Tag Archives: BYOD

The Power of Apps

In a recent article in Edutopia  entitled ”How the iPad Can Transform Classrooms”, Ben Johnson raises awareness of the difference between using mobile devices as a way to teach students versus the mobile device as a tool to learn for students.

The lesson planning questions I hope my teachers will learn to ask will change from “How can I teach this content?” to, “How can I get students to learn this content?” I hope they will answer this question with open-ended learning activities rather than saying, “I have an app for that.”

Johnson calls for the paradigm shift in seeing mobile devices as a TOOL TO THINK WITH:

Sure there may be some useful apps that help the student gain the skills, knowledge or insight into the subject, and a teacher might want the class to do it together, but focusing solely on the apps, or student control, limits the true potential of the iPad — “a tool to think with.”

Tolisano, in her Langwitches blog, states the level of disconnect between the teacher and curricular outcomes and the pedagogical relationship that needs to be in place for an app to be a match to use in a classroom or with an individual learner.

A disconnect often reveals itself through requests for app recommendations, such as questions such like:

  • “What app could I use to help my students practice their mathematics facts?”
  • “What app would you recommend to help my students read?”
  • “I want to use iPads in my Science class. What app is good for that?”

The power of mobile devices is not its entertainment value or to be a replacement for quality instruction. Mobile devices do not teach students, not do the devices help students acquire understanding of a concept or skill. To be blunt, the app will not help students understand a concept they are already having difficulty mastering. Tolisano encourages eductors to look at the difference of using an app to automate and substitute a task versus informate and transform in her post Enhancement-Automating-Transforming-Informating ).

The questions, therefore, should focus on:

  • The value an app can bring to a learner (and being able to articulate the value). It is not a direct replacement of a task traditionally accomplished without the mobile device
  • The connection from the app to curriculum content (and being able to demonstrate the depth of that connection)
  • The possibilities the app can bring to create, communicate, critically think, and collaborate
  • The flexibility of the app to personalize and differentiate to meet students’ individual needs, and
  • The ability of the app to be used as evidence of learning

As school-embedded literacy support, I wanted to incorporate technology into reading. The apps chosen foster a deepening of practiced skills and concepts.


Bring your own device (BYOD) refers to technology models where students bring a personally owned device to school for the purpose of learning.

Becta’s (2009) research demonstrates there is a strong body of evidence to suggest that digital technologies can have a positive impact on learners. Specifically, research shows that integrating digital technologies into the learning environment and embedding these technologies into teacher pedagogical practice can

  • positively impact on student engagement and motivation, including improving their confidence levels, attitudes towards their own learning, and behaviour as well as decreasing absenteeism
  • promote improved opportunities for students to control the construction of knowledge and to learn through collaboration and conversation, and
  • improve connections across sites of learning, and with the real world, through formal and informal online networks and access to global communities with expertise and perspectives that can enhance and enrich learning.

Digital technologies have changed the landscape of learning. Students can now have unlimited access to digital content, resources, experts, databases and communities of interest. By effectively leveraging such resources, educators have the opportunity to deepen student learning and to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours that students require to live, learn and work (Alberta Learning, 2012).

In Saskatoon Public Schools, we want our students to use technologies in transformational and inquiry-based learning environments with teachers who use a variety of technologies to create the conditions for deep learning.The Powering Up Students project was developed to support teachers and students in creating a rich learning environment through powerful instruction and students bringing and using their own devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops etc. One collegiate and two elementary schools, were selected from the applications to pilot the project.

Peter DeWitt (2012) counters the voices who speak against BYOD. DeWitt warns that if BYOD is going to be the mantra of the school system, they need to make sure that the end justifies the means. There has to be a reason that the devices are allowed. That reason must be to increase student learning.

It takes a lot of work for schools to be prepared for BYOD. Key structures must be in place such as policies surrounding infrastructure, hardware specifications, responsible/appropriate use, network access and bandwidth, equity of access, and parental communication.

Consideration of the school’s readiness for a BYOD model must be addressed including pedagogy, effective technological use, digital fluencies, digital citizenship, and evidence-based practice.

Combined with a sound infrastructure and pedagogy, BYOD has the capacity to help students personalize their learning, connect with other learners in dynamic ways, collaborate with global partners, and to express and share their learnings in robust ways.