Are you harnessing the full power of your mobile learning devices?
If you're like many educators, probably not. Starting a mobile learning program can be overwhelming, and there are a lot of details to think about. It's also tempting for schools to try to limit what students can do on their devices. But educator Karen Richardson urges her colleagues to resist the temptation.
"The L.A. Unified School District was shocked that their kids changed the settings on their iPads, but what the district really did was hand out iPads to be used as digital textbooks, and that's all they wanted the kids to be doing," she said. "They weren't thinking about them as a powerful creation tool."
Below are three benefits of mobile devices to consider taking full advantage of.
1. They're actually mobile.
One of the most common mistakes schools make with 1:1 mobile programs is that they treat the devices as if they were regular computers. Students sit at their desks and work individually on a pre-selected app.
"There's not a thing wrong with that except that these are mobile devices that come with fairly sophisticated digital tools," Richardson said. "The mobile aspect, teachers haven't quite figured that out."
Letting kids leave the classroom to take pictures and shoot video is something many schools aren't yet comfortable with. Yet it can be a powerful way to relate in-class lessons to the world outside. Why not let students go out and shoot photos around a particular theme — the food web, for example — and then return to the classroom to turn them into a presentation?
2. They allow a student-centered learning environment.
Mobile devices offer a wide range of new ways kids can explore and engage with classroom content. When teachers devise a single activity for everyone to do, they miss out on the opportunity to let students guide their own learning experiences.
Why not let them choose how they approach new material? Some may prefer to make a video, while others might be more comfortable taking photos. Still others may opt to set the technology aside and draw a picture or create a poster board.
"Not all of the kids have to use the same app at the same time. Apps are great for differentiating. Kids who are ahead can create a video tutorial to help other kids."
3. They help students learn at their own pace.
A teacher in Maryland who has incorporated mobile learning into the classroom looked up one day to discover some of her students recording what she was doing so they could go back and look through the video again. Other kids find apps such as Evernote helpful for taking notes during lectures and demonstrations.
By using such tools as learning aids, students develop critical skills they'll need out in the real world, Richardson said.