Starting small might be the key to success when it comes to deploying a mobile learning initiative, according to two educators whose district has implemented a successful mobile program that now reaches 500 students.
“We felt that if it was something that was going to catch on, we wanted to be sure that we started small and that it was as group of people who wanted to work at this,” said Kyle Menchhofer, technology director for the St. Marys City Schools district in Ohio. “Starting small was a very strong and successful part of why we are where we are at this time.”
In 2008, before smart phones caught on, the district started its pilot by purchasing personal digital assistants (PDAs). Eight teachers—two each from third, fourth, and fifth grade—and two resource teachers signed on to begin the program.
“The biggest thing is starting out small,” said Scott Newcomb, a fifth grade teacher in the district. “Sometimes, giving everyone an iPad is too much—the goal or objective might get lost.”
The pilot team attended training sessions every three to four weeks, and Menchhofer said professional development was a priority above all else. The district also formed a team of teachers who experimented with the PDAs to discover new uses and classroom applications.
“We didn’t want to create additional work for our teachers,” Menchhofer said. “We didn’t want to make this a burden on our staff.”
In 2008, 155 students participated in the pilot, which included 120 PDAs and GoKnow software. Shortly after the pilot began, district IT staff discovered that the hardware company from which they purchased the PDAs decided to produce smart phones instead. By the spring of the pilot year, the district partnered with Verizon Wireless and had 30 smart phones to use in a trial program.
“Funding is an issue, but you have to set priorities,” Menchhofer said.