June 2015

BYOD Dilemma


This poster used photos taken by smart phones in the previous days.

As I was teaching in China for the past two weeks I encountered a very interesting situation. I taught the same professional development course twice. Since I have never worked with Chinese teachers before, my first week was full of new experiences and new insights. I have been learning more than they did (speaking with an interpreter, interacting with teachers from a different culture, etc…) One thing I have learned that they are attached to their smart phones. And to be honest, it bothered me at first. I felt they were rude since they were texting and looking at their phones all the time. I have been thinking if I should have banned the phones whatsoever, but I was working with adults from a different culture and I didn’t want to appear pushy myself. However, during the second week, I decided that instead of fighting smartphones, I should use them for learning. I should consider them as an opportunity and not as a hindrance or a distraction. At the beginning of the second week, I asked teachers how and why they use phones all the time. One answer was to connect with friends (WeChat – something akin to Facebook chat messaging system, but it has pin-yin built in), another one – to take photos, to look up things, to translate some of the words I have used into Mandarin. This was very reasonable and after all I use my smart phone for the same purpose.

As a result, during the second week we used the phones to:

a) Take photos of the activities they liked, so they can recall them more easily when they are back to class.

b) Use smartphone apps to do the activities, such as Desmos graphing calculator, GoeGebra, Logger Pro, PhET, plickers, etc.

c) Come up with activities that can be used with smartphones to promote STEM learning.

d) To share best ideas from the course with friends and family.

What was the result? Our meetings became so much richer and more interesting. Since the course focused on the use of technology in mathematics and science education, I am surprised it took me almost a week to figure it out. However, on a brighter side, it shows that we all are humans and as much as we think we all are open minded, we have a lot to learn. I am glad I did.

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