The May 2010 Speak Up Report from Project Tomorrow provides compelling findings that overall district administrators, principals, and teachers recognize the value of using mobile devices for learning. The primary benefit cited by all audiences is increased student engagement; however, district administrators, principals and teachers to varying degrees recognize that mobile devices also support social based learning by enabling personalized learning and helping students develop work place skills in collaboration, teamwork, and communications.
According to the report, implementing mobile devices into instruction has the potential to serve a two-fold purpose by meeting both the needs of students and, at the same time, helping to develop teachers’ capacity to further integrate technology into the classroom. First, using mobile devices provides an opportunity for administrators to extend the school day; thereby meeting the students’ desire to learn anytime or anywhere. Secondly, investing in mobile devices has the potential to help teachers develop their own technical skills, and improve communications and productivity.
If educators are supportive of using mobile devices for learning, then what is stopping them?
Even though educators see the value of integrating mobile devices into instruction, only a few teachers are currently using mobile devices to enhance student achievement. Students’ demand for the integration of mobile computers and devices within instruction continues to grow. Yet, the majority of teachers and future teachers do not have the experience or skill to effectively integrate these devices into instruction; highlighting the need to invest in professional development to ensure that a solid foundation is created in order to realize the students’ vision for un-tethered learning experiences. While district administrators are supportive of integrating mobile devices into the classroom, both the teachers’ (76 percent) and principals’ (44 percent) perception that mobile devices will be a distraction may influence that vision and subsequent implementation efforts. Furthermore, while students value the interactivity and accessibility of content and their peers through the devices, teachers are concerned that these highly engaging and compelling devices may cause more distractions than benefits and fear that students will surf the Internet, text friends or play games.
Addressing the barriers
More and more educators today are realizing what many of their students already know. If you want to learn something, you needn’t wait for the learning to come to you, it is out there for the taking. Educators know they should be incorporating the use of mobile technologies into instruction and to do so they simply need to reach out for the knowledge by developing and tapping into personal learning available to them through those who share their interests and through the limitless resources available to them. This barrier can be addressed instantly if educators tap into their personal learning network and accessing resources available by tapping into the expertise of others, joining groups on places like Classroom 2.0, Diigo, and Facebook, and reading articles and books.
Fear of Distraction
Educators must also determine a way to confront their concern that mobile learning will be a distraction. While eliminating potentially distracting elements from the classroom is certainly easier than determining ways to incorporate it, we cannot do so at the expense of what we know is in the best interests of our students. In a recent online learning conference I attended a student panel shared with educators that the number one distraction in their brick and mortar classrooms had nothing to with technology. Instead they shared that the biggest distraction to learning was their classmates. Educators have long taken responsibility for this distraction by putting procedures and protocols in place. The same holds true when technology is an element in the classroom. Putting the right protocols and procedures in place and harnessing the reality that we must embrace rather than shun the social nature of students is most certainly a key to success in the 21st century classroom.
To read the full report visit Unleashing the Future: Educators Speak Up about using Emerging Technologies in the Classroom.