Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ideas for Bringing Your Own Device (BYOD) Even If You Are Poor

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When the topic of bring your own device comes up, one of the first complaints we often hear, is "What about the have nots." Yes, there are have nots.  However, students should not only be given the freedom to do what those who have the least can do. Students are not prisoners and they are not widgets. They are people with minds, choices, and parents or guardians who can make decisions and should be empowered to use the learning devices they choose. 

While I believe schools should be wired places where community members can access the internet, I do not believe all students need the same tool nor do I believe all students need the government to provide them with the learning tools they deem best.  When we shift our thinking fromdemanding the government provides one-size-fits-some solutions and move it to let's empower families to take ownership of securing tools for their learning, change can happen.  

Here are some ways even low socio economic status (ses) students can acquire their own technology.

  1. Business Refresh - Reach out to companies to see when they refresh equipment. Ask if they would consider giving old devices to students.
  2. Craigslist - Students can use tools like Craigslist to announce that they are in need of a device that someone might be throwing away. Also, look at who is getting rid of devices. Some will give away technology if it is helping a student.
  3. Facebook for Tech - A teenager I know needed a computer. She put her request on Facebook for anyone who might have an old computer. She had several responses. Students, parents, and teachers can use social media to share requests.
  4. Mentors as resources - Establish a mentoring program. When I did this students developed relationships with their mentors, many of whom advocated on their behalf which included helping them secure resources for learning.
  5. Entrepreneurs raise money for tech - The cost of tech has gone down tremendously. It doesn't take a lot for the entrepreneurial student to raise enough money for his or her own tech.  
  6. Tweet for Tech - When I noticed a young girl with autism in a rural neighborhood could benefit from an iPad I tweeted out a request for anyone updating their iPad 1 with an iPad 2 to donate a device. The young girl had a new iPad that week.  
  7. Recycle School Tech - I've seen schools dump tons of tech because they couldn't deal with the bureaucratic red tape required to give devices to kids.  Ummm...gimme a break! Figure it out.
  8. Payment / Layaway plans - There are schools that have figured out lay away, leasing, or school discount programs. Schools should be doing their best to provide these options for families.
  9. Community Tech Day - Invite the community to come to your school and donate technology for children in need. 
  10. Hold a fundraiser - There are fundraisers for all sorts of things.  Let kids work to raise funds for technology.  Be creative. Hold a race, a car wash, a tournament.  
Yes, there are naysayers who can shoot down every single way I've shared to empower students to secure devices, but when we stop thinking about why we can't and start thinking about how we can, the digital divide narrows before our eyes.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Coaching to Win with Cell Phone Video

    A proven coaching method is the use of film, video, and now cell 

phones. It is often too time consuming and equipment burdensome 

to video and watch practices and games of the whole team, much 

less individual athletes. With cell phones, individual video can be 

taken advantage of during practices. Just put your athletes in groups 

of two or more with at least one cell phone with video capabilities.

 Have the athletes video each other doing key skills. For example, 

serving a volleyball, starts in track, free throws in basketball. The 

replay can be watched immediately in the moment and 

improvement witnessed, corrections to make obvious, and practice 

time fully utilized. It is like putting a coach into every group’s 


Text Talk: Stories from the Gym
The 6th grade girls practiced their free throws through video in groups of two at the beginning of each practice. The cell phones were put away during the first water break. The remainder of the practice was in large groups. We had our best free throw percentage since I’ve been coaching, which is 13 years.

Below, a motivated volleyball player reviews her serve, which she had a friend video on her cell phone so she could look at it later.

Why We Do What We Do...

Teens and Tweens LOVE their phones! That is the reason we opened our minds to joining with them for better communication, strong relationships, and then....ENHANCED LEARNING! This picture features one of my students at Delta Opportunity School who happened to wear this shirt last school year. The shirt says, "Texting is my favorite subject." Joining with students, letting them lead the way, and working together to make school everything it can be is the way to not only prepare them for the world, but have fun along the way! Thanks to all of the students who have texted me, taught me, and motivated me to advocate for using the device they know and love to support their educational endeavors! U R the BST :) <3

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Listen Here!  
Teaching Generation Text on The Brian Lehrer Show!
Listen to this article. Powered by Odiogo.comWillyn Webb and Lisa Nielsen were featured today on the 
Brian Lehrer show on 93.9 FM and and 820 AM. The Brian Lehrer show features interviews with local, national, and international newsmakers, authors, and politicians combined with listener phone calls. 

On the show we discussed the benefits of empowering students with the freedom to learn with the digital tools they own and love and  addressed the importance of going from banning to embracing the power of student-owned technology. Listen to the show below to hear why we think it is important to help students break free from being prisoners of past in a school system designed to prepare students for success in the industrial age.  


We hope after you listen, you will leave a comment here

Listen to The Brian Lehrer Show Today! Featuring the authors of "Teaching Generation Text"

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Tune in to listen to Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator, and my Teaching Generation Text co-author Willyn Webb today around 10:20 EST on the Brian Lehrer show on 93.9 FM and and 820 AM. The Brian Lehrer show features interviews with local, national, and international newsmakers, authors, and politicians combined with listener phone calls.  Listen for your opportunity to call in. We'd love to hear other innovative educators on the show!!! You can also join in and leave a comment here

We plan to discuss the importance of empowering students with the freedom to learn with the digital tools they own and love. We also hope to address the importance of going from banning to embracing the power of student-owned technology and why this is important if we are to help students break free from being prisoners of past in a school system designed to prepare students for success in the industrial age.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

US News & World Report Spreads the Word About Empowering Students to Use Cell Phones

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US News & World Report is 
helping empower students with the freedom to learn with the tools they love with a story 
this week called Teachers Use Cell Phones in the Classroom.  In it they feature the story 
of why Teaching Generation Text co author Willyn Webb isn't telling her high school students 
to put away their cell phones, even though they are technically banned in her district and 
why I support this practice.  

The reporter shares ways we are both using mobile devices to support learning. 
 He also shares our mantra:
"School should be preparing students for real life—and in real life, people use 
cell phones. If you're making an artificial world inside the school, you're not 
preparing them for the real world."
You can read the entire article here  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Research Using Flickr in South America

Text Talk: Classroom Stories (Adelina Moura & Ana Amelia Carvalho, Secondary Vocational Class, Portugal)
As part of the Mobile Generation2 project, we planned a teaching and learning experiment to evaluate the influence of mobile learning in students’ engagement in the activity. Students used their Mobile Phone and Mobile Flickr service. It was a field study regarding the Baroque, to be carried out using the phone, and was inserted into the curriculum development activities. Braga, in the northern of Portugal, is a Baroque city, so we asked the students, of a vocational class of Carlos Amarante Secondary School, to take some pictures of the different baroque monuments in the city, using their own cell phones, and to send them by email from the phone to the Mobile Flickr Website3. The colleagues who were in the classroom prepare the information for each monument and discuss about the features of this architectural style.

Those students whose mobile phones included a camera and had an email service went outside for data collection. The other pupils waited in the classroom for publication of the pictures on Mobile Flickr. These students, using a laptop connected to the Internet, researched information about the monuments and wrote a text to subtitle each image. Students who did the fieldwork had to send an SMS to their colleagues in the classroom to tell them about work development and to ask if there were any difficulties or requests for clarification. Students who remained in the classroom as they received messages had to give information to the teacher and prepare a response if necessary. It was an interesting collaborative learning experiment through mobile
technologies because all students participated actively and learning became more flexible, extending the teaching and learning process.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Success As Simple as a Cell Phone Calendar

It may seem too simple to share, but the amazing results of encouraging and leading students in using the calendar in the cell phones to support them as students make it worth posting.  Each week, quarter, or unit beginning can be set up for success for having students put reminders, due dates, and important notes into their cell phone calendars.  Including parents takes the support another step further.  Collecting interested parents cell phone numbers in the beginning of the year with a free service such as,,, an ap in your phone, and then sending a group text of important dates to parents helps everyone stay connected.  Especially for events, big tests, projects, and research papers, getting dates into phones makes a difference!

Text Talk:  Classroom Stories (Amanda Twamley, Service Club Leader)
It just hit me during one of our Service Club meetings when we were discussing a number of upcoming service activities.   I usually put all the dates in my phone.  I had all the kids numbers and had texted them reminders, but why, when they all had phones with them.  So I asked them all to take out their phones.  Their eyes got great big and they were looking at each other wondering if it was really ok.  I went through the dates and we all put the new activity dates in our phones together.  The activities had the best turn out ever and I didn't even feel like I needed to text reminders.  Their phones would remind them for me.  Now I see students putting dates in their phones when I give assignment dates in class as well.  It works great.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cell Phones, A Life Line in Hard Economic Times

      Those who continue to drag their heels in utilizing the value of cell phones in education and even those of us who embrace them, realize that sometimes not all students have phones.  Education never wants to exclude, however, this is not a valid argument against cell phones.  It is a fact that must be managed, just like we manage when students loose their text book, forget their pencil, or are not paying attention in class.  The value of cell phones for learning far outweighs the need to make sure all students have access to a phone when it enhances the lesson or learning.
      According to a recent Marist Poll, 94% of American households have access to a cell phone.  Additionally, sharing phones is very common.  My students will use their mom's, friend's, or neighbor's phone when theirs is out of minutes, broken, or there isn't money to pay the bill.  In fact, having access to a phone seems to be viewed as a basic necessity in most students' minds.  At Delta Opportunity School, the students who struggle the most with basic necessities (i.e. food, home, transportation), are those that have a phone and have it for very serious reasons (alarm clock, way to contact potential employers, doctors, etc).  Amanda, whose story is below, used her phone as a life line when there was no home, no family, no support.  We cannot let the "not all students have phones" argument stop us from utilizing their educational value.  Most students do have phones and when there isn't access, there are many opportunities for sharing, collaborating, or even having a couple text enabled pay as you go phones available for less than the cost of a text book.  By banning cell phones, we exclude all students from the ability to use their communication method of choice for learning, for connecting globally, and for blending school and life.
Text Talk:  Classroom Stories
A poverty stricken student named Amanda knows the importance the cell phone with texting has in her life and education.  She is 18 years old and only has 10 credits toward graduation.  However, she is bound and determined to earn a high school diploma.  Even a GED is not an option.  She has great intentions and puts her best efforts into educational endeavors, but her basic needs continue to get in the way.  The result of a childhood of abuse, moves, and chaos, Amanda is on her own and has been for years.  She has worked many fast food jobs and managed to get a horrible old car.  She has no home, but stays with friends so that her pay check can go to insurance, gas, and food.  She is a very hard worker.  Amanda is very giving and is often set back by helping others. With crisis after crisis resulting from things like a common cold, or a blown car hose, or a need to loan Mom money; Amanda has a difficult time making it to school consistently.  Thus, the text messaging is often the only way she keeps connected.  For Amanda, the cell phone becomes the only watch, the only alarm clock, the only calendar, the only camera, the only means of communication with the world.  Amanda wants to be in school, although she is working two jobs almost full time.  One evening she texted me this: “Twxt me tomorrow morning so I can go to school.  My phone alarm doesn't work.”  By the way, she did use a period and a capital letter in that text, which was surprising even to me.  Another time I got this, “my car overheated, i did a chpt to turn in, i go get my moms phone n call u”  Whether or not the work was turned in on time, there was better communication and a sense of appreciation for the effort to contact me regarding the work than there would have been without the use of text messaging.