24 April 2012

BYOD (YL) (Bring Your Own Device (Younger Learners)) - Part 1

If you teach kids and teenagers, it can sometimes be difficult to engage them with the course book and the activities you prepare for them. Especially if you work in an academy and the learners have been to school all day so are often tired and obliged to be there by their parents.

Most younger learners and teens enjoy technology but it isn't possible or appropriate to to use computers all the time. Most educational institutions can't afford to provide learners with their own devices.  By getting students to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) you can incorporate technology into any lesson, whether it's book based, a role play, exam practice or if you're planning to do project work either online or paper-based.  In fact, that's how younger learners (and most of the rest of us) use their mobile devices in general - they take photos and videos of everything and anything, they play games and they communicate through social networks and texting.  Why not encourage them to do the things they do in L1 on their mobile devices in L2?  Not only will this make a lot of their learning more relevant, they will be using the language in an authentic way.  Get them to BYOD.

Before charging ahead and inviting your students to BYOD, I'd like to share my experiences with introducing BYOD with my class of 10 students aged 10-14 (yes!), and beginner/elementary level English.
  1. Speak to your IT department/guy about student wifi.  IT Departments are always very wary about giving free access to a network for security reasons (quite rightly) but ensure that the password is not too complicated.  When we are asking 10 year olds to connect their mobile devices to a network it needs to be easy enough for them to manage.
  2. Check who has mobile devices.  It's important that none of the students feel that they cannot participate because they don't have the device.  I offered my own mobile phone to the one student who didn't have a mobile phone.  I've asked my school to get a set of six cheap 7inch Android tablets for students who do not have their own mobile devices and they agreed to this.  You might want to investigate this too.
  3. Classroom management is important.  At first, students are very excited and want to show you and their classmates their phone.  Make this into a presentation style activity getting them to describe the phone, what games they play, when they got it, who bought it for them, etc.  I have found putting students into groups of 3 or 4 works well.  Assign a "leader" or "director" depending on what you are doing.  Give them clear instructions on a handout or on the whiteboard.
  4. It's useful to get the students to use the Bluetooth function if they don't already know.  Allow them some time to figure it out for themselves and help each other.  This way, they can send their photos/videos to your mobile device so you have copies of everything and you can keep them all together.
  5. Alternatively, setup a secure wiki or blog where students can upload their own materials.  If you're dealing with younger children, make sure you have parental permission to take photos/videos and put them online.
  6. When you are not using the mobile device, tell students to put them in their pocket.
  7. You do not have to rely on your students having Smartphones.  There are lots of activities you can do using basic mobile phone functions such as voice, camera and video.
  8. For Smartphones, choose activities that do not rely on a single operating system (iOS, Android, etc).  You will find that students have different phones so if you want to use apps, make sure that they are compatible with all systems, or there are suitable alternatives
Remember, any activity can be adapted to use with a mobile device, even if it only involves taking a photo of some writing, or recording an interview.  Students will love the variety, and it can be used later for revision.  I'll be following up this post with some BYOD activities I've been using with my students.

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