The best BYOD tech tools for the Common Core classroom

By Denise Jaffe
June 21st, 2016


With just 4 categories and less than a dozen tools, educators can hit a lot of Common Core standards

I recently had the pleasure of spending a few hours in a friend’s classroom where I introduced her students to technology applications that would engage them in “showing what they know” at different points in their learning. Having worked with this teacher for many years, I had always considered her a technology pioneer.

So it came as something of a surprise when, planning for our time together, she confided in me that she no longer felt empowered by technology so much as overwhelmed by it. Looking back, it’s easy to see how this could have happened.

When our new wireless network went live early last year, the choice of which applications and technologies to use was no longer limited by bandwidth issues. Our Board of Education then announced we were now a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) district, but did not provide the professional development time to support this initiative. My friend was overwhelmed by the plethora of tools available. She needed guidance on selection and advice in where the potholes were in introducing these tools to her students. She knew enough to know there are always “snags” when technology gets introduced, but no longer felt confident in navigating those snags.

We talked further about her students, the curriculum, and what I could do to help. At different points in my coaching practice I frequently rely on the SAMR and TPACK philosophies. SAMR, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, in association with Bloom’s Taxonomy (Kathy Schrock agrees), assists teachers in designing tasks that have significant impact on student outcomes along a logical, non-threatening continuum. The ultimate goal is to encourage teachers to create lessons and tasks for students that are unique to the technology and inconceivable without it. TPACK—Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge—is a framework that focuses on the interplay between content, pedagogy, and technology. TPACK works to ensure the development of effective technology enhanced lessons.

This situation, in addition to SAMR and TPACK, largely called for simplifying the selection of tools and distilling them down to meaningful choices. To assist her selection of appropriate technology tools, I offered three suggestions. I then provided four tool types that we would introduce to her students over the course of the semester. Of course, once she and her students became comfortable with these tools, they themselves could better select where each tool might work.

The 3 suggestions were as follows:

Select apps and tools that are not device-dependent. Meaning, students can get to the tool and create it regardless of whether they are using a PC, MAC, iPad, or Android. This considerably cuts down the options, but will be appreciated in the long run.

Understand the difference between free and freemium. This is not always easy to decipher. The best approach is to create an account and then follow the product process to completion. It does not have to be perfect. Then, learn how you share it as a free option. Many tools allow free creation but then require payment to publish or share.

Always check the Terms of Service (TOS). If the minimum age is 13 in the TOS, even if it is accessible in the district today, it can be blocked at any time and unable to be reopened. The filters do not catch everything, but if/when they do, there is no recourse if the TOS states that the tool is not permitted for children under the age of 13.

Next page: 4 “Keep it Simple” tool categories for BYOD and more