Edutopia Mobile Learning Guide (1)

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Mobile Learning Guide
   Mobile Devices for Learning    SPONSORED BY GOOGLE, PROVIDER OF Getting kids   engaged  with learning, focused on  working smarter, and ready for the future  BY S. JHOANNA ROBLEDO  | Illustrations by Jared Andrew Schorr  GOING MOBILE   IN THE CLASSROOM  WHAT’S INSIDE 1.  INTRODUCTION What are the pros and cons? Bridging the digital gap? 2.  KNOW YOUR MOBILE DEVICES  Cell phones, e-book readers, tablets, MP3 and portable media players, and smartphones 3.  GETTING STARTED  Resources and tools that support mobile learning 4.  APPS AND WEB TOOLS  Ideas for elementary, middle, and high school classrooms 5.  PARENTS  How to get parents on board the mobile device train Put simply, mobile devices are becoming as essential to students’ daily lives as, say, breakfast. According to a 2011 Pew Internet Project teen survey, 77 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have cell phones, a major jump from 45 percent in 2004. (Read the report:  And yet, many schools don’t allow cell phones and the like. New York City schools, for example, have prohibited students from bringing cell phones, or electronic devices in general, to class. According to a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report, “Turning on Mobile Learning in North  America” (, “only Illinois and New Hampshire have implemented state-level initiatives that focus on mobile learning.” WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS? There are, understandably, some concerns about mobile devices in the classroom. The biggest is that they distract from schoolwork. Then again, distractions are as old as the ages — we’ve  just progressed from daydreaming and passing notes. Experts say the answer isn’t to ban these devices altogether, or to postpone forming a policy on them,  but to take advantage of their ability to engage students in a classroom setting. And they do appear to engage students. Early research supports the notion that these devices can lead to measurable learning benefits, says Lucy Gray, project director of the Consortium for School Networking’s (CoSN) Leadership for Mobile Learning initiative. Gray points CELL PHONES IN THE CLASSROOM: A BOON OR BLIGHT? It’s a question many educators are facing these days. The Common Core State Standards call for students to develop digital media and technology skills. One way to help them reach that goal: incorporate gadgets they’re already familiar with — cell phones, tablets, and smartphones — into their learning environment. “The big potential  with mobile is that it really is the primary portal for social commu-nication right now,” says Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist in the departments of anthropology and informatics at the University of California Irvine and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation chair in Digital Media and Learning. “Young people learn best when it’s relevant to them, when there’s social connection tied to it, and  when they actually have a personal interest.” to North Carolina’s Project K-Nect, a pilot program assessing whether mobile devices can effectively boost learning and math test scores. At-risk ninth graders  who had little to no access to a computer and Internet at home were supplied smartphones so they could access supple-mental math materials. In addition, a social networking component was built into the program, giving students the ability to connect with their teachers and peers at any time via instant messaging. The findings have been encouraging, to say the least: according to the nonprofit organization Project Tomorrow , “almost two-thirds of the students are taking additional math courses, and over 50 per-cent are now thinking about a career in the math field as a result of participating EDUTOPIA.ORG | PAGE 1   Mobile Devices for Learning  in Project K-Nect.” What’s more, teachers report that Project K-Nect students “are demonstrating a greater responsibility for their learning and developing more collaborative learning skills.” Teachers also reported that their students were more “active” in their classes, as both leaders and peer tutors, contributing to problem-solving discussions and teach-ing each other. (Download the results: ( BRIDGING THE DIGITAL GAP One big challenge for students and educators alike is deciding which devices to welcome in the classroom. Cost, of course, is a major consideration if you mandate specific devices. Some school districts may not be able to provide equip-ment for each student. Enter the BYOD movement — bring your own device (or alternatively, BYOT, with the T   standing for technology). Some experts see this as a way to democratize the process, considering the majority of 12- to 17-year-olds, especially older teens, already have cell phones. The biggest hurdle for districts, then, would be providing reliable wireless access. Loaner devices could be made available for students who didn’t own any equipment. Or, if school districts did decide to adopt one specific device (say, an iPad), they could purchase enough to equip a certain number of classrooms and have students share. The proverbial jury’s still out though. Some say BYOD is a panacea. Gary S. Stager, executive director of the Constructivist Consortium (, a collaborative marketing and advocacy group of educational technology publishers, wonders in a blog (“BYOD –  Worst Idea of the 21st Century?”) if BYOD merely “enshrines inequity,” EDUTOPIA.ORG | PAGE 2 FIRST, ASK YOURSELF WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO ACHIEVE  by incorporating mobile devices into your curriculum. Are you trying to encourage collaboration? Hoping for students to research with more depth? Want them to publish their work online? The answers will lead you to the right apps. SURVEY YOUR STUDENTS ABOUT WHAT DEVICES THEY HAVE  and how they use them. Do they have unlimited texting? Can they post online? Are there limitations on the size of files they can upload? With this information, you will have a complete picture of what resources your students can access without having to pay massive extra fees, which may not be feasible for some of them. ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO MAKE SUGGESTIONS  about which apps work for them. This allows everyone to contribute to your mobile learning initiative—a great way to get them on board. Plus, the class can discover new apps and become proficient at them together. FOR MORE IDEAS, read education consultant Ben Johnson’s post on iPads in the classroom at Edutopia: TIPS  FOR GETTING STARTED giving more-affluent students an unfair advantage. Still, plenty of others insist it’s the future — including the 2012 Horizon Report (, which annually measures emerging technologies that  will shape and mold the way we teach and learn. The influential collaborators on the research — New Media Consortium, CoSN, and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) — predict mobile learning is only one to two  years away from becoming mainstream in American classrooms. THE BOTTOM LINE  According to UNESCO’s report on mobile learning in North America, “[it] involves more than merely incorporating new technology into current pedagogical strategies; it requires an instructional paradigm shift that promises to funda-mentally change the way students learn.”   Mobile Devices for Learning  Any technology tool that students have at their disposal can be leveraged in the classroom to make powerful learning inferences, says Adam Bellow, a former high school teacher who founded eduTecher, a website for educators and schools seeking guidance about integrating technology in the classroom. Accessing information online is just the beginning; students can use electronic gadgets for creating interactive projects and multimedia that contribute to their inquiry-based study. Here, a rundown of available devices and how they’ve been deployed in classrooms: “We tend to see [mobile devices] as a distraction from learning because adults aren’t participating in [formalizing the process],” says Ito. “It’s a bit of a chicken or the egg problem. They’re not partici-pating in shaping the kind of influence these devices [could have].” By embracing mobile devices in our classrooms, we empower students in the learning process. Furthermore, “the Internet … allows us to have a thought and immediately publish it to anybody in the world. That’s an incredible power,” says Cathy N. Davidson, codirector of the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge at Duke University and author of Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century.  In 2003, she and her colleagues at the university implemented a program that gave a free iPod to each incoming freshman, with the understanding that it would be put to educational use in classes. The enterprise helped pilot a movement to foster interactive learning, connectivity, and innovation — the first-ever academic podcast conference happened there — and demonstrated students’ achievements in devising ways iPods could support classroom scholarship. Ultimately, what’s important in successfully integrating any technology in the classroom holds true with mobile devices: students need to play an active role in learning and receiving frequent feedback, mobile activities need to be grounded in learning materials that require students to critically analyze and create content, and technology needs to connect students to the world outside classrooms. Adds Davidson: “You have to teach it and harness it in the fashion it’s meant to be used — interactively.” KNOW YOUR   MOBILE DEVICES CELL PHONES The simplest of them all but still fairly powerful. They can be used for group discussions via text messaging, and since so many cell phones have cameras, they are useful for photography-based projects as well. Students can also record themselves reading stories aloud for writers’ workshops or practicing speeches. E-BOOK READERS Their fundamental function, of course, is for reading books and storing entire libraries. They also provide easy access to dictionaries. Many students also use their e-book readers as a replacement for the daily paper, since they can read various editions and magazines on it. Well-known brands include Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. MP3 AND PORTABLE MEDIA PLAYERS (SUCH AS THE IPOD TOUCH) Free lectures and short videos are available for downloading via the iTunes U app, or on the Internet at sites such as, which has animated educational videos. Apps can also be downloaded onto the devices and many are equipped with cameras students can use to shoot and to post to a website. Read the Edutopia blog “iPod, iListen, iRead” ( ) to learn more about how these devices are used to help students master reading. TABLETS Apple’s iPad, the Kindle Fire, and the Galaxy are just a few models of tablets, and they can do anything e-book readers can do and then some. Downloadable apps, many educational, make these machines nearly comparable to computers; you can surf the Web, play games, watch (and even make) movies, as well as take photographs. Many schools have started purchasing tablets for the K-5 crowd, though they’re plenty useful for older students, too. SMARTPHONES The older the students, the more likely they are to be wielding one of these. Like tablets, smartphones have many computer-like functions. (They’re also phones, of course.) They can run apps and software, record audio and video, send and receive email and texts — functionalities that can easily be channeled into classroom inquiry. EDUTOPIA.ORG | PAGE 3
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