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Could mobile tech training boost achievement?

A new study reveals that providing mobile training to teachers could have positive results

mobile-surveyIt’s no secret that mobile technology is a powerful tool that connects students and teachers with digital resources and boosts engagement. Now, a new study indicates that targeted teacher training in the area of mobile technology could result in higher standardized test scores, STEM interest among students, and proficiency gains.

A partnership between the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) program and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) aims to support teachers as they effectively use mobile technology to transform instructional practices and student achievement.

VILS partners with administrators and teachers in 12 schools across the U.S., equipping them with a two-year series of professional development and resources aligning with ISTE standards and focusing on leveraging mobile technology’s potential. The program expanded to 24 schools, although this survey includes student data from only the first 12 schools.

(Next page: Mobile tech training results and impact)

ISTE examined whether VILS students improved math and science performance on standardized tests by examining pre- and post-scores on those tests and comparing them to control schools, located in the same districts and with comparable demographics as the VILS schools. ISTE also conducted site visits to gather program implementation data and to conduct observations.

One major finding is illustrated through standardized math test scores. Scores of VILS students increased by 4.13 percent, while the test scores of non-VILS students in control groups of schools that are using mobile technology but are not participating in the program (and did not receive teacher training on how to use mobile technology) declined by 4.62 percent.

VILS focuses on “how you take teachers through a specific, guided, multi-layered professional development approach,” said Rose Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation. “That’s where you’re going to get the types of results you’re seeing in our program.”

And though personal technology use is nearly ubiquitous, that doesn’t always translate to academic use.

“Teachers don’t inherently know what to do with technology in the classroom,” Kirk said. “We assume that because someone carries a smartphone or a tablet, that someone knows how to use it in a classroom. VILS moves beyond putting a new instrument in a teacher’s hand–it stays with them and engages them on a continual basis.”

Teachers from both program waves said that students benefited from teachers’ mobile technology training, noting that:

  • 69 percent of students use technology to access useful resources
  • 66 percent of teachers individualize instruction more
  • 60 percent of students help one another with technology
  • 36 percent of students demonstrated an increased ability to solve problems

In general, students in the VILS schools performed better on math and science standardized tests than students from the comparison schools. Student engagement was higher in VILS classrooms, and was about 90 percent, than in non-VILS comparison classrooms, where about 75 percent of students were engaged.

Every VILS teacher reported that the program had a positive impact on students’ attitudes, learning, engagement, and mobile tech proficiency.

Compared to non-VILS student responses, VILS students said they were more likely to expect to attend college and to major in a STEM field. VILS students also reported a higher interest in math and science, as well as a more frequent use of technology tools.

VILS participation had a positive impact on school culture and on teachers and students, said David Curry, principal of Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton, Md.

The program “encourages teachers to be more open and collaborative,” Curry said. “The teachers learn just as much from students as students learn from teachers, and we’re making sure students understand that we value their opinions and their learning.”

Curry said that while he couldn’t say 100 percent that it is directly connected to his school’s VILS participation and one-to-one program, the school’s students demonstrated a 10-point increase on state reading and language arts scores, and a 15-point increase on state science scores.

ISTE provides VILS professional development training and mentorship for educators and a designated technology coach in each school.

Three-day workshops cover the use of effective tools and strategies for mobile learning, and training is supported by an ISTE instructional consultant, webinars, a web-based project community with professional development and classroom resources, and a day-long virtual conference featuring VILS lessons and projects.

While these results involve just 12 schools in the 2012-2013 school year, the program expanded to 12 more in the 2013-2014 school year. ISTE officials said they expect stronger and more statistically significant results, as they pertain to test score improvements, with a larger sample size.

Encouraged by the initial results, the Verizon Foundation and ISTE announced the launch of the Verizon Mobile Learning Academy, an online teacher professional development program intended to help teams of teachers participate in mobile tech training through free, moderated virtual courses.

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