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Mobile learning, online communities take the spotlight


CoSN's new initiatives will address mobile learning and online communities.

During its annual conference in New Orleans March 15, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) launched two new initiatives: one to help school leaders understand how to lead mobile learning initiatives successfully in their districts, and the other to help them extend the reach of technology access for all students.

CoSN’s Leadership for Mobile Learning (LML) program aims to help school district leaders overcome barriers to mobile learning and develop, implement, and manage policies to effectively use mobile devices to improve teaching and learning, said Keith Krueger, the group’s CEO.

The initiative intends to provide thought leadership to school district leaders on how to leverage these tools to make a meaningful, positive impact on education at the K-12 level.

“With a recent Project Tomorrow survey showing that 88 percent of administrators and 77 percent of teachers think mobile devices in schools will increase student engagement, school leaders need solid information on how to best undertake mobile learning strategies. Mobile devices hold a lot of potential for facilitating learning both in and out of the classroom and improving educational outcomes, but we need to focus on the leadership and policies that enable that vision,” said Lucy Gray, project director of CoSN’s LML initiative. “Educational leaders need up-to-date information to make the best decisions about developing and maintaining a technology infrastructure that includes mobile devices.”

“While the LML initiative is an important, new undertaking for us, we also are leveraging CoSN-related tools and resources. For example, the new initiative will highlight CoSN’s EdTechNext report on flexible mobile platforms, two new case studies on districts leveraging student-owned devices, and our new Guide to Rethinking Acceptable Use Policies—pulling them all together under the LML banner,” explained Krueger.

The objectives of the new initiative are:

1. To highlight leadership, research, and best practices for using mobile learning devices in education;
2. To identify district policies that hinder the effective deployment of mobile learning devices; and
3. To develop strategies and tools for the successful deployment of mobile learning technologies in school districts.

The initiative also aims to provide information on the role of mobility in bridging the digital divide, technical considerations for mobile learning implementation, and the impact of mobile devices on curricular content and student achievement.

AT&T, the Pearson Foundation, and Qualcomm are sponsoring the initiative.

To learn more about the LML initiative, visit http://www.cosn.org/MobileLead.

In the same spirit of providing online resources, CoSN also announced a new online community of practice called Access4Ed.net, which focuses on innovative approaches to providing access to technology tools and online environments in K-12 schools and districts.

The new community of practice is launching in conjunction with the release of the rough draft of a new report, titled “Connect and Inspire,” on the state of online communities of practice in education. Both are part of a three-year initiative, Connected Online Communities of Practice (COCP), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and implemented in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and five other organizations, of which CoSN is one.

“Based on the preliminary finding in this rough draft, we know both the benefits of, and some key elements of what makes, a successful online community,” said Darren Cambridge, senior consultant for AIR, “but we need to bring that to scale, and there’s still a lot more we need to know about sustaining effective leaders and their communities, incentives for membership and participation, and how to use metrics and data to build the best community.”

Cambridge said the COCP project will continue its research with reports, other online communities of practice similar to CoSN’s Access4Ed.net, testbeds for design, case studies, and more.

“At the district level, there are so many issues we face on a daily basis, whether it’s trying to find ways to develop a one-to-one environment in tough economic times to the tech support, security, and policy considerations that must to be taken into account if your district is trying to embark on a new mobile learning platform with school- or student-owned devices. All of these issues tie back to one central theme—access. The new online community of practice CoSN has created will allow for the development of new innovative strategies to improve [technology] access in districts across the country,” said Bailey Mitchell, CoSN’s new chair and chief technology and information officer for Georgia’s Forsyth County Schools.

CoSN’s new online community of practice will serve district technology leaders, superintendents, school boards, educational service agencies, and other education stakeholders. It will focus first on student-owned devices, followed by broadband access. Future areas of focus might include cloud computing, mobile computing, enabling home access, wireless access, and network design, among others.

“Access, better connections, more sharing, and increased transparency will ensure progress towards an improved educational opportunity for all students,” said Karen Cator, director of ED’s Office of Educational Technology. “Bringing together the insights, experiences, tech savvy, and thought leadership of a diverse group of district leaders is critical to taking the dialogue on [technology] access to the next level.”

“Our goal with Access4Ed.net is to create an online space for innovative strategies to take root and flourish,” said Hilary LaMonte, director of Online Communities at CoSN. LaMonte joined CoSN in late 2010 to lead the project.

Some of the first content to debut in the new online community of practice will be video interviews of education leaders discussing their views on top access-related issues at CoSN 2011. In addition, CoSN soon will post case studies chronicling leading districts’ experiences with student-owned devices, as well as its recently released Acceptable Use Policy Guide.

To learn more about the Connected Online Communities of Practice project and “Connect and Inspire,” visit http://edcocp.org.

Links:

CoSN 2011

CoSN’s LML

CoSN’s Online Community

COCP Project

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