The evening news screams scary headlines (“Pedophilia!”, “Cyber-bullying!”) that make it seem as if mobile devices in the hands of children are more dangerous than handguns. I obviously agree that every parent needs to safeguard their child’s mobile computing experience as a parent myself. However, mobile devices can be the key to learning and, dare I even say it…success. The question is not IF your child should use a mobile device in school.
HOW to do it safely. As mobile devices like iOS devices (like the iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.); Android (the Barnes & Noble Nook, a variety of tablets and cell phones) or another platform (such as Windows Mobile, Palm, BlackBerry, Nokia, etc.) make their way into classrooms, students, parents, teachers, and administrators need to implement best practices that increase learning without compromising safety.
In the United States, many schools are seeing six-year-olds with cell phones. The average UK kid gets their first cell phone at eight. Children’s access to mobile devices is staggering, as you can see from the “Learning in the 21st Century: Taking it Mobile!” survey. For instance, among middle school (6th-8th grade) students:
59 percent have a cell phone
24 percent have an Internet-enabled Smartphone
53 percent have a personal laptop or tablet
A generation of students is growing up with different access to information at their collective fingertips.
Mobile Education 101
Mobile learning, aka m-learning, is one of education’s fastest-growing trends (starting in kindergarten and going all the way through university, as well as professional learning environments). Properly used, these devices are effective educational tools.
Benefits of mobile learning include:
Individualized Instructions and Learning: All learning styles are engaged with automatic personalization, so there is no “one size fits all” program. Most programs adapt to the individual learner’s strengths, allowing the learner to work through their weak spots in the privacy of their handheld. If students have problems grasping a concept, they can do additional work on their devices whenever they choose.
Mobile device Nowadays
Learning is seen as fun: Subjects like algebra are more palatable when placed in a game format, and students can relate to real-world experiences.
Collaborative and Interactive: Mobile learning tends to increase communication between peers and instructors. Young people communicate differently based on today’s technology, and teaching on their terms helps this information sink in faster.
Discipline issues nearly vanish: Discipline issues went down by 90% after the Rowan-Salisbury School Systems implemented a mobile learning project, according to Phil Hardin, Executive Director of Technology. Students were more engaged in learning activities on the school bus and had less time to play pranks or bother other students.
Class attendance and participation: There is no need to cancel a class due to bad weather or fall behind due to extended absences if mobile devices are set up with online content filtering technology to protect the content they view when they are not in the classroom. Students can attend class and submit homework from any location with devices with a two-camera system that allows collaboration and participation. This has particular relevance for disadvantaged and special needs students.
Saves schools money: Cash-strapped school districts are also attracted to mobile learning technology to save money over the long term. The iSchool Initiative estimates each $150 iPod touch would save at least $600 per student per year.
Inexpensive lessons and materials: E-books for e-readers and other online educational tools like mobile apps are less expensive to produce than traditional textbooks and will save money. Some online materials, such as Open Textbook, are free. Amazon recently introduced a new ad-supported e-ink Kindle at a reduced rate (less than half of a comparable tablet). Whether schools will allow ad-supported technology in the classroom remains to be seen.
E-books shouldn’t be seen as a separate device like an e-reader but as a free application on almost every platform. The e-book learning experience can be enjoyed anywhere for free. Today a student can read a free textbook on her school PC, continue reading on her BlackBerry smartphone during the bus ride home and then open the reading app on her iPad to the exact point where she stopped reading on her phone.
Any notes she made on any platform would be saved automatically. This content and extra portability cost the student and the school nothing. Given these pluses, today’s teachers want more of them in the classroom instead of confiscating handhelds. According to a great report, The New 3 Es of Education: Enabled, Engaged, Empowered How Today’s
Educators are Advancing a New Vision for Teaching and Learning, “Teachers highly value the ability of the devices to increase student engagement in learning (77 percent), to facilitate improved communications between teachers, parents, and students (64 percent), and to access online textbooks anytime, anywhere (64 percent). Administrators note the same benefits but with stronger validation of the student engagement component (84 percent) and adding in the idea that the devices can extend learning beyond the school day (66 percent) or create opportunities for more personalized learning experiences (64 percent).”
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