#BYOD Discussion for #Slowchated

Before last week, I had never moderated a chat. I knew what to expect, because I’d participated in numerous Twitter chats, including quite a few slowchats, but I’d never popped my cherry, so to speak. And I chose a topic close to my heart: students bringing their own devices to class.

Right away, the idea of a digital divide cropped up.

First, there were the schools that forbid student tech.

Then there were the schools that forbid mobile devices but are 1 to 1.

For the most part, we all agreed that students need to learn how to use their devices appropriately.

Teachers had great ideas of what they’d do with students all having a device in class, like Kahoot, Socrative, Today’s Meet, and other formative assessments. In retrospect, I wish I’d created a shared Google Doc so that we could archive all those great ideas.

Then we got into the idea of “tech time outs.” Not for punishment, but to free students.

Or maybe a tech free day, with a mini “you can check your phone” break?

We all agreed that it’s not just cell phones that distract students.

Everyone agreed that we want students to learn, not just content, but how to be better citizens.

It was really fun moderating this chat. Maybe I’ll do it again sometime!


The Rocky Shores of BYOD

Like many districts, we have little money for individual technology. I have tried many different methods of having students bring in their own devices, but no solution is perfect. This week, we’ll examine what you think about students and their own technology use in your room. Feel free to see “Cell Phone” as encompassing any mobile device, such as Kindles, laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, whatever.

If you’re deadset against students using their own devices, consider reading the attached article to see what’s happened in New York, now that they allow cell phones in class.


SlowchatEd questions this week:

Q1: What is your current stance on cell phone usage in your classroom?

Q2: What tasks best lend themselves to all students having their own devices?

Q3: How will you address students who do not have their own devices?

Q4: Do you believe banning cell phones will help keep students on task?

Q5: What is your biggest obstacle to student’s using their own devices?

Q6: What’s your biggest takeaway?

Of Ambassadors and Blogs

This spring break I reached out to the world from the comfort of my own living room. How, you ask? Well, it’s thanks to my two favorite technology companies: Touchcast and Curriculet.


I’ve had some amazing opportunities with Touchcast. In 2013-14, my Advanced English class and I participated in an educational pilot with the company. I created a Common Core aligned lesson plan with Dr. Segal, Head of Education at Touchcast. In return, the company trained my students via Skype on using the app. They also gave us a green screen, microphone, lights, and costumes. It was a fun project, one my students will always remember.

Act 1, Scene 1, Julius Caesar


Well, in 2015 they contacted me again, this time offering me the chance to be an Ambassador. I see it as my chance to share this great platform with a wider audience. What’s so great about Touchcast? Well, first of all, it’s really intuitive to use. In 2013 during the first few weeks of school, I handed the iPad to a group of students and asked them to make a video demonstrating their mastery of literary devices from summer reading from their summer reading, to teach that device to a wider audience. They promptly put together screenshots, the whiteboard, and audio to create some great work.

Second of all, they have wonderful customer service. One time, I was struggling with the publication of a student video. We’d done everything right, but it just wouldn’t publish. No sooner had I sent an email then Touchcast got back to me, offering to help. In less than a day, my students’ hard work was online. They’ve always been responsive: I didn’t reach out to them to do a pilot, they saw me using their product and reached out to me.

Now they’ve featured me on their Ambassador channel.


This interactive eReading platform helps teachers keep track of Common Core standards while motivating students to read. I started working for them in May 2014, writing “curriculets,” which include summative and formative assessments as well as annotations for literary and informational text. I also use Curriculet in my classroom. A lot. This spring break, Curriculet blogged about how I used the platform to create an awesome poetry unit for my current 2014-15 regular 10th grade students.

What’s so great about Curriculet? Well, I love the possibility of tracking time on task and progress with Common Core standards. I love that so much of their content is free, and I can import my own material to the site. And Curriculet has book rentals of popular titles, something I plan to use at the end of this school year.



Decision RE: Teachers vs. Technology

This linked article deals directly with some of the issues with which I’m struggling. It’s a great read, very thought provoking. I wish it was “Teachers AND Technology,” instead of the rightly titled: Teachers vs. Technology by Doug Robertson (@TheWeirdTeacher)

As those who read my occasional posts know, I am facing a huge career change choice right now. Here’s a little back story, for those who don’t hang on my every word. Last summer, I tried to take a position outside the classroom, as a teacher leader and technology coach. Due to staffing constraints (my principal couldn’t find another ELA teacher, after already replacing 4 out of 9), I started the year in my current role as a high school English teacher instead.

I love my students this year. Even though they are the lowest level of sophomore English, they are (mostly) enthusiastic, supportive, and fun to be around. And due to new regulations, there is a strong chance that I could teach the advanced juniors next year for college credit.

So what’s my decision? Well, I’ve reapplied for the technology position, for much the same reason as Doug says: I have the ability to make teachers feel heard and not talked down to when it comes to technology. But the district is facing huge budget shortfalls in the near future, and our superintendent has left us for greener pastures. There’s a good chance we’re facing RIFs after this next school year.

What should I do? Follow my passion and leave the safety of a sure thing? Or have a brand new prep, and teach college writing to the best of our students?