More schools piloting secure mobile devices


Recent reports indicate that students want mobile learning opportunities.

A company that manufacturers secure personal cell phones for children is making a move to education, where it has introduced secure, internet-enabled mobile handheld devices for classroom use. School teachers or administrators can program the devices to allow (or disallow) calling or texting during certain times of the day, making them ideal for educational use, the company says.

Kajeet’s newest initiative, Kajeet for Education, aims to offer districts affordable access to mobile devices in an effort to expand students’ learning opportunities and develop their technology skills.

The initiative intends to support many mobile learning devices, including laptops, netbooks, tablets, and smart phones. Michael Flood, the company’s vice president for education markets, said Kajeet hopes to sell some of those devices directly to districts—most likely smart phones and tablets.

“There is recognition that we can leverage capabilities and technologies … by providing mobile learning devices for students with controls for schools,” said Flood, a former AT&T executive.

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The company’s move comes at a time when support for mobile devices is taking classrooms by storm.

Data from Project Tomorrow’s 2010 Speak Up Survey indicate that 67 percent of parents support their child using mobile devices in the classroom for school work, although 65 percent of school administrators in the same survey strongly objected to letting students use their own mobile devices in school.

More than half (53 percent) of middle and high school students said the largest obstacle they face in using educational technology today is not being able to use their own cell phone, smart phone, or MP3 player for mobile learning in school.

Many forward-thinking districts have completed mobile device pilots or currently support mobile device initiatives that involve both school-supplied devices and student-owned devices.

The Plano, Texas, Independent School District previously has piloted mobile device initiatives for students, and Associate Superintendent for Academic and Technology Services Jim Hirsch said the district now has more than 10,000 K-12 students connecting to the district’s network each day with a personal mobile device.

“Discipline referrals for inappropriate use of devices have fallen now that our students are allowed and encouraged to use their devices during school,” he said. “As always, the students meet our expectations, and the use now is educational, not subversive or secretive.”

More news about mobile learning:

‘Bring your own device’ catching on in schools

Experts give advice on mobile learning

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Survey: Mobile learning at a tipping point

Kajeet-powered devices will feature network-based controls that can be applied to both the available features on the devices as well as the interactions the devices have with the school or district network.

School leaders will be able to control the student devices based on individual users or groups of users, with different settings for different times of the day, Flood said.

For instance, network administrators might turn off the devices’ ability to send or receive phone calls or text messages during school hours, and they might choose to block all streaming video access except for pre-approved educational streaming services. Certain groups of students might have access to different applications or features than other groups on a case-by-case basis, or depending on the needs of a teacher or his or her lessons.

Access to other features might be turned on during weekends—text messaging, for example, so that students can communicate with one another while working on homework assignments.

“We work with districts to tailor exactly what they need for educational purposes, rather than just [restricting] them to consumer or traditional data plans,” Flood said.

Kajeet for Education employs what it calls a “multiple walleting technology,” through which different services on student devices can be billed to separate accounts.

Suppose a school gives its students a smart phone for mobile learning. The school maintains filtered data connectivity but prohibits calling or texting capabilities. However, if a student’s parents would like their child to have access to calling and texting after school hours, that student’s parents would be able to pay only for those calling and texting features.

“Or, if a school allocates a certain amount of data usage to a student, we can allow a parent to add more data capability to that device,” Flood said.

More news about mobile learning:

‘Bring your own device’ catching on in schools

Experts give advice on mobile learning

Mobile learning: Not just laptops any more

Survey: Mobile learning at a tipping point

The company also will alert schools and districts when students’ devices are nearing data usage limits.

Kajeet for Education will pilot the secured mobile devices with a handful of confidential schools over the summer before moving to full-scale operations.

Flood is a founding member of the Georgia Gwinnett College Technology Advisory Council and guest lectures on educational technology at Georgia Perimeter College. He is also a member of the Emerging Technologies Committee for the Consortium on School Networking.

As head of Kajeet’s mobile learning division, Flood also will focus on developing business models that are compliant with e-Rate standards and the Children’s Internet Protection Act, while addressing school budget requirements.

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Laura Ascione

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