student leaning on table looking at laptop
Educational Technology

What is the Role of Mobile Devices in Your School?

April 15, 2019

A colleague in her Master’s program asked me to answer a few questions for a class project she is completing. My responses are below. I’d love to hear how others would answer these questions.

What are the instructional goals that we are aiming to accomplish with mobile learning?

Our goal is to provide students with access to information and resources whenever and wherever they need it. We still have a Tech Lab at each school, but the Tech Lab is for enrichment… a chance for students to learn things that a classroom teacher may not have time or expertise in, like coding. Robotics, greenscreen, etc. Then, with our mobile devices, students should be able to take what they’ve learned in the Tech Lab and apply it to classroom learning. Example: A group of 5th grade students are working together to explain to others how tides work, and what is the significance of their patterns. They weren’t told HOW to teach others. One student grabs his Chromebook and starts building out a Scratch movie… he didn’t learn that in class. Another student starts researching information. And a third boy started a Google Slide. Their self-directing their learning. They need mobile devices if this is to be successful because they shouldn’t have to wait for a scheduled time, or a device to become available, in order for learning to happen. We want technology to be ubiquitous, like binder paper and pencils. Only then can it truly become a learning mechanism and not just a consumer device.

How will the mobility of the devices in our school/district/institution improve teaching and learning?

I watched a webinar the other day on Emotional Intelligence (EQ) becoming the key to successful organizations, rep lacing IQ. Why is that? Because IQ used to be connected to WHAT you knew. Now, with technology, it’s easier to fill the holes of what we don’t know. “Google it” is the default answer to many questions asked these days. So consider, if we could reprogram school so that “Google it” becomes the norm (instead of this fearful entity that students use to “cheat”), then teachers and students could spend more time teaching and learning about the really important things, like emotional intelligence and the other soft skills, which are deemed most important to the future of jobs:

1. Complex problem solving

2. Critical thinking

3. Creativity

4. People management

5. Coordinating with others

6. Emotional intelligence (new)

7. Judgment and decision making

8. Service orientation

9. Negotiation

10. Cognitive flexibility (new)

What would you like to be able to do with mobile devices that was previously difficult or impossible?

I’d like to be able to ensure that the mobile devices in students’ hands are all equipped with 4G (5G?) internet. The equity/access gap is real, and we increase it when we give students devices but not access. We create this false sense of equitable access to resources and then say things like, “Well, they can just go to Starbucks if they need internet.” When we say this, we’re negating the full experience of the child. So before we start getting excited about OER (Open Educational Resources) and before we start pushing the “Google It” answer, we have to make sure that all our students have access.

Then, we need to make sure that all our students are equipped with the tools and resources to navigate the complexities of media literacy. I don’t think a device can provide that…yet… but it’d be great if it had an AI that could help students select reliable sources of information. There are some apps and web extensions that are heading this route, but I’ holding out hope for the Star Trek transponder that meets this need for all of us. ☺

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