety of reasons including familiarity with a particular operating system, teaching in or attending classes in multiple systems, and making it easier for staff or students to take work with them between home and school.

What are the challenges of BYOD?
In 2014 my friend Vicki Davis wrote a good piece for Edutopia in which she outlined the challenges of BYOD from an IT management view point. From a classroom teacher's perspective there are some other challenges to worry about in BYOD settings.

One of the biggest challenges for teachers in BYOD settings is identifying websites and apps that function correctly across a variety of operating systems and devices. For the most part, when preparing to work in a BYOD setting I look for sites that are written in HTML5. Sites written in HTML5 will function correctly in mobile web browsers as well as in desktop and laptop web browsers. When an HTML5 site isn't available or practical I will search for apps that function correctly on iOS and Android. Generally, I start my search looking on the Android platform first. I start there because there are more Android mobile devices on the market than iOS devices.

Register for the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp by April 30th and you can save $50 off standard registration. Subscribers to the newsletter can save an additional $25 by entering the code "subscriber" at checkout.

Have a colleague or two who wants to join you? Special rates are available for two or more people registering from the same school district. Email me richardbyrne (at) for details.

FreshGrade Now Offers an Android App for Teachers

FreshGrade is a free digital portfolio service that launched last year and has quickly become popular in some schools. The service allows teachers and students to create portfolios containing video and audio files, pictures, and text files. Recently, FreshGrade introduced an Android app for teachers.

FreshGrade's Android app for teachers essentially brings all of the core features of FreshGrade to the Android platform. Teachers can use FreshGrade's Android app to snap pictures of students' work and upload it to a portfolio. Teachers can also use the app to add notes to a portfolio. Through the app teachers can invite parents to view a portfolio.

Applications for Education
In addition to the teacher app, FreshGrade offers Android and iOS apps specifically for students and their parents. Through the apps students can add content to their portfolios and parents can view their students' work.

Come to the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp this summer and learn how to design and build digital portfolios with tools like FreshGrade and others. Discounted early registration is available now. Discounted group registration is also available now. Click here for more information.

5 Ideas for Using Google Sites in Your Classroom

Google Sites is a versatile and core aspect of Google Apps for Education. At first glance you might think that it is just a website creation tool. The more time you spend using Google Sites the more you'll discover about how it can be used in your classroom. Here are five ways that I'e used Google Sites over the years.

1. As a wiki: Google Sites can be used as a wiki if you share your site with others and invite them to be editors. As a teacher you could start a site then add your students as owners or editors on the site. If you add them as owners they will be able to start new pages. If you add them as editors they will only be allowed to edit existing pages. You can also use the page-level permissions option to allow students to only edit the pages that you grant them access to.

2. As a digital portfolio: Google Sites can be used by students to create digital portfolios featuring their best works and accomplishments. I would encourage high school students to develop a digital portfolio that they can share with university admissions officers. Teachers should also consider developing a digital portfolio of their best lesson plans, credentials, and references to include when they apply for teaching positions.

3. As a digital file cabinet: If you have PDFs, Word files, or other documents that you want your students to be able to easily download, consider using the File Cabinet option in Google Sites. By creating a File Cabinet page you provide a place for those files to be easily accessed. You might also consider putting up a File Cabinet page for forms like permission slips that parents need to access.

4. As a blog: Use the Announcements template to create a blog page within your Google Sites. You can update the blog or make the blog page collaborative and let your students contribute to a class blog.

5. As a website: I left the most obvious option for last. If you need to create a place where parents and students can come to find important information about your course(s) or your school, Google Sites provides all of the tools for that. Incorporate a blog element (see #4 above) for posting updates and use the rest of the pages to house information that doesn't change that often. You can also incorporate a file cabinet (see #3 above) to post forms for parents to download. And if you're using Google Calendar, you can easily add a calendar of events to any page in your Google Site.

Topics like this one and many others will be covered in-depth during the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp on July 18th and 19th. Discounted early registration is available now. Discounted group registration is also available now. Click here for more information.

Three Ways to Save Ink & Paper When You Print

Take a look around a network printer in most schools and you'll find a pile of discarded paper. That discarded paper is often the result of someone printing way more than they needed to. For example, I once caught a student printing all 33 pages of an article when all he really wanted was about two paragraphs out of the article. It was then that I decided that I needed to teach my students about conserving paper when they print.

The easiest way to save paper is to simply make sure that you're only printing what you need. When the print dialogue box pops-up select a specific page or two to print rather than using the default "print all pages" found on most printers.

Printliminator is a handy little bookmarklet for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Printliminator allows you to highlight a webpage and select only the elements which you wish to print. You can install Printliminator in seconds by just clicking and dragging it into your browser's toolbar. Watch the video below to see how it works.

Evernote users can use the Evernote web clipper to save and print articles that have sidebar content removed from them. To use this option simply open the Evernote web clipper in your browser then select "simplified article."

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