12 December 2015

Meddling in Media: A Term to Try

This year, I have been a little slack on updating my blog. However, it is with good reason! This year, I have the utmost pleasure in establishing a media studies department. It is challenging to set up and run a department single-handedly, particularly when compounded with technical issues that arise from working for a company that has very tight security and imposes extreme limitations - think 'exercise yard' rather than 'walled garden'. These restrictions have resulted in a school that has been protected from the advancements afforded in more liberal environments, which proves very challenging to a subject that requires access to online resources for success. In addition, the requirements of media courses now are much more demanding than my earlier experiences, particularly in technical aspects, meaning I am on as steep a learning curve as my AS learners in taking a subject for which they have no prior experience. All this compounds to formulate a very trying term.
However, I have always harboured a love of English and film - at the heart, it is narrative and the many different ways to weave it that interests me. I enjoy a well directed and edited film as much as a cleverly written novel and have little time for vacuous stories that do not spark thoughts and kindle emotions that burn long after the end credits roll or last page turns. Because of this, moving image, or a visual aspect of some kind, has always played a large part in my teaching of English. I am a very visual learner and incorporate as much creativity into my English lessons as I can. Many of my past posts evidence how I have used stop-animation, audio recordings, social media, and film to create narratives and depict meaning. Indeed, the best English departments incorporate some visual literacy into them - being able to read 'texts' is as universal skill as the idea of what a text is in today's digital world - and most curricula will (should) allow for some analysis of presentational devices at the very least. 

What is most disheartening and difficult however, is the perception of media studies as a subject. Often considered a soft subject, the true scope of the skills required to be successful in media studies is severely underestimated. It is, in my opinion, similar to English and English Literature - and then some. Having taught all three subjects I believe I have the authority to make that claim. Shared skills lie in decoding - yet the technical terminology is very different, and many learners who can analyse a poem struggle at deconstructing the micro elements of a moving image. In addition to being able to effectively read moving images, learners also have to have a thorough knowledge of key concepts and theories across a variety of media. Some critical theory is necessary in the study of Literature at equivalent levels, but there is no separate assessment to test your knowledge of it in relation to case studies you have undertaken as part of on-going independent research. Neither does English require you to create and maintain a digital portfolio that documents your entire learning process in a multi-media format, while demonstrating a clear sense of branding. Most crucially, whilst the best English students may be able to deconstruct the most technical poem and draft a cohesive and detailed analysis of it - they are not required to construct their own poem and then deconstruct it using theory and reference to the adherence or subversion of relevant codes and conventions.

And that is just for AS-level.

A2 learners also need to be able to develop graphic design skills, compose music, and design and build websites.

In addition to ensuring I write a curriculum that engages learners and addresses all the relevant skills, I have established a press corp at school for learners to report their own news via film and digital print, and set up a media studies blog and YouTube channel to house all the learning videos as well as completed work. With individual coursework blogs that require constant assessment and monitoring, maintaining these platforms is a lot of work. It is immensely, but demanding on time - particuarly when my posts need to model that which I require of my learners.

In short, media teachers have to be able to teach writing, analysing, filming, editing, website building, blog writing and maintenance, graphics, creativity, marketing, theory, research...

A soft subject indeed.

My experience goes back to my own GCSEs, where I studied media at school and then took many multi-media-based units in my degree. I also was lucky enough to have mentors during my PGCE who taught English and media, meaning I got to train and experience teaching in both fields. Once qualified, I taught film studies at a sixth form college in the UK. As mentioned earlier, however, what has changed massively in the subject, is the practical side. The huge technological advancements that have taken place over the past few years means that learners are required to create films of their own. There is no denying that, nowadays, it is easy to film - most of us have a device that allows us to record video. Indeed, many people do, just look at YouTube. Having a smartphone means anyone can make a film - not everyone can be a film-maker though.

Technological advancements, again, mean that learners are expected to do more than the average teenager with the latest smartphone. Editing, sound, camera work and special effects are all expected to be seamless and of a high-enough quality as to elevate their work above the everyday plethora we are subjected to. This is where I am finding myself on a steep learning curve; editing and publishing software are highly technical and allow for the creation of stunning work. However, learning their myriad tools is highly time-consuming. Again, this is different to teaching English; I may be able to analyse the craft of the writer but this doesn't mean I can write myself. Most often, English teachers are only asked to maybe proofread and rarely, if ever, craft their own verse. Yet, media teachers are expected to teach, plan, mark and craft - and, whilst this puts a lot of pressure on me, it is something I want to do in order to support my learners fully.

Teaching two other subjects in addition to all this, no matter how much they could potentially feed into media studies, is very, very challenging. Anyone who has ever taught a new syllabus will know. Anyone who has ever taught more than one subject will know. Anyone who has ever taught a subject that is not their area of specialism will know. I am doing all of this. It is tough. Everyday. But, no matter how much of a challenge it is, media studies is the thing that is keeping me going. It has been my sanity and saviour over the past term, as I truly look forward to every lesson. I enjoy researching and planning the learning. I am astounded by the progress being made. I am humbled by the creations made. It spurs me on to spend my winter break learning the many tools I need to be up to speed with. AND, as I find myself the proud owner of a brand new Canon 70D and a brand new 27" retina iMac, with a brand new subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, I have no excuse (exhaustion doesn't count). I have all the tools I need (and then some!) to make my own masterpieces. 

Part of the pressure comes from my own annoying perfectionism. I have tried to combat this crippling affliction by adopting the belief that I will never accomplish anything if I wait until I am perfect at it first. And so, endeavouring to put this into practice, whilst undertaking a recent film-making course with the National School of Film and Television and the British Film Institute, I came across the technique of pixilation.

The name "Pixilation" is derived from“Pixies”, the mythological creatures and not from computer pixels - hence the spelling. It is because it is deemed that the characters appear being controlled by pixies. This animation technique goes all the way back to the beginning of animation history when pioneer animator Norman McLaren made the short film Neighbours (1952) - see below - while working for the National Film Board of Canada. He used the technique to make people fly in the air without any green screen or fancy effects software.

Always looking for 'guerilla' techniques to combat the lack of equipment we have, this struck me as a way for learners to create some interesting special effects. Stanley Pickle (Mather, UK, 2010) - an award-winning short pixilation film - was shot entirely on a stills camera on two sets and two locations at the National Film and Television School (NFTS).

A2 learners have the option of creating a music promotion package. Again, Pixilation is an effective technique used in music videos - think Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer. Here is a particularly great example:

Wanting my learners to be able to try this technique out and see if they at to use it for their coursework, I had a go. Straight away. I didn't wait to be perfect - I just tried it. That is how you learn, right? I made the below in about half an hour with the help of my beautiful assistant, who starred in the pixilation film and helped direct the stop animation. We used JellyCam, freeware that works for Windows and Macs, that we downloaded that morning. You can see that the quality is not great but it is free and a great way to practise until shelling out for something like, I Can Animate, which works on both Windows and Macs.

I look forward to getting this year under my belt. To having a full curriculum written and websites, blogs and YouTube channels established. To having developed many more skills. To have more equipment and more knowledge to help learners be successful. To having maybe chipped away at some of the walls that prevent our true success.

I will keep you posted.

01 October 2015

Dream Computer Room

One of my latest projects for my MEd, required me to design a computer lab. I had a budget of $45,000 and it had to accommodate 30 learners. My total, outlined in more detail below, came in at just under budget, at $44,171.90 - and goes against the grain of the traditional lab design.

Having had the luxury of re-designing and implementing a new classroom design whilst working in Singapore (see any posts regarding The Octopus's Garden Project, and photos in posts from 2013-2014 in particular) I already had a few ideas that meant I very much wanted to move away from a traditional layout. 

For more inspiration, I asked for the dream design of educators I have worked with in different countries and different schools. What was interesting to me, was those who have worked in tehnology-rich environments, where the idea of a dedicated computer lab is outdated and technology infuses everyday learning, had many more suggestions that broke the mould of lab design and fitted with my own. Many thanks in particular to Marcus and Ed - I miss you guys - as well as my hubby.


Instructional Purpose

The design of this computer lab challenges the status quo offering an up-to-date multi-functioning, highly flexible interactive space. Too often, “institutions give little thought to the design and layout of the lab…they simply fill a room with computers and set up the machines any way they fit inside the room” (Garger, 2011); a mind-shift in how we view learning spaces manifests in a requirement to “renovate or repurpose classrooms to address the needs of the future…through the concept of Makerspaces” (Smith, 2015). The purpose of this room is to move beyond merely using technology to begin controlling it – in short, to start “tinkering” (Stager & Martinez, 2013). As the requirements are to accommodate 30 learners, the requisite number of devices is available in a mixture of iPad Airs, Dell Chromebooks, iMacs and a HP Sprout. There is no designated ‘front’ of the room, as the whole space is designed to be re-purposed according to needs - the majority of desks and tables are mobile and on castors, laptop tables are foldable and portable, tables can be placed in different configurations in terms of height, and chairs, sofas, and beanbags are either stackable or moveable. Storage is available to accommodate all learners’ bags keeping them out of the way for safety and additional work space.

Five beanbags, five rugs, three sofas, ten lap-tables, ten tablet-stands and ten stand-up laptop tables are versatile equipment that will allow learners choice in how they work – sitting alone, collaborating in groups, on the floor, or standing up. Small tables on castors can be moved as needed and house the printers and document camera. The Bekant tables can be adjusted “electrically from 22" to 48" to ensure an ergonomic working position” (IKEA, 2015) and the Niselrik stools are also adaptable to meet the heights of the tables – seating a total of twelve. A conference table seats ten allowing for large group work, whilst six iMac computers are housed in pairs on UXL tables that come equipped with “locking casters for easy mobility” (Demco, Inc., 2015). A ‘teacher’ desk and chair is home to the HP Sprout however, it is not exclusively for the teacher’s use. Once the teacher has taken the register, demonstrated and modelled, the Sprout is available for use by anyone. Indeed, the teacher may decide to use a laptop or tablet to model and take role, as the network and projector set-up allows for all devices to connect.

Three wall-mounted charging cabinets of twelve slots each can “mix and match mini-laptops, tablets, and hand-helds for even more flexibility” (Ergotron Inc., 2015) and are chosen not only because the lab is open for whole-school use meaning portable trolleys are not required, they also maximise floor space. Two Epson interactive projectors with “wireless networking” and an “interactive pen” (Projector Central, 2015) offer connectivity on a number of devices meaning all learners can connect and share work easily, and are mounted on the ceiling at opposite ends of the room adding to the idea that there is no designated ‘front’ of the room. A whiteboard is not included in the design instead Idea Paint is an up-to-date alternative. Idea Paint makes surfaces work like a whiteboard meaning the whole room can become a scribble space. Enough has been included in the budget to paint the majority of the walls (less the windows, door and top section of the walls that are out of reach) as well as some of the tabletops. The necessary materials to use the surfaces effectively have been included in the budget. Black-out blinds are fitted to the windows to allow maximised viewing and five floor lamps mean that ambient lighting keeps the space lit yet homely creating a nurturing and safe environment for experimentation. The design outlined in the images below (see Figs. 1-3) show only one possible layout for the room.


A blend of technologies is used in this lab to offer the widest and most flexible use and exploration of the power of technology on learning – this includes desktops, tablets, laptops, 3D scanners, interactive projectors and printers - all of which have been chosen for their ability to work with a variety of devices allowing this design to be realised. Relevant extended warranty and/or service agreements are also included within the budget.

Six iMacs provide exceptional desktop power particularly in terms of editing and creating films, podcasts and music. Apple products do not require additional virus software meaning that, whilst they can be more expensive than PCs, they offer advanced security at no additional cost. In addition, Apple offers an educational discount. The 21.5-inch screens with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage are chosen, as the school is opting for use of Google Apps for Education (GAFE), which offers “unlimited storage” for schools (Google, 2015). Each machine comes with a magic mouse or track-pad (I would order three of each to offer choice) and wireless keyboard (Apple, Inc., 2015). Insignia mono-headphone sets that are ‘”compatible with most cell phones, tablets and other devices” are available for each learner allowing them to be able to focus on the room and their work simultaneously; these include a microphone with “noise cancellation” (Best Buy, 2015). In addition to the six desktops, there are 15 iPad Airs and 15 Dell Chromebooks – meaning there are more than enough machines available for everyone in the room, including the teacher. These can be charged when not in use in one of the three wall mounted cabinets.

Fifteen Dell 11 i3 Chromebooks have “no problem working with more than 15 open tabs at once” and also lasted “more than 10 hours 0n the Laptop Mag Battery Test” (Spoonauer, 2015). The option on the budget comes with a “rubberized LCD and base trim” that “absorbs shock for superior drop protection” and is “U.S. Military Standard tested for durability, pressure, temperature, humidity, shock and vibration so it can handle the unpredictable” – namely, a classroom full of students (Dell Chromebook 11, 2015). As Chromebooks allow connectivity to GAFE, these are an affordable and workable option for the classroom particularly as there is also the option of using one of the iMacs, the HP Sprout or on the of the iPad Airs for more advanced requirements.

The iPad Air has been chosen as it is light-weight yet has the large screen, and with an in-built camera, can operate as a film recorder. Three Structure sensors along with the requisite ‘launch bundle’ will mean that learners can that attach the scanner and “wirelessly stream 3D scans…in real-time” where “the 3D printer can be accessed wirelessly to print out designs” (Occipital Inc., 2015). Installation of a 3D printer and a HP Sprout into this flexible space allows for the creation of a ‘makerspace’ where learners who can “create tangible portfolio pieces may find their work of interest to future employers” (EduCause, 2013). This emerging technology would be housed on a ‘teacher desk’ with chair, as more supervision may be required. The Dremel 3D printer is recommended for use with the HP Sprout but also connects to the iPads for use with the Structure sensors. 3D printers are new in education but offer a large scope across the curriculum (see infographic, 3dprintingsystems, 2014). A regular printer that connects wirelessly to all devices is also available along with two projectors that are mounted on the ceilings at opposite walls meaning learners do not have to be seated to face the ‘front’. In addition, a document camera is also available and all of this equipment can be accessed by via WIFI and from a variety of devices. An Apple TV enhances this capability for the Airs and the iMacs.


A dedicated ICT teacher is roomed within the lab but it can also be booked for other teachers to use as and when required and available. Training is provided to all staff via in-house sessions delivered by the ICT department and a member of the department remains in or near the room for support as required.

Server Hardware & Network

The school provides the server. It is located within the ICT department and has been installed and updated to cover the requirements of the entire school. Login for each learner is via the GAFE accounts administrated by the ICT department. A wireless router provides the WIFI within the room which is linked to the school server that controls and monitors web-browsing for the safety of the learners and in accordance with the state and school requirements. An Airport Extreme boosts and ensures a strong signal and optimised connectivity.


The budget allocated for this Computer lab, was $45,000. The total spend for the above outlined comes in just under budget, at $44,171.90. A full breakdown of costs is below (prices correct as at July 2015):


Figure 1: Design (Autodesk Inc., 2015)
This design was created on Homestyler (Autodesk Inc., 2015) and annotated using Skitch (plasq.com, 2015). Due to limitations in the software, some items are either not to scale or not as described but the correct size. The room is the exact measurements of one of the ICT labs at my current school. In all cases, the closest possible matches in terms of size have been used. Not included: stand-up tables, printers, laptop- or tablet-stands. This is only one of many possible layout designs.

Figure 2: View from door (Autodesk Inc., 2015)
Figure 3: Annotated design (Autodesk Inc., 2015) (plasq.com, 2015)


3dprintingsystems. (2014). Retrieved July 09, 2015, from 3dprintingsystems.com: http://3dprintingsystems.com/wp-content/uploads/3d-Printing-EDU-Infographic.jpg

Apple, Inc. (2015). iMacs. Retrieved June 21, 2015, from Apple Store for Education: http://store.apple.com/us-hed/buy-mac/imac?product=ME086LL/A&step=config#

Autodesk Inc. (2015). Homestyler. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from Autodesk: http://www.homestyler.com/designer

Best Buy. (2015). Insignia™ - On-Ear Analog Mono Headset - Black. Retrieved June 23, 2015, from Best Buy: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/insignia-on-ear-analog-mono-headset-black/5648055.p?id=1219147137985&skuId=5648055

Dell Chromebook 11. (2015). Retrieved June 27, 2015, from Dell: http://www.dell.com/us/p/chromebook-11-3120/pd

Demco, Inc. (2015). Smith System UXL Computer Tables UXL Computer Table with Castors Fixe Ht. 29-1/2" x90" x30". Retrieved June 20, 2015, from Demco: http://www.demco.com/goto?PRD12209620

EduCause. (2013, April). Makerspaces. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from EduCause.Edu: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7095.pdf

Ergotron Inc. (2015). YES Charging Cabinet . Retrieved June 18, 2015, from Anthro.com: http://www.anthro.com/markets/education/Charging-Cabinets/YES-Cabinet-for-Mini-laptops/laptop-charging-cabinet#.VZ-bgpOqqkp

Garger, J. (2011). The Four Best Computer Laboratory Layouts for Schools. Retrieved June 20, 2015, from Bright Hub: http://www.brighthub.com/computing/hardware/articles/52714.aspx

Google. (2015). Google Apps for Education: Common Questions. Retrieved July 11, 2015, from Google Apps Administrator Help: https://support.google.com/a/answer/139019?hl=en

IKEA. (2015). BEKANT 5-sided desk, sit/stand, white. Retrieved June 20, 2015, from IKEA: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S89022027/#/S49022034

IKEA. (2015). NILSERIK Stool, Havhult black, Havhult black. Retrieved June 20, 2015, from IKEA: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40279571/?query=NILSERIK#/40279571

Occipital Inc. (2015). Structure Sensor – Capture the World in 3D. Retrieved June 26, 2015, from Structure: https://store.structure.io/store

plasq.com. (2015). Skitch (v. 2.7.8).

Projector Central. (2015). Epson BrightLink 536Wi. Retrieved June 23, 2015, from Projector Central: http://www.projectorcentral.com/Epson-BrightLink_536Wi.htm

Smith, D. F. (2015, March 08). CoSN 2015: The Emerging Tech That's Transforming K–12's Horizon. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from EdTech Magazine: http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2015/03/cosn-2015-emerging-tech-could-transform-k-12-we-know-it

Spoonauer, M. (2015). Best Chromeobooks. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from Laptop Mag: http://www.laptopmag.com/best-chromebooks

Stager, G. S., & Martinez, S. L. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

02 August 2015

BYOD: Infographic

Here is an infographic I created for my final project. It is based on THIS essay.

BYOD in Schools

To What Extent Does a Successful BYOD Programme Affect the Engagement and Motivation of Secondary School Learners? 

This paper outlines current research into Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programmes in schools based on the experience of institutions currently employing the system. It explores the impact BYOD programmes have had on the engagement and motivation of secondary school learners, as well as the affect on achievement in tests and assessment in comparison to students not utilising mobile technologies in their learning. The experience of both private sector businesses and schools informs guidelines and advice for the successful implementation of a BYOD programme.

Whilst some see technology in education as a “democratizer”, as a way of allowing “students from all backgrounds to access the same resources and tools”, to others, it potentially causes “great harm, widening an already substantial achievement gap related to issues of equity” (Schwartz, 2013). However, as “children under 12 constitute one of the fastest growing segments of mobile technology users in the U.S.” (Shuler, 2004), failure to expose them to technology in school places them at a distinct disadvantage for their futures.

Equity of access to technology remains disparate because of a reluctance to expend precious budgets due to limited time or resources afforded to proper piloting of educational technology. Coupled with a lack of true experts in place to aid decision-making, or with conflicting views regarding best choices based on educators’ experiences and preferences, schools are hesitant to invest in technology that can often be out of date before the order even arrives. Much research suggests that a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programme could offer an economical answer to this dilemma.

The practice of BYOD was first identified in the workplace in 2009. Rather than rejecting the trend of its employees in bringing their own devices to work, Intel Corporation senior leaders were “quick to embrace it as a means to cut costs and improve productivity” (Harkins, 2013). Four years later, the practice had become widespread in the workplace, where it was estimated that “fifty-seven percent of fulltime workers engage in some form of BYOD” (Fyfe-Mills, 2013). In education, BYOD is used to describe the same practice, applied to students who “bring and use personally owned devices in the classroom” (Sardone-Burns, 2014). BYOD programmes allow learners to utilise the technology they already own and know; rather than banning teenagers’ mobile technologies, schools embrace the readiness of these tools and welcome them into the classroom. This paper examines the impact that such an arrangement may have on the engagement and motivation of secondary school learners along with what is required to implement a successful BYOD programme.

BYOD: Motivation and engagement

The US Department of Education wants to “leverage digital technologies to personalize learning” (Schwartz, 2013) and initially, in the race towards educational technology integration, schools financed one-to-one (1:1) policies, where each student is given a computer to use for learning. Research suggests that this practice “increased student engagement and interest” (Bebell & O'Dwyer, 2010), however, the financial burden for this policy is substantial. As the use of effective technology is “recognized in government legislation and by national educational associations as essential in all learning environments” (Cristol & Gimbert, 2014), many schools see BYOD as a way to address this (Cristol & Gimbert, 2014), as BYOD “transits ownership of the devices to students with the expectation that they use their own devices (i.e. smart phones) for learning purposes” (Sardone- Burns, 2014).

Use of learners’ own mobile devices makes sense. They are familiar with them, they are “consistently used for the communication and informational needs of students” (Cristol & Gimbert, 2014) - and they are becoming ubiquitous. In a study conducted only two years ago, Madden et al (2013) found that seventy eight percent of teens had cell phones, forty-seven percent of which were smartphones. The thirty- seven percent of smartphone-owning teens was an increase from just twenty-three percent two years earlier (Madden et. al., 2013). In July 2012, a study conducted by Nielsen found that “58 percent of American children from 13- to 17-years-old owned a smartphone”, an increase of “more than 60 percent over the previous year” (Graham, 2015). In fiscal terms, BYOD is logical; bringing these mobile learning technologies to school may help “level the learning field, due to the relatively low cost” (Prensky, 2012) - but what is the impact on learning in terms of engagement and motivation?
Benefits of BYOD (K-12 Blueprint, 2015) 
Whilst research is still in the early stages, existing studies of the value of BYOD and mobile technologies have “demonstrated increases in student achievement, engagement, motivation, and research skills” (Bebell & O'Dwyer, 2010). In 2014, Cristol and Gimbert conducted a study of 8-10th graders using mobile learning devices (MLD) in the classroom and “the overall effect of the utilization of MLDs showed positive results in terms of student test scores” (Cristol & Gimbert, 2014). Their findings suggest that, “the average test score for those utilizing MLDs show a 25.5 point increase as compared to their peers who do not utilize MLDs” (Cristol & Gimbert, 2014). In an eighth grade maths class, results showed that “individuals enrolled in classes utilizing MLDs on a regular basis scored 65.95 points higher on average [when] compared to their peers who did not use MLDs in their classes” (Cristol & Gimbert, 2014). In a research study where students were allowed to use their cell phones on a state test, learners got 80 percent of the questions correct whilst “students taught the same material in the traditional way scored less; 40 percent correct” (Walling, 2012).

K-12 Blueprint (2015) 
Mobile technology has created ‘‘pockets of educational potential’’ (Shuler, 2004) that can break down barriers by allowing access to and processing of information “anywhere anytime” (Kim, et al., 2011). In Georgia, Forsyth County schools using BYOD found that “student interest in a network they could access with their own devices was high“ (Lacey, 2014) and in a survey of AP and NWP teachers conducted in 2013, findings concluded that 73% of teachers and/or their students “use their mobile phones in the classroom or to complete assignments” (Barseghian, 2013). Students want their teachers to “power up” rather than require them to “power down” for learning (Sardone-Burns, 2014) and mobile technology is “easy to access, promotes autonomous learning, motivates students to learn, encourages student collaboration and communication, and supports inquiry based instructional activities” (Roschelle & Pea, 2002). Katy ISD, a school in Texas, implemented BYOD in 2010, with the “ultimate goal” being “to increase student engagement in learning” (Lacey, 2014). They found that “an unexpected benefit of BYOD has been a decrease in disciplinary problems” because, failure to use devices appropriately means the learners “lose the privilege of BYOD” (Lacey, 2014) indicating high engagement and motivation in the use of devices for learning.

Whilst it appears that the use of mobile technologies increases engagement and has a positive impact on achievement, teachers remain sceptical. When questioned about the impact BYOD and the use of technology has on the gap between the most and least academically successful students, forty-four percent of teachers stated that technology is narrowing the gap, whilst fifty-six percent say it is widening the gap (Barseghian, 2013). Barseghian goes so far as to suggest that “today’s digital technologies are leading to greater disparities between affluent and disadvantaged schools and school districts”.

BYOD: Successful Implementation

It is essential that any educational technological policies implemented must aim to narrow or eliminate any gaps in achievement or equity and work towards improving “literacy, democracy, social mobility, economic equality and economic growth” (TechTarget, 2015). Research suggests that “when effective mobile learning is incorporated into a receptive learning environment, student achievement will increase” (Cristol & Gimbert, 2014) - the operative word being: effective. It is crucial that any BYOD programme be implemented with careful consideration and forethought in order to impact positively on the educational experience of all stakeholders, rather than serve to increase the digital divide.

The ‘Digital Divide’ was a term originally coined by Lloyd Morrisette to “describe the growing gap, or social exclusion, between those who have access to the new services of the information society, and those who do not” (P2P Foundation). It refers to the “gap between the underprivileged members of society...who do not have access to computers or the internet (sic); and the wealthy, middle-class, and young Americans living in urban and suburban areas who have access” (Stanford University).
Top BYOD Concerns (K-12 Blueprint, 2015) 
The National Education Association (NEA) has posed the question of whether schools should embrace BYOD (Chadband, 2012) as one of the biggest concerns is that “not every child can financially afford his own device which decreases the ability to be equitable because some students’ families cannot afford a device, creating the fundamental issue that not every student has access” (Cristol & Gimbert, 2014). Proper planning, therefore, must include consideration of access for all, including a borrowing program for students who do not have smart devices, training for teachers and awareness for parents, development of relevant and appropriate infrastructure and support through acceptable or responsible use policies, and a discussion of ground rules with students and teachers alike (Chadband, 2012).


Fifty-four percent of teachers surveyed stated that “all or almost all of their students have sufficient access to digital tools at school” but only eighteen percent “have access to the digital tools they need at home” (Barseghian, 2013). Consideration of students without smart phones is crucial, as BYOD programs “could increase the digital divide that earlier one-to-one initiatives were meant to narrow” (Chadband, 2012).

There are a variety of ways schools can address issues of access; “thirty-five percent of schools that currently use mobile learning devices offer financial aid for these devices to families who receive financial aid for tuition and other school expenses” (Booth, 2013). A ‘Tech Drive’ could be held for donations of unused (working) devices. Title I funds can be used to purchase devices for these students and local businesses who provide free Wi-Fi to can be asked to put a sticker in their window, so students know they can connect to the Internet there (Lacey, 2014). Everyone On (2015) is a non-profit organisation attempting to narrow the digital divide by offering “low-cost devices and Internet service” in an attempt to “give access to the estimated 100 million Americans who have no broadband connection at home and another 62 million who don’t use the Internet at all” (Schwartz, 2013). Connect2Compete is an organisation that addresses aspects of the digital divide in a flagship program for K-12 students by providing affordable Internet and devices to students and families that qualify for the National School Lunch Program (Everyone On, 2015).


Many statutes, such as The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2001) the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM, 2000), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA, 2011), and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS, 2006), expect that “every student receives access to age appropriate curricula through essential technological tools” (Cristol & Gimbert, 2014). It is recognised that “mobile technologies can support students with a variety of learning needs” (King-Sears, 2009) and many guidelines already exist to support schools in the implementation of sound technological programmes.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE, 2007, 2008) sets the standards for the use of technology in educational environments for both students and teachers. Using student knowledge and co-constructing learning is also an option, as forty-two percent of teachers suggest that, “their students usually know more than they do when it comes to using new digital technologies” (Barseghian, 2013). Incremental expansion should proceed in a logical fashion using existing frameworks, such as TPACK, TIP or SAMR models, to ensure technology is appropriate and transforms and redefines learning (Roblyer & Doering, 2013), (Thompson, 2014) and (Puentedura, 2013).

BYOD or some form of Ed-Tech training in teacher-preparation programmes is essential and can “aid in eliminating the existing barrier of a lack of quality training programs to incorporating technology into teaching and learning” (Sardone-Burns, 2014). For teachers already in-service, continuing professional development and support is also crucial. Some schools employ specialists and one recommendation is to have at least one Instructional Technology Specialist [ITS] assigned to every school (Thompson, 2014). These specialists can be essential in terms of support as well as expert guides in advising teachers “how technology-led lessons can be run” (Lacey, 2014). Some schools suggest that the “biggest challenge around beginning BYOD was explaining its value to parents” (Lacey, 2014) and this should be addressed early. Effective pre- and in-service teacher training can lead to successful parent awareness through education and the delivery of digital parenting workshops.

Infrastructure and Support

Administrators need to do more than prepare their network for a high influx of devices when implementing BYOD. Suggestions include:

1. Partnering with a vendor that has experience in installing high-density Wi-Fi.

2. Purchasing enough access points (APs) to handle all devices that will be in a classroom and in areas where students gather.

3. Balancing switchers and controllers to provide additional bandwidth to areas with high Wi-Fi usage.

4. Ensuring all users sign onto the designated BYOD network for accessing only filtered content.

5. Segmenting the network to keep confidential matters such as student records and administration details separated from the wireless access for personal devices (Frederick, 2015)

6. Choosing apps with heterogeneity in mind and, where possible, ensuring they are “device agnostic so all students can access them” (Lacey, 2014).

When it comes to diagnostics and technical issues, advice varies. Some schools implement a “ticketing system for connectivity problems” where “instructional tech specialists assist teachers with diagnosing issues with the devices”. Some schools however, have a policy that requires the students to know their devices well as “no district employees will diagnose, repair or work on students’ devices” (Lacey, 2014).

Policies & Safety

Despite the consideration of secondary school learners as “digital natives” (Prensky, 2006), when students bring their own devices many problems associated with social media may follow. Chadband (2012) warns of possible “BYOD hazards”, acknowledgement of which is crucial to the successful implementation of a programme. Many students, for example, don’t understand how much they should share online, and they may post “information that could jeopardize their academic, or even professional, futures” (Sardone-Burns, 2014).

Lacey, (2014) advocates the development of acceptable use guidelines, which all students must sign. Other suggestions include responsible use policies, which can be simply guidelines or go so far as to require students to “register their devices by providing the make and model, serial number and network/MAC address for all network adaptors where applicable” (Lacey, 2014). Overall, businesses and schools agree that clear and transparent guidelines must be made transparent and communicated to all stakeholders to ensure everyone knows what is and is not acceptable.

BYOD: Conclusion

With “proper design and planning, technology can become capable of delivering education” (Carnoy and Rhoten 2002) and mobile technology, in particular, “with its low cost and accessibility, has great potential to provide access to or supplement education” (Zurita and Nussbaum (2004) in Kim, et al., (2011). “Tomorrow’s work force is today’s K-12 and college students” (Sardone-Burns, 2014), therefore educators have a responsibility to prepare this work force for the way their world will operate - and many workplaces are already using BYOD. Adoption of a properly implemented BYOD programme, where “students bring their own devices to school for educational purposes” makes educational and fiscal sense not only as it increases motivation, achievement, and engagement for learners, it reduces costs for schools and “frees up districts’ to provide devices for only those who cannot provide devices for themselves” (Costa, 2013). BYOD policies therefore have the power to “effectively supplement school programs, especially for communities where general technology infrastructure and educational resources may be seriously lacking” (Kim, et al., 2011).

Sound pedagogical practices must underpin all educators’ decisions in terms of technology use in the classroom, such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles of “innovative design and delivery of instruction”, and a successfully implemented BYOD programme can be seen as a school being dedicated to taking “critical steps in the technology transition” (Lacey, 2014). Essentially, BYOD and mobile technologies are seen as “schools’ last best chance to make the needed immediate leap to a digital learning environment” (Costa, 2013). Implementing a well thought out BYOD programme allows students to use their own devices in the classroom which engages and empowers them, as they have at their disposal, “the tools they use to navigate the world...the tools [they] are most comfortable with, which, according to Tucker (2015) are “two factors that translate into more meaningful, relevant, and engaged learning”.

According to Project Tomorrow (2014), only twenty-two percent of principals allowed students to use their own devices in 2010, a figure that rose to forty-one percent in 2013. In 2010, only three percent of schools in the USA had adopted the use of full scale BYOD, a figure that had grown to ten percent by 2013 (Project Tomorrow, 2014). Only ten percent of learners are able to navigate their learning in a way that is familiar to them. This means that ninety percent of schools still do not allow mobile technologies into the classroom despite a study by the Pew Research Center concluding that “77% of young people ages 12-17 have cellphones” and that “one in four has a smartphone”. What is most interesting about this research is that, “the study found no differences in smartphone ownership across racial, income, or ethnic lines” (Shane, 2012) meaning that mobile learning and the adoption of BYOD programmes have “the potential to influence educational development in a social context” (Kim, et al., 2011). Technology can be a powerful means to increase access to learning opportunities and to a broader information society (Cummins and Sayers (1995) in Kim, et al., (2011)) suggesting that the digital divide is not longer one due to simple socio-economic terms, but one that widens due to the opportunities and advantages provided within the classroom.


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21 July 2015

Assistive Technology for ADHD and Dyslexia


Student:            X
School:             Erasmus Middle School
Grade:               7
Learning Need: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia
Target areas:     Reading, writing, organisation/notes, auditory

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is where the official or legal use of the term assistive technology (AT) originated (ADHD-Brain.com, 2015). It was designed to ensure that any individual, regardless of disability, would have the right to equal access to education. With the advent of technological changes in the last 30 years, legislation has been updated to include “technologies that would serve to assist students who otherwise might struggle to get their assignments completed” (ADHD-Brain.com, 2015). For students with learning disabilities (LD) such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia, the following assistive technologies are recommended as potentially useful:
  • Dictation (speech-to-text) software 
  • Screen reading software (text-to-speech) 
  • Software that corrects grammar and spelling 
  • E-books 
  • Mind-mapping or organisational tools (Nguyen, et al., 2013). 
Choices regarding assistive technology should “support and promote academic success” and allow learners to “acquire the skills and techniques necessary for learning” (Nguyen, et al., 2013). Dyslexic learners have “poorer task-dependent attentional shifting in both auditory and visual modalities” (Hornickel, Zecker, Bradlow, & Kraus, 2012) and technology needs to be “focused on the core symptoms or behaviors that are being seen that interfere with studies, learning and homework” (ADHD-Brain.com, 2015). As dyslexia and ADHD “often occur with physical and sensory disabilities” (Fichten et al., 2006) the AT recommended in this report intends to enhance experiences in auditory and visual aspects of student X’s education. This report recommends that the iSense Micro FM Receiver and iPad Air can offer the required assistive technologies for student X.

Hardware and Software Recommendations

iSense Micro FM Receiver (Phonak AG, N.D.) (see Fig. 1.)

Classrooms are noisy environments. The acoustics of the typical American classroom “do not meet the recommendations from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (American Speech Language-Hearing Association, 2005) or the American National Standards Institute (Schafer, et al., 2014). The average classroom therefore poses listening challenges to all children, but for children with learning difficulties, such as ADHD, speech-recognition in noisy environments is “significantly poorer” even if they have “normal pure tone hearing thresholds” (Schafer, et al., 2014).

The iSense Micro offers a solution; it is a “small and stylish behind-the-ear” device that “automatically adjusts the volume in noisy environments, thus ensuring optimum hearing performance” (Phonak AG, N.D.). In a study of twelve children, aged 6-11, Schafer, et al. (2014), found that use of the iSense Micro “significantly improved [the] average speech-in-noise thresholds” for children with ADHD “often to the level of their typically functioning peers” (pp. 194-195). Participants in the Schafer et al. (2014) study “reported significantly improved performance” (p. 204) in the classroom when using the iSense Mirco and overall results concluded that every child in the study “had better performance” using the device, with the benefits “ranging from 26 to 100%” (p. 199).

Figure 1: iSense Micro (Phonak Communications AG, N.D.) 

iPad Air 2 (Apple Inc., 2015)

The iPad Air 2 offers all the features of the iPad Air but with the added features of an “antireflective coating” and “fingerprint identity sensor”, it also offers 10 hours of battery life, all of which help decrease additional worries, distractions or problems (Apple Inc., 2015). The iPad Air 2 is recommended over the smaller iPad Mini 2 or iPad Mini 3 in order to provide optimal screen working space, and the weight difference is minimal (heavier by only 0.23lb or 3.68oz (Apple Inc., 2015)) particularly when taking into account the visual benefits of the extra screen size.

Reading: Text-to-speech Dyslexic learners suffer “reading difficulties in terms of reading accuracy and speed, which results in comprehension difficulties and require technology that has “built-in text-to-speech with a high-quality voice” (Couston, (2006) in Nguyen, et al., (2013)). Apple’s iOS system has a built-in “screen reader called VoiceOver that can read almost anything on screen aloud using text-to-speech” (Meersma, 2015). Dragon Dictation (Nuance Communications Inc., 2015) is an alternative option, offered as a free app.

Reading: eBooks iBooks is included as part of the iPad package, and Kindle books can be accessed using the free Kindle app; both apps offer eBooks that can be read aloud with VoiceOver (Meersma, 2015).

Writing & Organisation The iPad Air 2 offers a built-in dictation, dictionaries and spell-check in a number of languages. Features such as the Notes and Calendar apps can help with organisation and managing work (The Regents of the University of Michigan, 2015), while apps such as QuickVoice (nFinity Inc., 2014) are free and allow “one-touch recording” for memos such as homework. Mind-mapping apps, such as the low-cost MindNode (IdeasOnCanvas GmbH, 2015) are available along with thousands of other apps, many of which are free, meaning the iPad Air 2 offers plenty of additional support tools that can grow and adapt with the student X.

Classroom integration

AT integration into core subjects needs to be implemented and supported by teachers and administration. Nguyen, et al., (2013) recommend that “students with LD whould be taught how to use specialized ICTs” and that there should be “adequate opportunities and funding for them to learn how to use ICTs” as reseach suggests that “students with LD have more difficulty using ICTs and are less knowledgeable about them than their nondisabled peers”. It is essential that teachers are provided with the necessary support and training to ensure the successful use of the AT by student X. Teachers also need to encourage and allow their use to complete schoolwork and homework. Other provisions mean consultation of core teaches with technology specialiast in order to provide a “comprehensive list of available free and inexpensive ICTs” for each subject (Nguyen, et al., 2013). In addition, there need to be constant review, “communication and collaboration among stakeholders” to ensure the AT used remains appropriate and effective (Nguyen, et al., 2013).

Costs and Funding
Figure 2: Table of AT costs
The total cost of recommended AT for student X is outlined in Fig. 2. For funding purposes, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Individuals with Disability Education Improvement Act (IDEA) may both offer access to approved AT free of charge. IDEA aims to “guarantee eligible children a free appropriate public education” and specifically covers “students aged 3-21 with a disability that adversely affects that child's performance in school, and/or their ability to learn/benefit from their education” (ATiA, N.D.). It requires the Individualised Education Plan (IEP) to ensure the correct AT is provided, and while “ADHD is not specifically mentioned, students who have symptoms that interfere with their ability to perform at school may be eligible for assistive technology for ADHD” (ADHD-Brain.com, 2015). Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act does not require an IEP and works to remove obstacles that may “prevent students with disabilities from participating fully” as well as provide “support and auxiliary aides” to ensure they can access the curriculum fully within the mainstream classroom (ADHD-Brain.com, 2015).

As student X’s LDs are impacting upon their learning at school, they may qualify for assistance through one or both of these federally sponsored regulations. As there is no specific source of federal or state funds for assistive technology, student X’s local education agency (LEA) must “either re-direct their IDEA monies or dip into general operating funds to purchase or lease such equipment” (National Center for Technology Innovation, 2015). Erasmus Middle School should work with the parent(s) to submit an inquiry/request for approval through one of these acts.


Due to the time of year and most schools being finished for the summer, along with my location in the world, interviews were conducted via survey (see Appendix and online). I included a video embedded into the start of the survey to ensure that those completing it were aware of what AT was (PACER, 2010) and ensure responses were focused on AT, as I was not able to clarify this face-to-face. I designed it to collect a variety of responses – both from those who were experienced in using AT and those who were not. Depending on the response to the question about their experience, they were directed to different pages. This is interpreted in terms of being directed to certain questions, as shown in the printed version included in the Appendix.

Fifteen educators responded with varying teaching experience (see Fig. 3), however the majority (80%, Fig. 3) had been teaching for at least five years or more. Eleven of the teachers who responded (73.3%, Fig. 4) had direct experience using AT in their classrooms, ranging from “computers”, “iPads” and “laptops”, to “voice enhancers” and “weighted vests”, “translators”, and “Braille computers”.

Responses indicated that the great majority of teachers have to rely on themselves or other educators to find out about relevant ATs. Only one educator stated that their “school district provided the hardware and training and fit it to the student”. In terms of accessing AT, five of the fourteen teachers gain access to resources through the special needs or learning support programs or departments, one via their EdTech support, while one stated that they had to find their own. Two teachers replied that there is no process for accessing AT in their schools; one stated it would be “helpful”, while the other gave the reason that the school has “given itself the designation of a 'mainstream' school therefore it doesn't have to provide these sort of requirements”.

Teachers who had used AT suggested that it did indeed help learners with LD to be part of the mainstream. One teacher, who taught a learner who struggled to write physically, was still able to contribute and share his ideas through “apps like Tellegami and voice recorder”. Another teacher, who taught a learner suffering from cerebral palsy and ADHD, said that the student “responded positively to pressure on him as it helped to calm him”. It was recommended that “he wear a weighted vest” and use “a necklace he could bite” to aid in curbing aggression. Other teachers of bilingual, multilingual or learners new to English, used iPads and Google Translate to support these children. One teachers suggested that “any tech helps the reluctant participant”, whether LD or not, and in particular, said that “dragon dictation has been handy”. Overall, it seems the best technology – for assisting all learners – needs to be “interactive and able to be used easily by child [such as an] iPad”. We also need to ensure we listen to and learn from our learners because, as one teacher stated, “students have their own apps/sites that help them in class, most of the students show me them.”


I completed the Case Study section of this assignment whilst the results from the online survey were being collected. What is most interesting to me is that some of the tools I recommended in the Case Study – namely the iPad and Dragon Dictation – were repeatedly mentioned and recommended by the responders. Hearing devices were also listed, but not specifically the iSense Micro recommended in my Case Study, and those that were used were done so for hearing issues rather than for ADHD learners. Indeed, I have never heard of listening devices being used for ADHD learners before, but, having taught a great number of both diagnosed and un-diagnosed ADHD children (as well as being the mother of one), I can, with hindsight and experience, see that it could make a difference. In the 1:1 school I taught in, the acoustics of the room were quite dreadful and the climate necessitated constant air-conditioning. I noticed an improvement in work and engagement levels of all children once I installed sofas, beanbags and rugs in my room. These soft furnishings helped a great deal with acoustics and with the ability for us all to be able to hear each other. My own daughter is diagnosed with ADHD. After reading research by Hornickel, Zecker, Bradlow, & Kraus (2012) and particularly Schafer, et al. (2014), I can see how her hearing may have been affected. In fact, we had her hearing tested on a number of occasions when she was at pre-school age, believing she might have hearing issues – she doesn’t and her hearing is normal. However, her speech developed very early but her words were mispronounced and hard to understand.

The results of the survey also confirmed my belief that iPads are the tool of choice, particularly in the ever-changing world of technology (Fig.5). No one can dispute that iPads are a costly solution, but ensuring that the correct AT is being used throughout the educational career of a child means choosing a tool that is adaptable. The iPad can grow and change with the learner – all for little cost when using free or low-cost apps and it’s true value becomes that “the interface changes with the needs of the users” (Holt, 2014). In my current school, I believe that iPads would be beneficial on many levels as, after the initial outlay, they can operate as “keyboards”, “cameras”, “camcorder”, “document camera”, “musical instrument”, “full set of artist’s tools”, “microscope” – the list goes on (Holt, 2014). Funding is not something that is of relevance to my particular setting, as the school or parents would be expected to foot the cost and there is no national stipulation or recognition to support children with LDs. However, the benefits to ALL children having access to iPads in the classroom is something I intend to explore in more detail, along with the use of Dragon Dictation and other speech-to-text tools, which I think will benefit the English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners at my school. 


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Google Form Survey.