Every class should be a party. Right?
Well, I know a handful of teachers from my past who wouldn’t say yes to that question and quite a few students who would shout “yes” from the rooftops if given a chance.
We educators are standing at a crossroads. Many of us are excited to join this media party, but there is also the worry that fun and innovation could outweigh educational value. And though we may recognize how these resources can make learning accessible and fun, it’s not surprising that many of us hang back, wondering if our students will really benefit from joining the fiesta.
A few weeks ago, I overheard a fellow teacher discussing social media use in the classroom, “They [the students] already do all that stuff at home, why do they need it in the classroom too?” I wanted to shout: “That’s the point!” It’s time to meet our students on their own turf; I mean, hey, we’re basically inviting our non-digital-native selves to our media-crazed students’ party.
So, on behalf of our students, I officially invite you to the shindig—just be sure to BYOD!
Bring Your Own Device!
As Mark Schindler wrote in his blog “Conversation Fodder for the Fashionably Late”: “I want to reach out to all the readers who feel like they are arriving late to the social media party. Don’t worry – you’re not alone. And you’ve arrived at the perfect time!” Mr. Schindler is right; this is the ideal moment to start experimenting with the new apps, social media sites, and teacher tools that are popping up everywhere.
Admittedly, my classes are difficult, but most of my students would also admit that they are fun. Why? Because a BYOD atmosphere encourages students to learn through interaction with technology. I promote the use of laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and students access everything from online discussions and quizzes to homework announcements and dropboxes online. Over the last few years, I’ve come to accept that students who’ve grown up with computers in their pockets aren’t going to be excited about a boring flat piece of paper.
Resistance is futile: today’s students are plugged in for most of their waking lives (and the generation that follows them will likely be even more addicted and distracted). As I mentioned in a past article, education is still about finding that balance between tradition and innovation, a pedagogy that entertains as well as informs, because entertainment fosters learning. Finding a way to use technology to our students’ advantage is an important task for the twenty-first century educator.
Here are two great sites that my students and I are enjoying at the moment:
SOCRATIVE—interactive online quizzes and activities that you create!
One of my favorite new sites/apps is Socrative. Students can use a device or a computer to access it, and the app is designed for easy group-up or pass-n-play. Teachers can create quizzes (multiple choice, short answer, or true false) with a few clicks of the mouse. It works great for formative assessments, but I often use it for review games and peer-evaluations of presentations.
Socrative also has an amazing “exit ticket,” a three question closing activity which takes only a few minutes to complete. The ticket asks students three things: 1. How well did you understand today’s material? 2. What did you learn today? 3. Solve the problem on the board. I love that the last request is the teacher’s choice. It allows us to craft a question based on our lesson for that day.
The most incredible aspect of the Socrative app is that you can watch your students advance through the “quiz” with a live feed of the results, including their correct responses, and when a quiz finishes, the site will emails you an Excel report detailing your students’ answers.
TODAYSMEET—a backchannel for live discussions
This is a recent find, and I love the way this site specifically allows for discussions, comments, and questions during a set period of time, anywhere between two hours and a year. TodaysMeet.com is a backchannel, a live discussion board that takes less than a minute to set up and has none of those pesky time-consuming sign-up requests. As the instructor, you can go to the website, type in the name of the “meeting” (such as english101dantediscussion), which the site turns into a board (todaysmeet.com/english101dantediscussion). Let your students know the URL, and they can immediately begin chatting/commenting.
This tool, which is accessed through the internet—no app yet, though it works well on smartphone browsers—can be used in a variety of ways. For example, the instructor can have students ask questions or comment during lectures, presentations, or films; it’s an instant way to discuss what’s going on in the classroom, without interrupting. (One warning about TodaysMeet—the posts cannot be deleted before the end time; thus, if students write inappropriate comments, you will be unable to censor them.)
If we aren’t banning paper and pen—because students can use them to write notes to each other or doodle—then shouldn’t we at least consider allowing our students to BYOD?
There are many benefits to allowing devices in the classroom; perhaps the best part is that these forms of interaction give shyer students and those who take more time to process their answers a level playing field. In the old days, auditory learners and quick thinkers dominated classes. But now, there’s more than one way to raise your hand.