Survey: Mobile learning at a tipping point

Student in middle school (60 percent) and high school (64 percent) prefer using their own cell phone, smart phone, or MP3 player, compared to laptops or netbooks (46 percent).

Fifty-two percent of all middle and high school students said that in their “ultimate school,” mobile technology would have the greatest positive impact on learning. Remarkably, even younger students in kindergarten through second grade indicated that they would include mobile learning devices such as cell phones or smart phones with internet access (42 percent), MP3 players or iPods (46 percent), or laptop computers for every student (52 percent) in their ultimate school.

Students said they would use their mobile learning devices mostly to look up information on the internet, take notes, record lectures, or access online textbooks.

Students also reported a desire to use mobile technology to receive reminders or alerts about homework and tests, and to communicate with their peers for collaborative work. For example, 48 percent of high school students and 34 percent of middle school students said they use Facebook and other social networking sites to collaborate with classmates on projects.

“Students are already using a variety of technologies as part of their regular school day or to complete their homework assignments, and the use of mobile technology is a perfectly logical ‘next step’ for them,” the report notes.

One step at a time

Even though using mobile technology in the classroom might seem like a no-brainer to some, many classroom teachers (76 percent) continue to express high levels of concern that students will be distracted.

Another issue is digital equity, and making sure all students have access to a mobile learning device. The Project Tomorrow report details how some schools are tackling this issue—for example, some schools are “seeding” their programs by providing devices to students who might not have their own.

Infrastructure issues, such as 24/7 broadband access, also are critical for successful mobile learning programs and “will require educators to rethink a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to technology implementation,” says the report. “Instead, educators might consider focusing on building a stable technology backbone with applications that can function reliably across many mobile devices.”

Educators and administrators also must begin to think about which subjects are best suited for using mobile technology in the classroom, what kinds of applications will be best for mobile learning, and how theft, internet safety, and network security will be addressed.

The report acknowledges that, so far, there aren’t many well-established models for success. However, there is “excitement, interest, and rapidly growing acceptance as the education community continues to explore a kaleidoscope of approaches and options” for mobile learning implementation, says the report.

“Innovation at this velocity can be what one educator described as ‘messy.’ In its early stages, teachers and administrators will need to develop comfort with ambiguity,” the report continues. “Further, they’ll need a clear understanding that because these devices can do many things … the process will be unlike any innovations that have come before.”

To help educators implement mobile technology in the classroom, Project Tomorrow has included best practices from five different schools, called “Mobile Learning Explorers,” that are on the leading edge of mobile technology implementation.

Meris Stansbury

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