Four ways administrators can leverage mobile technologies to boost student engagement

mobile-devices-learningFrom tablets to computers to mobile phones, our access to information–and each other–is continuous. Young people not only embrace this constant access to information, but they have come to expect it. I would even argue that today’s students aren’t that interested in “going online.”

Booting up, opening browsers, logging on, navigating–they will do that when needed. But their preference is really to engage on mobile devices. One-third of children between the ages of eight and 10 have their own mobile phone, and teens aged 13 to 17 are the fastest growing age bracket for smart phone adoption. Even kids in higher poverty areas who don’t have access to other forms of technology have higher rates of cell phone access.

Yet, despite all of this, most students are still being asked to “power down” when they enter into classrooms. They go from a having constant connections outside of school to a static learning environment. The National School Board Association found that nearly 65 percent of students use mobile devices in schools, even when prohibited.

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This mobile evolution has placed K-12 schools in uncharted territory with officials asking questions like:

  • How do you strengthen connection and communication lines through traditional means when students are connecting with each other, their families and the greater community via mobile devices?
  • As “helicopter parents” and students are becoming “active consumers” of education, how do you get them more connected to the learning experience?

It is widely known that student outcomes improve when parents and family members are more involved with teachers and schools. And districts are struggling with bridging the gap between the way students and parents live and the way they engage with their schools. So how can districts leverage mobile to increase engagement? Here are four tips:

  • Focus on the teaching and not the technology: Mobile can extend teaching and learning capabilities by providing mobile access to course content. Concentrate on how mobile can foster interaction and engagement. With rampant mobile usage, district officials don’t have to worry about developing or maintaining the technology itself, but rather how they can easily leverage what already exists.
  • Determine the most effective way to leverage mobile in your district/school: Mobile can be leveraged as a communication tool that gives student, parents and teachers access to district-wide resources and essential information such as directors, calendars, schedules, and routine notifications.
  • Consider partnering with a technology vendor: Schools often realize they are not able to internally maintain the development and scale of a mobile initiative. Partnering with a vendor can actually be more cost and time efficient and provide a long-term mobile strategy to increase and sustain student achievement.
  • Help students realize the power they have over their own learning and learning environment: Students want greater personalization and control over their learning experience. Taking ownership of the learning process in an easy and convenient way, like mobile, helps students become more excited and engaged.

When we talk about expanding education beyond the walls of the classroom and involving the greater K-12 community, mobile can get us there. So, ask yourself, what are your districts’ learning goals, and how can mobile be a part of the solution?

Mark Strassman is the senior vice president of industry and product management for Blackboard.