Top ed-tech stories to watch: From 1-to-1 to ‘one to many’

No. 3 on our list of key ed-tech trends for the new school year is the movement toward students using many devices while at school

Whether they’re bringing their own devices from home or using school-issued technology, students are likely to use several different ed-tech devices throughout the day.

[Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories examining five key ed-tech developments to watch for the 2014-15 school year. Our countdown continues tomorrow with No. 2.]

Marie Bjerede has noticed a shift in the way many educators are starting to think about mobile learning.

It used to be that when school leaders talked about mobile learning, they focused on a specific device and whether it was capable of mobility. Now, more school leaders are “thinking in terms of the students as mobile,” said Bjerede, who is director of the Consortium for School Networking’s Leadership for Mobile Learning initiative.

This shift might be subtle, but it has profound implications for K-12 schools.

To be able to work effectively, “kids, like adults, need different tools for different purposes,” Bjerede explained. For responding to an in-class poll or quiz, a smart phone or tablet might suffice—but for rendering a sophisticated 3D design, a full-fledged laptop might work better.

Results from Project Tomorrow’s annual “Speak Up” survey on education and technology support this idea.

“We asked the students last year to identify for us their preferred device for a variety of academic tasks,” said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. “The results pointed to a differentiation of devices that they wanted to use, based upon the inherent capabilities and roles of the devices.”

For creating a presentation, “kids want to use a laptop,” Evans noted. “Communicate or collaborate with peers: smart phone. Take notes in class: tablet. Read a book or article: digital reader.”

The idea of the ultimate one-to-one device for learning “is, in fact, a fallacy,” Evans concluded. “Kids are multi-mobilists and want to use a variety of appropriate devices for particular tasks.”

For this reason, a small but growing number of K-12 leaders no longer refer to “one-to-one” computing programs when discussing mobile learning. Instead, they’ve begun using the term “one to many.”

(Next page: What this trend means for schools—and for network capacity in particular)

Dennis Pierce

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