Friday, October 15, 2010

6 Steps for Rethinking Mobile Learning Devices in Schools

In his Education Week post Align Our Beliefs and Actions in Leader Talk, Ryan Bretag suggests to leaders that they think outside the ban and provides us with these 6 Steps for rethinking mobile learning devices in schools.
  1. Review your current mobile device policy and determined whether these are aligned to your beliefs about a 21st Century learning environment.
  2. Open Discussions and Showcases with Stakeholders: teachers, students, parents, and staff. Gather concerns, possibilities, and perceptions. For example, The Cooney Center notes that 85% of teachers see cell phones as distractions and 63% believe that they have no place in schools. Is this percentage accurate within your building? If so, what are the mindsets that have led to such beliefs? Are these perceptions or realities? How will you expand the notion of possibilities with these educators while also providing mechanisms to address their concerns?
  3. Collect concerns, ideas, and questions from stakeholders and create a discovery team that 1) visits schools that have an open policy on mobile learning devices 2.) identifies learning potentials 3.) presents findings to faculty. Provide various sources of data: observations, demonstrations, and case studies
  4. Create a policy rework team consisting of representatives from all stakeholders. Rework the policy, review using the six thinking hats, and frame a plan of action for communication and implementation including professional developments plans for leveraging these devices in formal learning spaces. WARNING: Avoid paralysis by analysis.
  5. Explain to your tech team the new policy and the changes they need to make happen to the system
  6. Implement and adjust the new policy based upon feedback from all stakeholders
The plan, is a good one. Perhaps my favorite piece of advice is the WARNING: Avoid paralysis by analysis. I have two related articles with similar and additional ideas for educators and leaders ready to go down this path. The 5 Steps to Harnessing the Power of Cells in Education Today does a good job of heeding Bretag’s warning as it starts educators using cell phones right away despite the ban for themselves, their students parents, guardians, and family, and for the students...away from school. All ways to get students and those who care for them comfortable with using cell phones for learning, while not technically going against the ban. In Ideas for Enhancing Teaching and Learning with Cell Phones Even in Districts that Ban Them I provide ten ideas for innovative educators and school leaders interested in allowing students to use mobile technologies to enhance learning. While I provide some helpful ideas in the article the comments are perhaps even more interesting. Finally, this post shares the The Three Important Lessons Banning Cell Phones Teaches Kids and provides a student-created acceptable use policy.

Innovative educators and school districts know it’s not a matter of if, but when, the powers that be will start thinking outside the ban and empower students, teachers, and leaders to harness the power of technologies that will help them learn.


  1. I am all for experimenting with handheld devices in the classroom, but to do so properly would require a class set of identical devices. Otherwise, you will have some kids with iPhones, some kids with older phones lacking Internet access and keyboards, and some kids who don't own one. Lacking a class set you could do group activities where each group of four or so had access to comparable devices. Cellphones could function as student response systems only with lots more capability. Given where we are now, the students themselves should be involved in the lesson design. If we are not careful, such activities could offer fodder for the next chapter of "Wounded by School" by Kirsten Olson. See DrDougGreen.Com for a summary.

  2. Get on with life. Much bigger fish to fry in education market than cell phones. It's a control freak issue. Johnny's not paying attention to me. Cell phone positives in classrooms outweigh negatives. All students do not need the same phone anymore than they need the same shoes.