While I am a huge advocate for the purposeful integration of technology in schools, we must resist the temptation to think that this is the solution to solve all the ills in our current education system.
What concerns me most is how many districts and schools are going all in with one-on-one or bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives with no real plan for implementation and evaluation of effectiveness. This lack of planning and support will likely result in devices never achieving the outcomes that they were designed to achieve. It’s foolish to think that students will learn just by putting a device in their hands.
What’s needed is a shared vision and strategic plan for how mobile technology will be utilized to improve student learning outcomes that are aligned to higher standards.
When implementing and successfully sustaining a mobile learning initiative, it is imperative not to allow the device to drive instruction. Lessons, curriculum, schools and districts should never be built around technology. Everything we do in education should be built around learning. Thus, if the ultimate goal is to improve student outcomes then the role of any mobile device initiative should be to support or enhance learning.
When it comes to educational technology, I often get the feeling that the learning is often secondary. Using technology just for the sake of “using it” equates to a huge waste of instructional time that could be dedicated to deep, meaningful learning. It also equates into a huge waste of money.
Most students know how to use technology. However, we cannot assume that they know how to use technology to support their learning. This is where attention to sound instructional design is necessary, first and foremost. With a pedagogical foundation and better assessments firmly in place the stage is set for students to truly begin to own their learning in ways never imagined. The key is to determine what we want our students to know, and then let them have a choice as to how they will demonstrate or apply their learning. This not only adds relevance and meaning to the learning, but also takes the pressure off the educators from having to learn how to use an endless number of tools.
As educators we need to place a great deal of emphasis on creating artifacts to demonstrate conceptual mastery in one-on-one and BYOD environments.
Technology can become a nice pedagogical fit when viewed this way. Adopting a mindset of pedagogy first, technology (when appropriate) second when integrating mobile learning devices asserts a focus on what’s most important — learning. When it comes to technology we must always ask ourselves how will this tool support learning and allow students to demonstrate conceptual mastery.
There must be more of a concerted focus on learning outcomes, construction of new knowledge leading to authentic application, and the development/enhancement of essential skills (creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, digital citizenship, entrepreneurship, media literacy, technological proficiency, communication, collaboration). The assessment and feedback pieces are also critical. Mobile learning represents a huge investment in time, money, and other resources. With so much at stake the goal should be placing a powerful learning tool in the hands of our students — not a digital pacifier.