10 Reasons to Consider BYOD in Education

An article from http://www.teachthought.com

student-smartphone-useEducation must move with the times. What can be done to reach a technology-savvy generation that relies on media every free second of their time? BYOD-Bring Your Own Device, a trend that is catching on quickly. Bring Your Own Device has transformed the classroom by creating new opportunities for learning.

Studies find that Generation Y is highly reliant on wireless devices and phones. And rather than fight it, educators can use this to their advantage.

  • In Millennians: A Portrait of the Next Generation, the researchers found that most of Generation Y prefers to connect wirelessly (81%) and the majority use social networking to connect with others (73%). Merging education with these devices seems a logical step.
  • C&R market research found that more students own a cell phone at younger ages: With 22 % owning a cell phone at ages 6-9, 60% of tweens (ages 10-14), and 84% of teens (ages 15-18). Since most students already own a cell phone by high school, it’s a resource that many educators are arguing should be used in the classroom. Much like calculators and ball point pens, it took a while for educators to accept the BYOD trend, but it is becoming commonly accepted.

Why Does BYOD Makes Sense For Educators?

1. BYOD is cost effective.
Computer labs are expensive and costly to replace. For example, many libraries are moving away from computer labs and actually leasing laptops for use in public facilities. BYOD eases the demand imposed on schools. It allows the most effective use of most recent technologies in the classroom, since students replace the technology themselves.

2. Embracing these tools makes education more interactive.
Technology can make learning fun and engaging! Teachers and students might create podcasts, use a software voting tool such as Polleverywhere, or design a digital scavenger hunt. The interactive nature of BYOD hones in on student learning.Digital books often include free supplemental resources, such as study guides, chapter outlines, and interactive tests that monitor progress and provide immediate feedback.

3. BYOD makes differential instruction easier.
Teachers can use media to meet different learning needs. BYOD allows students to be in control of their learning. Many tech tools can help students with disabilities or even translate words for ELL students.Gifted students can research more advanced applications and students who need practice can do so individually. For instance, some districts are using programs like Think through Math, which tutors students online in real time.

4. Portable devices make learning a part of students’ lives.
BYOD bridges the gap between in school and at home learning. According to an article in edudemic about cell phone use in schools, learning becomes easier to achieve, as it is more collaborative. Students can integrate the device into their daily lives.Using Remind101, teachers can send email reminders or course syllabi. They might text each other to discuss homework or arrange social media study groups.

A free application called Studyboost, allows students to receive study questions via text. Cengage Brain even allows college students to use their cell phones or iPads to prepare for tests and read their digital e-books. Students might use their devices to break away in small discussion groups, with one taking notes and others finding relevant questions related to the class topic.

Kindle, Wikipedia, and Google books offer a list of free textbooks that students can access in the classroom.

5. BYOD is a manageable strategy with proper discipline rules.
For those who fear devices for the potential of rule bending, BYOD provides new learning opportunities. Educators can teach technology etiquette and ethics, which is becoming increasingly necessary. BYOD can be managed like any other resource in the classroom.Guidelines can be put in place to restrict use to learning. At the workplace, some employers are using Mobile Device Management software, which can mitigate the risk of sensitive information. In the future, this technology can be further adapted to the meet the needs of schools and prohibit inappropriate use.

6. BYOD saves learning time.
BYOD makes collaboration easier. Research can also be done faster. More diverse sources can be used to support learning. The alternative seems archaic: Go back to microfilms? I remember sitting for hours in the library looking at microfilms and reference shelves for articles. Educators might even educate students about how to evaluate and find the best resources in a particular field. Virtual walk-throughs are easy with technology at their fingertips.

7. Engaged learners are better learners.
Bring your own device puts students in a position of power over their learning. Many educational researchers argue that giving students the authority over their own learning is best: the teacher becomes a manager of learning, rather than a direct source of information. Students might use technology to formulate their own questions about topics, instead of having the teacher pose inquiries.

8. Bring your own device can be used to engage experts from outside the classroom.
Students can use communication features to engage in projects that require contacting the community or local leaders. In fact, millenniums are more likely than any other generation to contact leaders and engage in community service projects. Students can apply learning to real scenarios.For example, students might compare candidates’ political views from their website or advertise community projects on Facebook.

9. BYOD is becoming the norm in the workplace.
Educators have the responsibility to prepare the millennia generation to enter the workforce. Teaching students to use portable devices is necessary.According to Littler: Employment and Labor Law Solutions Worldwide, in an article titled, “The BYOD To Work Movement”, technology is blurring the line between work and pleasure. Little argues that employers should prepare to manage this “irreversible” trend due to the changing landscape of the nature of the “workplace”.

Many new employees choose a combination of working at home, or using after work hours to answer emails or attend to lower priority tasks related to their work day. Practice with BYOD in education will better prepare students to have a healthy work and life balance.

10. Some technology experts and CIOs are predicting the death of the personal computer.
The further proliferation of portable devices – tablets, phones, laptops, readers, and other portable devices (perhaps more powerful laptops and new types of “cloud” devices) will further influence how schools view BYOD policies.To talk about this trend, I contacted a software developer for cloud. He predicts that new cloud technologies will change education. When asked how cloud might be implemented, his reply was, “The sky is the limit.” Cloud will revolutionize education in ways never thought possible, such as through easy to access cloud libraries, interactive smart boards, and cloud computer labs.

Should Educators Jump On The BYOD Bandwagon?

Embracing technology early allows better implementation and quicker development of learning tools. Teachers can help shape the emerging technology. Demand creates an environment where companies will respond to the growing needs of educators.

Better tools will be implemented to meet the needs of students. Being an innovator gives teachers the chance to make these devices easier, friendlier, and safer to use in classrooms.

After all, isn’t it our responsibility as educators to provide the best possible resources available to our students?

Sacred Heart Greenwich Middle School Parent Blog

A New York Times article about the importance of arts in schools.

Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

The artist Chuck Close giving a private tour of his show to students from Bridgeport, Conn.

Stationed in front of one of his large self-portraits, the artist Chuck Close raised his customized wheelchair to balance on two wheels, seeming to defy the laws of gravity.  The chair’s unlikely gymnastics underlined the points that Mr. Close was making to his audience, 40 seventh and eighth graders from Bridgeport, Conn.: Break the rules and use limitations to your advantage.

The message had particular resonance for these students, and a few educators and parents, who had come by bus on Monday from Roosevelt School to the Pace Gallery in Chelsea for a private tour of Mr. Close’s show. Roosevelt, located in a community with high unemployment and crushing poverty, recently had one of the…

View original post 913 more words

No Teachers, No Class, No Homework

Strange, yet interesting article. Is the concept of democracy innovative? Perhaps, when children practice democracy, it becomes innovative. What do you think?

No Teachers, No Class, No Homework. Would You Send Your Kids Here?

By Emily Chertoff

Democratic schooling may be the most radical experiment in education of the past 100 years.

In Massachusetts farm country, not far from Boston, a group of about 200 students of all ages are part of a radical experiment. These students don’t take any classes they don’t specifically ask to have taught. They can spend their time doing whatever they want, as long as it’s not destructive or criminal — reading, playing video games, cooking, making art. There are 11 adults, called “staff members”; no one technically holds the title of “teacher.” The kids establish rules and mete out punishments by a democratic process whereby each member of the community has one vote — which means the adults are “outnumbered” by the kids almost 20 to one. Unlike at most private schools, students are admitted without regard to their academic records.

Sudbury Valley School will this spring find itself one focus of a book by the psychologist and Boston College professor Peter Gray, whose own son attended Sudbury Valley in the 1980s. At the time, Gray was a professor and neurobiology researcher whose work focused on the basic drives of mammals. At his lab, he worked with rats and mice. The experience of his young son, who was struggling in school, convinced him to entirely shift the focus of his career.

“He clearly was unhappy in school, and very rebellious,” Gray said of his son in a phone interview. In fourth grade, the son convinced his parents to send him to Sudbury. It was obvious early on that he was “thriving” there, but his father “had questions whether someone could graduate from such a radical school and go on to higher education.”

Gray wound up becoming a developmental and learning psychologist in order to do a study of Sudbury outcomes. The results impressed him. Gray described his son as “precocious and articulate”; his problem was not with mastering the material, but with the “waste of time” that normal schooling, with its average pace and rigid structures, entailed.

But not all of Sudbury’s students and alumni were precocious learners: “Some had been diagnosed with learning disorders.” And while some came from privileged backgrounds with supportive parents who had deliberately sought out alternative education, other parents had been desperate. (Gray notes that most students when he did his study came from public school, not from another private school.) But most seemed to do well at the school, and alumni reported high satisfaction later in life. How was it that students who followed such an out-there program appeared to become relatively well adjusted adults? Gray began to inquire into why.


Nothing enrages parents like the idea that their kids might be educated to do or say or think things they don’t agree with, by people they don’t trust. Yet as different as parents might be, most could nonetheless probably agree on some things. Many would agree that schools should teach values and behaviors — like sharing, thinking critically, or empathizing with others — and not just specific skills. Most would approve a program that teaches personal responsibility. A pretty large number would probably also say it’s important to foster creativity and allow the student to discover his or her own interests.

There are schools that purport to directly teach those values. They’re called democratic schools, and most parents would never consider sending their kids to one. That’s because they’re run, in great part, by the kids themselves.

While democratic schools vary greatly, the basic concept is the same. When it comes to governing the school — whether it’s deciding what lessons will be taught or setting curfew — the decision-making rule is “one person, one vote.” A teacher’s vote counts the same a student’s, whether that student is six or 16. And since, at most schools, the body of faculty is smaller than the body of students, the kids ultimately do have it when it comes to making decisions.

Of the democratic schools that exist today, the oldest is Summerhill, a co-ed boarding school founded in 1921 by the British educator A.S. Neill. It opened at a time when a lot of experiments in bohemian education methods were sprouting — and failing — in England. But Summerhill still thrives, with a student body of about 100 and a large international population. The school went through a rough patch in 1999 and 2000 when it was nearly shuttered due to a conflict with Ofsted, Britain’s national school accreditation body, over what inspectors described as the rude and unruly behavior of students. After a long legal battle, the school was saved, and by 2007, it had been accredited for the first time in its history. Inspectors gave it a stand-out review, praising the students as “well-rounded, confident and mature.”

Sudbury Valley is to some extent America’s Summerhill, although it is less well known here than its British counterpart is in the UK. The “free school” movement in the U.S. was at its peak in the late 1960s and the 1970s. To a great extent, its ideals meshed with the aims of the anti-war movement, black power, and other ideologies of the era. So did the schools’ countercultural, vaguely anarchic vibe. It was in this context, in 1968, that a professor of the history of science at Columbia decided to leave his university teaching post and found a free school in rural Massachusetts. For the past four-plus decades, it has quietly and effectively graduated generations of students. The school is little-known outside education circles, but it has spawned about 20 schools around the world that are run on Sudbury (that is, democratic) principles.

When Gray began studying Sudbury, the school had been around for just long enough to have graduated its first students. Yet the the findings from his Sudbury study, limited though they were, inspired Gray to shift his research focus to the study of learning, play, and education. He has been a firm backer of both the unschooling movement and the Sudbury schools, both of which are prominently featured in his forthcoming book Free to Learn. In particular, he stresses the value of the Sudbury schools’ age-mixed communities — where children as young as four and as old as 18 regularly interact. “Young kids learn from older kids. They learn to read by playing games that involve reading with older kids who can read. They play complicated card games with older kids that they could never play by themselves.” Older students benefit too: “They learn how to care, to nurture. They get a sense of their own maturity.”

For the younger kids, age mixing replaces the teacher-student dynamic. Both traditional education and Sudbury work to some extent because they take advantage of the “zone of proximal development”: the category of things that a child can do with help but not without it. Children learn, according to some theories, when they work with a more skilled person to master activities in their zone of proximal development.

Theoretically, a school doesn’t have to be democratic to allow age mixing, and some Montessori schools (for instance) allow a limited amount of it. But as Gray notes, the rigid, age-tracked curricula that are used in most schools make meaningful age mixing almost impossible. Conversely, a Sudbury school where all the kids were the same age “simply wouldn’t work.”

In some ways, it’s the democratic meeting that allows the school to run: It takes a potentially lawless and chaotic setup and gives it structure. It’s a mechanism for dealing with bullying (which is almost nonexistent at Sudbury) and with disruptive behavior when just a warning from another student won’t do. It’s also a way of evolving sophisticated laws for the community. “The school,” says Gray, “has a very thick rulebook.”

He gives an example. “A number of years ago, there was a new teenage student who was coming to school in a black leather jacket with a swastika on it. And so, because it was offensive, it led to a desire to make a rule in the school meeting saying that you could not display a swastika on your clothing in the school.” The proposed rule provoked a discussion over the limits of free speech that was, in Gray’s view, “worthy of the Supreme Court.”

Students quickly hit on the fact that there was a tension between limiting speech and the democratic values of the school. “There were all sorts of people taking part, mostly teenagers and staff, but every once in a while a young kid would say something too. And those who weren’t talking were listening, rapt, learning about history, about Nazism, about why wearing a swastika might be exceptional, why it might be different, say, than wearing a hammer and sickle.” The meeting ultimately decided to pass the rule, and it led in time to a larger rule prohibiting hate speech at the school, and distinguishing between hate speech and regular speech.


Most of the major democratic schools that exist today have good track records. Sudbury’s founders have been eager to tout their students’ success at meeting the demands of the “real world.” Gray tells me his research indicated that about 75 percent of Sudbury graduates went on to college, and that those who didn’t reported fulfilled lives.

The measure of success partly depends on what you consider a good life outcome. When Summerhill — the famous UK free school — celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2011, the Guardian ran reflections from a handful of its alumni. (The British, who have a tradition of strictly hierarchical boarding schools, have been fascinated by Summerhill practically since its founding.) Among the group were several artists, a dentist, and a writer, and many commented that their education had made them “like being themselves.”

As Gray admitted in our interview, it’s hard to know whether other factors apart from school influence these students’ success. Parents involved enough to research and send their children to such an unusual school probably already give their kids a leg up, compared to less attentive parents who expend less energy on school choice or have less time to focus on it. And with a yearly tuition of $7,800 (prorated if multiple children attend), many students who attend Sudbury are relatively privileged economically.

Writers like Jonathan Kozol have asserted that low income kids stand to benefit from alternative education methods as much as wealthy ones. The question of implementation, however, is vexed, and data on the efficacy of democratic schools are heavily anecdotal and therefore subjective. Since democratic schooling has never been tried at scale with kids from low-income or troubled backgrounds, it’s difficult to know exactly how it would work for them.

As with all schooling, whether democratic school appeals to you may depend on what you value more. Would you rather your child be prepared to advance economically and socially, or would you rather he be an idiosyncratic thinker? Would you rather teach your child to operate successfully in the bureaucratic structures of the real world, or would you prefer that she learn to participate in a near-perfect democracy? It isn’t an either-or choice, but democratic schools heavily stress the latter values. Even some parents and teachers who consider themselves progressive think the schools lack balance. The Sudbury model could be criticized for not teaching kids the basics they need to learn to function as adults, though proponents say most kids wind up teaching themselves the skills they need to function anyway. You could also argue that, on a more abstract level, a certain shared basic knowledge helps makes us human (or American), and that Sudbury students lose that. (This is the ethos behind core curricula at universities, for instance — and one totally opposed to the Sudbury philosophy.)
Sudbury survived, but most of the democratic schools founded in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s failed. In an article Gray co-authored in 1986, he and Sudbury staff member David Chanoff asked themselves why:

It is true that numerous so-called free schools were started in the 1960s and the 1970s and that most of them failed as institutions. … People do not want to take chances with their children. When parents and teachers see that children, genuinely given a choice, do not choose to engage in the kinds of activities that everyone thinks of as “school activities,” they understandably become nervous. “What if my child falls behind and can’t catch up? Maybe he is being spoiled in this school, developing lazy habits, lack of discipline. Perhaps he will be unable to get into college, get a job, keep a job. His life may be ruined.” In many ways, conventional schooling may not be appealing, but at least it is known, and the known is less frightening than the unknown. The fact is that in the United States today we have virtually no models of people who have “made it” without conventional schooling. Consequently, we have a nagging feeling that such schooling, whatever its defects, must be one of the essential ingredients of success. …
And so when an alternative school begins to look not at all like school, that is, when it becomes a real “alternative,” it is seen by the adults (and many children too) as failing and is either closed or modified.
Many agree that the generation of Americans now in their teens and 20s had some of the most over-supervised and over-structured childhoods in U.S. history. It will be interesting to see whether these trends will continue, or whether these next-generation parents react to their own disciplined upbringings by becoming more hands-off. If they grow to resent the way they were raised, democratic schools may come to look like a pretty appealing option for their own children.

This article available online at:


Copyright © 2012 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.

Mr. Adams and His Save the World Club

Here’s an interesting New York Times article on a Middle School teacher in Quincy, Massachusetts, who inspires his students to “save the world.”  It reminds me of the Sacred Heart 8th grade “Making History” project, which serves as the culmination of our Middle School service learning curriculum.  In Theology class, 8th graders choose a cause of interest, complete research, roll up their sleeves and affect positive change.  Previous students have created a foundation to educate girls around the world, created and led the annual CSH blood drive and served so many other institutions and individuals in need.

Annie Winerip

Ron Adams and his class at Broad Meadows Middle School in Quincy, Mass.

Published: December 11, 2012

In 2005, I visited the main public library in my hometown of Quincy, Mass., south of Boston. I was there to speak about my new novel for middle school students. After my presentation, a man approached the podium trailed by a half dozen boys and girls. He said he was Ron Adams and that he taught 100 extraordinary students at Broad Meadows Middle School.  I glanced at them; they didn’t look that extraordinary.

He wanted to know if I’d be willing to return to Quincy some day and speak to his classes about writing.  I assumed we were making conversation, but it turned out we were making plans.  I’ve been back every year since, although each fall I’m sure this is the year I will say no to Mr. Adams.  It’s certainly not convenient; I live in New York, a five-hour drive away. For years my work and family schedule were so tight that I left my home at 4:30 a.m., spent the day at Broad Meadows, then drove back afterward.

No matter. As everyone who meets Mr. Adams quickly learns — senators, governors, mayors, military brass, school superintendents, Harvard professors, the cafeteria ladies at Broad Meadows — it is impossible to say no to him and his 100 extraordinary seventh graders. He is a 64-year-old boomer, has been an English teacher in this blue-collar city for 33 years and in that time has learned to wheedle and noodle and flatter until people feel ashamed if they don’t do this one little thing for the children of Broad Meadows.

Through his writing assignments and his after-school human rights club — parents call it Mr. Adams’s Save the World Club — his students have achieved remarkable things.

As a seventh grader in the late 1980s, Margaret Laforest — now 37 and the Quincy councilwoman from Ward 1 — led a letter-writing campaign to bring a World War II battleship to the Quincy shipyard and convert it into a museum.

She even met with Senator Ted Kennedy to fill him in on it.

By her sophomore year in college the U.S.S. Salem was docked here and opened as a museum.

In the 1990s for her seventh-grade class project, Kerri Piccuito, now a nurse, began recording oral histories of the women who worked at the shipyard during World War II and was soon after joined by her classmates. They eventually tracked down 40 Quincy residents whose interviews are now archived at Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library.

In Mr. Adams’s class in 1994, Amanda Younger, now 31, was a founder of what became a national fund-raising project that eventually collected $250,000 to help poor children in Pakistan.

Here is a very minor example of how Mr. Adams works: He sends me an e-mail at the start of the school year with the subject line, “Good news from Ron Adams at Broad Meadows.”

“It’s October, everything seems possible at this great time of year,” he wrote in 2008. “None of the kids has given up on himself/herself. Everyone is trying to learn as much as possible.”

And then: “Do you think it remotely possible that you might be visiting Quincy in the next few months? If so, do you think a classroom visit is possible?”

October 2009: “This is perhaps outrageous of me to ask. But I was hoping and hoping that you could visit the students here for a day at Broad Meadows.”

0ctober 2010: “Another school year has begun. This one is more difficult due to increases in class size, layoffs and program cutbacks and eliminations in the City of Quincy and across Massachusetts. Still, most of the teachers and all of the students are hoping for the best year of education they’ve ever had.”

October 2011: “I’m hoping you will be able to teach one more time at Broad Meadows Middle before the snowstorms start arriving. If life prevents one more visit, I totally understand.”


Suffice it to say I was there last Friday for my annual visit, arriving half an hour early.

Beth Bloomer, 27 — the oldest of seven Bloomers to have Mr. Adams, including Caroline, the last Bloomer, who is in his class this year — says a major reason she became an English teacher is Mr. Adams, and she still calls for advice.

Every Monday he gives a writing assignment. On Friday he collects it and on Monday he hands all 100 papers back with comments. “I once asked him how he did it,” she said.

His answer: Four hours on Saturday and four on Sunday.

A few years ago, when there was a rumor Mr. Adams was putting in his papers for retirement, Roberta Bloomer, a practicing Roman Catholic and mother of the seven Bloomers, prayed that he would stay until her youngest had him. “I don’t know what happened, I’m just grateful to God he’s still there,” she said.

On the first day of school he gives his annual Write a Wrong assignment, which is due on the last day of the school year. Students identify something that upsets them and write a letter to someone in a position to fix it. One of Mr. Adams’s big sayings is, “Put your anger to action and put it in writing.”

Beth Bloomer wrote about an American company abusing child labor laws overseas; a classmate wrote about a busy corner near Broad Meadows that needed a stop sign.

Asked the secret of Mr. Adams’s success, Ms. Laforest, the city councilwoman, said: “Some people look at you like you’re just a kid. Not Ron Adams, he sees what a kid could be.”

They know they’ve said something smart when Mr. Adams says, “You’re making my head spin.”

In connection with my visit each year, he teaches a lesson on investigative reporting. On Friday, they went around the room describing their projects. One girl is investigating a room that’s always locked at school; another girl is trying to determine if helmets for youth soccer really work; someone else is trying to see why an environmental project for the marshes behind the school was never completed.

Caroline Bloomer and her partner are doing something so secret that they can’t tell anybody. One thing she likes about Mr. Adams is that he trusts them to go into an empty classroom nearby and work (secretly) on their own.

If his students are commenting on each other’s writing they must use bricks (constructive criticism) and bouquets (say something rosy).

Like Quincy, the Broad Meadows student body is not wealthy. Half the children qualify for subsidized lunches; many live in projects.

Ms. Younger’s parents divorced when she was a child and she repeatedly moved around the country, attending eight schools by the time she got her high school diploma.

She arrived at Broad Meadows in seventh grade not knowing anyone and took a seat in the back of Mr. Adams’s class. “What I loved, he would always see what I was up to,” she said. “Mr. Adams makes sure each kid is touched.”

When I asked about this, he mentioned growing up in a two-bedroom apartment in South Boston, one of four children, sharing a room with a brother and two sisters.

He hates all the standardized testing in education today and does as little test preparation as possible, yet his students make scoring gains well beyond the state average. Besides the Save the World Club, he coaches track and cross-country and for the last 10 years has been the faculty representative to the school’s parent teacher organization.

Though he could have retired five years ago when his pension maxed out and has had opportunities to go to wealthy districts, he believes Room 109 at Broad Meadows is where he belongs.

It wasn’t until last week, as I did interviews for this article, that I learned Mr. Adams is a former state teacher of the year, former Quincy Citizen of the Year and that his students have won numerous human rights and civil rights awards.

When I e-mailed saying that I was surprised it had never come up, he wrote back: “We do not brag about nor hang those awards up in our school because we do not want children to think that chasing awards is a priority at our school.”

Mr. Adams said they are stored in a safe place for anyone who wants to see them.


An interesting article and video on teaching kids to be creative.

Today’s post is a follow up to my post of last week, Teaching Methods: East vs. West

I believe we are long overdue for a change in philosophy when it comes to the education of our children here in the U.S. This strongly held belief comes as a result of my own personal experience as a student in the public school system and again re-emerged many years later when as a parent I witnessed my own son’s similar struggle.  One of the comments I received on this earlier post was from my blogger friend, Fransi over at 365 asking if I was familiar with the concept of “design thinking”.  Fransi suggested I check out a company, IDEO, a design and innovation-consulting firm, who have taken the concept of design thinking and translated it into the classroom. Here’s a blurb on the process of design thinking:

The design thinking process is…

View original post 672 more words