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October 18th, 2012
Wireless experts: Time to move beyond the device
Panelists at the Wireless Reach Initiative said educators need to focus on policy, funding, infrastructure, professional development, and content
By 2016, 85 percent of all broadband service will be mobile instead of fixed broadband. Last year, there were more smart phones (472 million) than PCs (353 million). These were just some of the eye-opening statistics that kicked off the Wireless Reach Initiative in Washington, D.C., last week.
The Wireless Reach Initiative—produced by the Wireless Education Technology Conference and Qualcomm Inc.—is in its third year. The conference featured an international roster of some 40 speakers and hundreds of attendees.
“According to Wireless Intelligence, mobile subscriptions are set to surpass the world population in 2014,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of global market development for Qualcomm, “and with increased anytime, anywhere access, mobile is empowering new types of learning, teaching, and assessment.”
Johnson said most parents are on board with their children’s use of mobile learning in the classroom, with 70 percent of parents saying they’d want their kids to learn with mobile devices. (However, more than half of these parents said they support mobile learning as long as students are at least 13 years old, according to Wireless Intelligence, the industry data source that released these figures.)
Yet, even as the world becomes more connected, many schools still don’t have adequate policies or infrastructure in place to support mobile devices—a problem that was addressed during the day’s first conversation on “Policies that Enable Mobile Learning.”
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“We have local AUPs [acceptable use policies] with students registering their devices themselves if they want to use them,” said Maribeth Luftglass, chief information officer for the Fairfax County Public Schools’ Department of Information Technology. “Teachers decide what they’ll allow in their classrooms and what they won’t. We also made sure parents were OK with this policy.”
Luftglass said she’d like to see more policy decisions made at the local level, because this offers more flexibility and efficacy. For example, she described a common problem with using digital content:
“Most digital texts are Flash-based, but Flash isn’t supported on the iPad. Now, our kids found a workaround through Puffin, but the software slips through our firewalls, meaning the schools have to say ‘no’ for security compliance reasons. By having more local control, we can work around problems like these.”
John Miller, assistant director of the Office of Instructional Technology for the West Virginia Department of Education, said the biggest issue when dealing with mobile learning implementation is with student behavior and personalized learning goals.