Oct 09 2012

What You Need to Know About Mobile Learning

New guide helps educators integrate technology for classroom use.

I was conducting my requisite Facebook browsing this morning, when a photo posted by an old high school buddy stopped me mid scroll.

The image featured my friend’s two young sons, ages two and four, on a couch in his living room, clutching smartphones in their tiny hands. The caption: “Haven’t moved in hours. Loving their new phones!”   

I wondered, are these kids really old enough to have their own cell phones? It’s not a purchase I would make for my kids — not at that age. Then I thought about my two-year-old nephew, who knows how to play and access educational games on his parents’ tablet. I have a co-worker who claims his three-year-old son logged into his Amazon account and purchased a full season of Yo Gabba Gabba! (Imagine the couple’s surprise when the DVDs showed up in their mailbox!) Was my friend’s decision to purchase smartphones for his two young sons really so absurd?

As parents and teachers debate the role of mobile devices in the classroom, it’s impossible to ignore the fact, no matter our opinion, that children are using these tools more often, and at a much younger age, outside of school.

Getting the Most Out of Mobile Learning

Rather than ban mobile devices in schools, shouldn’t we look for ways to responsibly and effectively integrate them? Does it make sense to rule out the educational benefits of cell phones, for instance, simply because we are concerned about the potential for misuse or distraction? If students are using these tools in their daily lives, shouldn’t they also be using them in school?

Edutopia mobile device guide

These are the kinds of questions that prompted education advocates at Edutopia, the influential nonprofit backed by Star Wars creator George Lucas, to release “Mobile Devices for Learning: What You Need to Know.”

The printable nine-page guide, sponsored by Internet heavyweight Google, makes clear that there are pros — and cons — to using mobile devices in the classroom. But the benefits far outweigh the risks.

To help educators make the transition to an effective mobile classroom, the guide’s authors offer three key tips for getting started:

(1) Define your goals
(2) Survey your students to find out what technologies they have
(3) Encourage students to make suggestions

Digging deeper, the report breaks down the different types of mobile devices available for classroom use; offers a list (with links) of safe, reliable tools that can support mobile learning in the classroom; provides resources for important professional development; and suggests several potential questions educators can expect from parents when integrating these mobile devices into the classroom.

If you’re creating a mobile learning environment at your school or looking for ways to bring skeptical parents and administrators into the fold, Edutopia’s latest report is worth a look. 

As I was writing this, I kept coming back to that image of my friend’s two young boys, and what he wrote in the caption — “Haven’t moved in hours.” 

When’s the last time you saw a student sit still for that long?

Download the full report (free registration required).

<p>Edutopia/Jared Andrew Schorr</p>

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