Make BYOD Meaningful

There seems to be a great deal of discussion about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) lately and where it might fit into the big scheme of things – if only students were allowed to bring their own personal device into the classroom with them. 

Things like on demand internet access are often touted as great reasons for allowing this sort of things to happen.  Then, students could write their blog.  Yep.  Then, they could do work on some applications.  Yep.  And, the cloud.  The cloud is so important and they could connect to the cloud for things like Google Documents, Dropbox or Evernote.  Yep.

All of these are great examples of what a personal device means to the student.  But, I think that in order to be most successful, we also have to look at a way to make the device so personal that she can’t live without it.  I remember when laptops were mentioned as possible teacher tools.  As long as they were community property, that’s one thing.  But, when that device becomes personal and contains all of your life on it, it takes on much greater utility. 

I think that the same logic extends to students as well.  How can we make that device so useful, so personal, so important that it becomes a crucial part of their educational lives?  I suppose the easiest way to personalize the functionality would be through your own copy of Angry Birds but …  It was then that I turned my view away from the "app de jour" and turned instead to something that is so important and that is the personal agenda/planner. 

I narrowed my focus to iDevices as they seem to be the area where so many people focus their attention but the same logic could apply to any platform.  Something becomes of such crucial value when it’s your go-to device on a daily basis.

So, I went in search of the perfect planner.  In my search, I looked at iHomework, iProcrastinate, and iStudiez.  The product that came closest to what I would look for was iStudiez. 

It’s a commercial application (like the other two) that you can try out before you make the purchase.  There are some limitations that make the Lite version unsuitable for production – one is that you’re limited to a single semester and the other is that you’re limited to three courses in that one semester.  You can’t really test it fully for a semester; but you can get a flavour for it and then decide whether you want to pay for the full product or not.  I downloaded the Lite version to my iPad to give it a shot.

Upon loading, the interface looks very familiar.  It looks just like the calendar application that comes with the iPad.  Setup is pretty tedious as you would expect.  It’s not exactly putting a bird into a slingshot.  But, you create a semester; create your course; schedule it; add your teacher(s); room/location; and then tell the application the start and end dates.  At that point, you calendar is good to go.  I like the way that it reaches out to your existing calendar and merges that into iStudiez.  All of my friends’ birthdays as well as previously scheduled events are there.  Of course, the next step is to go through and insert the individual holidays.  There is just something so satisfying as to go to October 10 and delete classes to make way for Thanksgiving!

In your planner, you have the option of a daily view or a weekly view.  I suspect that the daily view, as shown above, would be the most helpful.  On the left, you’ll have your daily schedule and on the right the assignments that are due today.  I got a chuckle when I added an assignment because, in addition to a due date, you could also assign a low, medium, or high priority to each.  Everything in MY class better be a high priority.  In addition, you have the opportunity to add a partner to the assignment.  In fact, iStudiez looks into your contacts to see who you might already have on your device ready to go.  That’s a nice feature if you have teachers who are assigning a great deal of teamwork.

Upon the return of your assignment, you can keep track of the marks earned.  Over the course of a semester, this could really turn into a single point of reference for all of a student’s scheduling and tracking needs.  It would be nice to have a shortcut with assignments so that you could easily associated a document in progress or a link to the class wiki to read the requirements for the assignments.

Towards the end of a semester, depending upon the course, there may be a final examination.  iStudiez lets you schedule your exams as well.  It seems to me that this package has it all…at least from a traditional view of a planner.

But, there’s more.  Suppose the student has a laptop AND an iPad or iPhone.  The Pro version of iStudiez features a "Cloud Synch" feature so that your laptop and portable device talk to each other so that you’ve always got the latest version no matter what device you happen to be using.

I know that many LMS systems have a good job of providing a schedule.  I see iStudiez as going above and beyond the needs of scheduling classes.  The cloud synching and the ability to merge your real (non-academic) life with your academic life is a realistic approach to take. 

So, while BYOD has all kinds of possibilities when working on projects and assignments, I think that a personal planner takes it one step further.  If that device becomes a cornerstone to everything that a student is doing academically, it gets us closer to a vision of a connected student, firing on all cylinders.

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OTR Links for 09/10/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.