Monthly Archives: March 2015

Starting a BYOD Program in a Classroom

This year my school has launched a BYO iPad program for students in all year levels. (Woohoo!) This means students bring their own iPad to school each day and take it home at the end of the day. The iPads have specific requiements, including a list of apps set by the school. We are fortunate to have a strong Digital Learning Program in place in the school and the iPad program has been well received by families, with something like 80% participation.

Parents had the option to lease an iPad or buy one and most have chosen to buy their own.  As there are still a number of students in each class who don’t have their own iPad, there are a small number of school iPads available to use in each class.

Here are some of the benefits and issues I have encountered from a classroom teacher point of view.

Some of the benefits:

  • Obviously, each student having an iPad is awesome! It allows integration of technology with so much more access for students, and they seem to be taking more ownership over their use of technology more readily.
  • Something really exciting to see is the way students are trying out new things at home using what they have learnt at school. This is might be an app they have learnt to use, but applied in a different context. Or they might try repeating a task they did at school but use technology to do it a different way.
  • To participate in the program, students had to sign an acceptable use agreement, and they are really stepping up and taking an amazing level of responsibility over their iPads. They are sensible, careful and organised.
  • Staff members know the value of the program. In any situation, there are always different levels of understanding for teachers. Now that all staff members are expected to readily take part, I feel that the conversations are opening up on digital learning, and some of the resistance has disappeared and been replaced with enthusiasm.

Some of the issues:

  • Many of the parents understandably had questions and concerns regarding liability for cost in the event that their child’s iPad was damaged by another student. The program agreement document stated that the school would not be liable, and parents are being encouraged to insure their devices. Obviously, this is
  • The above issue makes group tasks difficult. I have told students in my class that when they are working with a partner or group, the owner of the iPad is the only person allowed to touch the iPad. It is a practical way to deal with the issue, but it goes against other values that we encourage with students, such as sharing and taking turns. This is a difficult balance and requires a lot of unpacking with the students.
  • Some students don’t have their own iPads. It is difficult to manage which of these students, if any, gets to use the spare class iPads and when. On one hand, their parents have chosen (for whichever reason) not to provide an iPad, so they are not entitled to use one when the rest of the students are, and on the other hand, I want them to have the same exposure as the other students.
  • Not all students have downloaded all the required apps, despite a clear list and ample time to get them. This is difficult to manage until you can follow them all up with parents.
  • Having to get 500ish iPads individually connected to the school network is a slow process, so it can be a while before the kids have internet access.

It has been a rocky road to start this journey. There have been many difficult and stressful situations but ultimately it is the beginning of a great move towards creating a 21st Century school environment that is technology rich, with teachers and students that are digitally literate, global citizens who connect and share with the world.

Why Sing?

singing-304617_1280At the start of the year I love to start off with a lot of singing. As in A LOT. We sing on the first day, first thing in the morning. We spend a good part of the morning singing. We sing in between activities, waiting in lines and just before we go home.

Since my grade begins the year each year making a racket through the corridors, lots of teachers ask me why I do it. There a quite a few reasons.

  1. I love singing. I love it so much that half of my conversations are in song. When you teach grade 2, they always love to know what their teacher likes and it’s a great way for me to share something of myself with them.
  2. It’s a lovely icebreaker. Icebreakers often show themselves in a form that lets the confident kids feel more confident and the shy kids feel stressed about what’s going to put them in the centre of attention. Singing allows the confident kids to make some noise and enjoy themselves, but it also allows the shy kids to make some noise and enjoy themselves – but in a way that doesn’t require them to speak openly in front of a group or partner/stranger. Basically, they don’t end up spending a whole morning in a new classroom with new people without saying a word for two hours.
  3. Songs are a great way to learn new language and expand vocabulary. I see EAL students eagerly joining in with songs (especially when they are repetitive) when they might not normally feel confident to try out those words or speak in full sentences and phrases. Any activity that extends language use for students who are working hard to learn English is fine by me.
  4. Reading! So much reading! I give the students lyrics and watch them reading the words and mouthing the song to themselves in their independent reading time.
  5. Depending on which songs you pick, the lyrics are fantastic for analysing. I don’t mean in the way my year 8 teacher had us analyse what Eminem was talking about when he wrote ‘I’ve created a monster, ’cause nobody wants to see Marshall no more – they want Shady, well I’m chopped liver’; I like to choose songs about friendship, values and identity for the start of the year so we can begin conversations about that stuff – the glue that will hold the grade together for a whole year.
  6. It’s not difficult to find research that tells you singing and music are beneficial for children – from releasing endorphins, to improving mathematics skills, to increased confidence, there are many great reasons to sing with your students, but the main reason I do it? My students enjoy it. It’s an activity they all love and the magic of it is that singing seems to form some kind of bond between them for those three minutes of the song that sometimes I don’t see elsewhere.

Here are some of the songs we started with this year if you need ideas to get you going:

What I Am” – Sesame Street feat. Will.I.Am
Friend Song” – Havefunteaching.com
The Caring Song: Remix” – Havefunteaching.com

Does anyone have any interesting experiences with singing in the classroom? Any experience with older students? My only experience has been with early years so I would love to know singing might be received in a middle years setting.