Amplifying best practice with BYOD and Google Classroom (or any online platform)

Video - Google Classrooms, Learner Agency & Universal Design for Learning

In this day and age it blows me away that there are still high schools debating whether to introduce Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and then it frustrates me further than when they do go BYOD and they choose to make it optional or drip feed it in level by level.

Those yet to introduce BYOD are doing their students a massive disservice, potentially widening the gap between the "haves and have-nots". Young people need these skills, and considering your school probably has something in the vision or mission statement about preparing young people, you're really not delivering the goods.

And as for those who are doing the slowly, slowly drip feed of BYOD, bravo for taking the first step, but you need to recognise that you are increasing your teacher's workload, not reducing it, and the chances are you are not getting anywhere near the benefits that a one to one BYOD programme can offer.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you are saying, change is hard for teachers, but dipping your toes takes just as much work, on top of still doing traditional prep and the chances are the efforts are half-arsed as a result and the students are frustrated because it's bloody unclear how they should be learning. This also allows for the nervous and reticent amongst your teaching staff to pretty much opt out and to lean on the offline they strategies they are confident in. And remember universal BYOD or one to one does not mean that you forgo that fabulous face to face offline practice, it just means that you can invest time and energy to do the online strategies well.

And yeah, yeah, yeah I hear others saying their learners just can't afford it. Well personally, I think those learners are the ones that need and deserve it more than any. Get your retailers/ICT suppliers to put together a weekly payment plan for a naked chromebook or laptop, ie. simply a chromebook or laptop. Not one that comes with case, insurance, steak knives and kitchen sink. You should be able to get these down to a few dollars a week. If your school budget or some kind school supporters can stretch to it, bulk buy and let families pay back at $3-4 a week. Yes, these strategies take time, and some financial risk,  but quite frankly if this means we are going to close the digital divide for our students and possibly their families, it is time bloody time and money well spent!

But I digress, this blogpost is supposed to about how BYOD can and amplify best practice.

Note - If your behaviour management is poor, if your lessons are poorly planned and your contexts less than engaging (and if you don't get of your bottom throughout each and every lesson) your BYOD will stand for Bring Your Own Distraction.

As the quote states below, technology can help education where it's already doing well!

Rather than finding a digital educational cure, he came to understand what he calls technology’s “Law of Amplification”: technology could help education where it’s already doing well, but it does little for mediocre educational systems. Worse, in dysfunctional schools, it “can cause outright harm.” He added: “Unfortunately, there is no technological fix…more technology only magnifies socioeconomic disparities, and the only way to avoid that is non-technological.”

Therefore it is key that when you bring in devices and start using an online learning platform you need to ensure it works to reinforce best practice. At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we have three principles that we believe underpins powerful learning: innovate through personalising learning, engage through powerful partnerships and inspire through deep challenge and inquiry. So when we looked at developing a best practice guide for e-learning our fabulous E-learning Specialist Classroom leader Danielle Myburgh used these principles to organise and construct a guide that outlined expectations for our teachers.

E-learning Best Practice Guide developed by Danielle Myburgh as E-SCT

One of the key ways we support learning at HPSS is through the development of a Learning Design Model that underpins a shared learning taxonomy that all staff use to formulate learning objectives for each and every module and lesson.

Learning Design Model - designed and supported by Di Cavallo and our awesome Learning Design Leaders

To ensure these learning objectives are visible I ensure I publish them at the beginning of each lesson, along with clear instructions as to what we are doing, so if any students are away or need to review their learning, they can do so with ease. 

A typical Google Classroom announcement

The quotes below are taken from our end of module feedback form where students were asked to comment on my use of Google Classroom.

Student Voice about visible learning strategies in my module

As well as ensuring learning is visible I am also keen to ensure that learning is as inclusive as possible. To this end I try to use a fairly simplistic approach to try and ensure that the principles of Universal Design for Learning is also underpinning how I use my online platforms (and how the students get to use their devices).

Image from CAST

This means that I try to use a range of modes for students learning about any one topic or developing any skill.

Offering a range of modes through Google Classroom 

I also let students, where appropriate, use a range of modes for evidencing their learning. For example, rather than demanding an essay, I would always let them present their learning as a podcast, video, infographic or essay/blogpost. Of course if I am assessing writing, I get them to write! But if I ain't, why the hell would I limit their chances of presenting in the way they do best. Note - it does pay to spend a little time teaching/letting them learn how present effectively through each mode. Don't worry, YouTube more than makes up for any teacher inexperience!

Offering a range of modes for evidencing learning (is easy)

The quotes below are taken from our end of module feedback form where students were asked to comment on my use of UDL through Google Classroom.

MoStudent Voice about UDL strategies in my module

Finally, BYOD has to be about developing Learner Agency! You can read more about that here. I believe BYOD and online learning platforms really come into their own when they are used to support learner agency and carefully curated choice! And as well as giving them choice, look at your direct teaching to learning ratio. See if you can do only 10-15 minutes direct instruction (if it's needed at all) and then let THEM learn! Just make sure you don't then sit back and do your sudoku/emails/Pinterest (okay that last one is a reminder for me ;). Use this time to sit amongst your students and question, challenge as support as needed. If you are take advantage of this time to do some quick admin, do it at the back of the class. Learners with screens need your support and your vigilance!

Let's got free-range!

More blogposts on this topic:


  1. Thanks Claire for this post, and great that I was finally able to get on and read it! I whole heartedly agree that there are too many opportunities for teachers to opt out of using digital technologies, and they and their learners get left further behind. You sharing your examples of how you have used technology to enhance your classroom practice is exactly what teachers need to see to build confidence. Thanks again 👏👏


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