I have been very fortunate to see Bring Your Own Technology — BYOT — in action in schools in various countries, with learners of various economic backgrounds. While teaching in the U.S., Germany, Greece, Slovenia and Croatia, I used BYOT to teach my learners with technology when little to no technology was available to us. I have integrated BYOT with learners from the ages of 4 to 80 who came from various economic situations. BYOT integration worked effectively with all these groups.

BYOT worked so well in each of these cases for four reasons: we planned/prepared, were flexible, had an open discussion with students and did not tie ourselves to one platform or Internet access. The problem with integrating most technology is that schools and teachers rely too much on Internet access. We forget that even without the Internet, laptops and mobile devices are very powerful tools.

Here are a few of the activities I do with students that do not require “a class” Internet connection:

Commercial ads: Students often create short video commercials in groups. We have created commercials with invented apps and objects. We also did a project where we observed the stereotypes in commercials and recreated them without the stereotypes.

Previews: Students create a movie preview of a book they enjoyed and want to see adapted to film.

Memes: Students create videos of various memes such as a flash mob, the Harlem Shake, or lip dubs.

Digital stories: Students work in groups to create a digital story. There are various video editing apps on any device that once downloaded work offline. For example, students can create videos with Sockpuppets, Puppet Pal, VidEditorFree, etc.

Show-n-tell with a cell: Students show pictures they took on their devices to their peers and have a discussion of where they took the picture, what it is about, etc. You can give students topics. For example, if you teach math, you can tell them to bring in an image that represents various geometric shapes. If you teach science, the image can represent a concept such as centrifugal force.

Visual vocabulary: Each week the students take photos or record a video representing the concepts, vocabulary and topics we are covering. They upload these collected artifacts to a class laptop via flash stick. If Internet access is available, they can upload the videos or images to a class Flickr account via email.

How-to videos: Each learner can take a concept we are learning and teach us about it or create a how-to video on something they are great at. Have them create a video cooking a recipe or instructing how to play their favorite video games. Cooking often involves vocabulary, math and science lessons.

Field observations: Students observe an object, environment or animal for a series of weeks. They take images, video and journal about this observance daily. At the beginning, they make predictions about this observance. We did this with spiders and their webs.

Reporting the news: Students work in pairs or groups. Assign them a section from the text or item they are covering and have them create a short news segment about the topic.

The hidden messages:

Many of those who say BYOT doesn’t work argue that schools have to provide all students with equal technology. We can’t wait around for that. Students need to be able to use technology to problem solve and think critically.

Many also argue that it will harm students who cannot afford expensive technology. Kids aren’t blind. They already realize through clothing, tennis shoes, etc. they come from various economic backgrounds. We need to educate and have open discussions about these real world issues and not decide to block access.

I have worked in various economic situations worldwide with mobile devices and the students learn they can be creative, learning can be engaging, and their devices even if just a cellphone, digital camera or cheap tablet gives them limitless possibilities to learn daily.

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, an author and an international speaker. She co-founded and organized acclaimed educational projects Edchat, The Reform Symposium E-Conference, the ELTON nominated Virtual Round Table language and technology conference and ELTChat. Her prolific presence in the educator community through social media has been recognized by several notable entities, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Find free e-books and resources for teachers on her blog, Teacher Reboot Camp. Look for her upcoming book, “The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators,” published by Eye on Education. Find her on Twitter @ShellTerrell.

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