Sunday, December 2, 2012

6 considerations for addressing the “what” and “how” of mobile learning

Learning is increasingly online and mobile, anytime and anywhere. It happens by watching a video or reading an article, then sharing it, then discussing it with peers; it happens by searching, and sorting through the results to discern truth from fiction and then form your own beliefs; it happens when you pull out your mobile device to read the news while you’re waiting for your lunch. That’s the way it happens for us, and that’s the way it increasingly happens for our students.

What and how?
For those who are ready to move past the “should we” conversation behind mobile learning, we need to determine the how. 

  • How do cash-strapped schools afford it? 
  • How do we make it effective? How are we going to manage it? 
  • How will technology be used to support learning goals?

1. Safety first
People worry: They are concerned that it’s not safe having students collaborate online. That is true if it’s unmonitored and uncontrolled, but social learning management systems allow students to connect with other students and educators in a safe environment. Mobile filtering helps to make sure the same policies applied on desktop computers are pushed to mobile devices.

2. Learning Goals
Let’s be clear: a mobile learning program isn’t about handing a device to a student. Technology is just a tool, albeit a very powerful one. So it’s essential when planning a mobile learning program that we consider not the technology first, but how the technology will be used to support learning goals.

3. Collaboration
Collaboration is a key part of that. We have to support pupils in connecting to a network of learners they can share ideas with and get new perspectives from. (Studies show that digital natives want feedback on the type of pizza to order and which shoes to buy; imagine if they could get the same feedback on their physics hypothesis or their report outline.)

4. Content
Content is important too. When the world is at your fingertips via a mobile device students need to know how to effectively access vetted, appropriate content.

5. Budgets
School budgets are tight, and yet more and more are finding money to purchase mobile devices. Some are allocating textbook or curriculum funds toward purchasing devices. Some turn to grants to bring in resources to purchase them. Parents and others in the school community often support fundraisers or bonds that allow for the purchase of technology. And more and more districts are turning to bring your own device (BYOD) programs to allow students to use the devices they own.

6. Management
Some complain: I have too much to do, I can’t manage this. That’s a legitimate concern, as adding thousands more devices is enough to push any technical team over the edge. But mobile device management solution, specifically those made with features just for schools, can simplify management and balance the workload between IT and educators (as both have a role in the use of mobile devices by students).

A New World, A Necessary Solution
Keeping students safe and protecting the network is still a fundamental responsibility (with social networking and cyberbullying and phishing scams and the staggering number of new adult web sites launched each day). But there are solutions for addressing safety, security, and management in new ways that allow schools to take advantage of mobile devices, dynamic content, and collaboration.

Clearly, classrooms full of students on mobile devices or taking classes online or watching a lecture from the park instead of school is a big change—and one that deserves planning and consideration. But time spent denying mobility as an imperative or being held back by fear or stress will only leave our education system farther behind and our pupils further disengaged.

For ideas about using mobile devices in the classroom read Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning.