I have long been fascinated with the idea of “bring your own device” (BYOD). Most schools cannot afford to provide laptops, iPads or any other device for every student. Allowing students to bring whatever they have–whether laptop, cellphone or whatever–to school to add to the “connectedness” in the classroom is something I’ve supported. I’ve just never done it in my grade one classroom.
My students do not have laptops. They don’t have cell phones or iPads. But they do have Nintendo DS (well, most of them do). I have toyed with the idea of having a BYOD day. Last year I even contacted the parents to say “would this be possible”? No one responded, so I took this to mean they said “no”.
Bringing Our Games to School
In hindsight, I’m not sure that it did mean “no”. This year, as we began our relationships, rules and responsibilities unit using gaming, I decided to give it another try. I really wanted the students to be able to share the games they loved so well with their classmates. This time, I first talked to the students. Would they like to bring their DS to school? Yes! (Using their games is something they are passionate about.) What were some rules we should make to ensure that their DS were safe? The students came up with the rules, the chief of which was that they would keep their DS in their backpack while on the bus, while on the playground and while in the classroom until the appropriate time.
I emailed the parents to ask them to send the Nintendo DS with the student’s favourite game to school for “sharing” time. If the students did not have a DS, I asked them to send any other game that the students enjoyed playing. Those who could not bring a game to show us could simply tell us about a game they liked to play.
About half of the students brought a DS to school on the appointed day. A couple of students forgot and one parent did not want the DS to come to school. Two students brought a different game to show us.
We used the document camera to show the games as the students explained how to play. I was thrilled with the oral language that came from this sharing. Students who are normally very reticent to talk were eloquent in describing their game, whether a DS game or otherwise.
One of the interesting features of the DS and the DSi is called PictoChat. PictoChat allows you to chat with other Nintendo DS machines through its own wireless connection. I have a few DS at school, so the students all shared machines, and began sending messages to each other. We have used this feature many times in the past with the DS we have at school, but never before had we had so many devices sending messages at once. There were squeals of delight!
At first, they sent pictures or word messages. Then we practiced spelling some sight words we had been working. We’ve been working on telling and writing math number stories, so later I told some math stories and asked them to write the number story to go with it. The students liked that they could “see everybody’s answer to see if we’re right”. Fun, fun, fun.
Passion and purpose worked hand-in-hand. An unqualified success. And, yes, we’ll do it again.