Mobile learning and the ability to give students anytime, anywhere access to school resources are high on every educator’s list, but the technology brings with it valid concerns—including access for students from different economic backgrounds, school bandwidth capability, and network security.
During an April 17 Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) webinar, experts shared strategic planning tips for mobile learning initiatives and explained how to unite chief technology officers, administrators, and educators.
Mobile learning “is such a transformational phase in education today,” said Lenny Schad, chief information officer for the Katy Independent School District in Texas. “Most importantly, mobile learning is not about the device. Mobile learning is about philosophically changing the way you’re going to conduct instruction inside the classroom.”
Educators also are able to leverage the personal investment that parents, teachers, and community members make in technology devices, he noted, adding that students can use their own devices, school-owned devices, or devices donated by businesses or community members for student use.
“It’s really important that you have first the understanding, and then acceptance, from the school, teachers, parents, and the school board, because they need to understand why you’re trying to [implement] this philosophical change in instruction,” Schad said. “There are going to be bumps in the road.”
In 2009, Katy ISD introduced Web 2.0 tools, digital citizenship, and a mobile learning pilot into the district. In 2010, it expanded those efforts. Then in 2011, district administrators continued the district’s mobile learning initiatives, launched public Wi-Fi, and rolled out a “bring your own device” (BYOD) initiative along with the Wi-Fi launch.
“If you’re using Web 2.0, this is such a natural segue,” Schad said.
And the district’s efforts have paid off: Schad said differentiated learning plays a major role in many classrooms. Student engagement, creativity, collaboration, attendance, and responsible technology use all have improved, and behavioral issues and referrals have decreased.
“It’s also breaking down the walls of the traditional school day,” he said. “Now it’s learning, anytime, anywhere.”
One of the most valuable lessons that Schad and district leaders learned is that the notion of one device per child is quickly becoming outdated, as students often have two or three devices, such as a smart phone, internet-capable mobile device such as an iPod Touch, and tablet devices. This, he said, makes it necessary for schools to examine their wireless infrastructures and ensure that there is enough bandwidth and device management capability to handle the increased demand.