by Carmen Davis
There are many best practices to consider when deploying Mobile Learning Programs. These include: Financial considerations, General Deployment Strategies, 1:1 Deployment, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Deployment.
Here are some highlights from each area, along with a case study from a known pioneer in K-12 Mobile Learning.
Part 1: Financial Considerations for Mobile Learning
Perhaps the greatest obstacle in expanding technology integration in education is financial limitation. Many schools and districts are unable to deploy mobile devices to students due to insufficient budgets. However, the overall impact of successfully integrated mobile technology could prove more cost-efficient for school districts and later, beneficial for students.
Sustainability is an entirely different concern.
While the launch of new devices provides more accessible and affordable options, there are other factors that need to be considered in the integration of mobile learning. These factors affect the overall investment of a school or district prior, during, and even after, the implementation of the technology initiative.
Here are the factors to be considered:
- Technology infrastructure and electrical updates to support the facility needs.
- Type and model of the mobile device suitable for the users and the environment.
- Sustainable deployment strategy.
- Professional development and support for faculty members.
- Best practice strategies – regarding appropriate instruction for authentic learning.
- Teaching the students and teachers the new apps and learning devices.
- Availability of technical support.
- Responsible Usage Policy to address issues with student devices.
- Solutions to maximize the life of the devices.
- Device Repair and Insurance.
Part 2: Choosing the Deployment Strategy
Often, the primary goal of an educational technology initiative is to determine if it is effective. The issue of sustainability is addressed only after the implementation is complete. This is a major pitfall when integrating mobile learning.
If the long-term implications aren’t confronted, the school or district may find itself in a situation where they are unable to sustain mobile learning due to insufficient funding. Sustainability should be a top concern especially since budget constraints is an obstacle that cannot be easily surpassed.
A common mistake occurs when schools or districts become fixated on which device to deploy, but fail to develop/implement a plan to assure the proper handling and maintenance of these devices. This usually results in significantly high damage rates; requiring greater repair costs or replacements that the school or district may not be equipped to deal with.
A simple solution is deploying mobile devices with the right protective case to minimize these damages and help sustain the technology initiative. Without case protection, damage to devices can occur due to: drops, compression, and other factors. While many schools combine insurance with their case installation, device breakage still requires schools to spend valuable time filing insurance or warranty claims. This also means operating with fewer devices while waiting for replacements or having more devices on standby to adapt to these occurrences.
Aside from these issues, the school or district should create a feasible technology initiative for long-term success.
- 1:1 Deployment
One-to-one (1:1) deployment is a technology initiative where access to the device, including computers, laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, etc., is not shared and teachers and students must access their own individual device. These devices are either taken home or restricted for use within the school premises.
Research shows that students must be able to use mobile devices more than once or twice a week in school to make a substantial impact on student learning. However, integrating mobile devices can only be effective if the technology is used to enhance learning and not as a passive tool for information consumption or memorization. Therefore, professional development is a key component of implementation in the K-12 setting. Every day, educators and technology leaders must develop their pedagogy and determine effective methods to maximize these mobile devices.
Another key point of one-to-one deployment is the uniformity of technology brought into the classroom, which allows teachers and students to have the same software in front of them. Having the same device prevents the “digital divide” thereby equalizing the learning opportunities for students of varied socioeconomic levels and creating a favorable impact on test scores and student achievement.
In 2003-2004, 4% of the schools in the United States were implementing the 1:1 technology initiative, and by 2006, that number grew to nearly 25%. Research conducted by FutureSource Consulting Ltd. indicated that by 2016, roughly 54% of United States public schools have implemented one-to-one technology initiative.
- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Deployment
BYOD deployment is a technology initiative where students and teachers bring their own device, including laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, etc., for mobile learning to school. Depending upon the deployment strategy, some schools or districts specify the device or provide a list of devices that the students are allowed to bring. This is a common alternative when insufficient funds prevent the school or district from deploying mobile devices.
At home, students utilize their personal mobile devices to do their schoolwork, but during school hours, the work they’ve done is left at home, and students must wait until they get home to continue. With BYOD, students not only have access to the resources they were using at home, but can now continue the work while at school.
The most common concern for schools and districts with a BYOD deployment is having multiple devices with different functionalities that presents a challenge in sharing information and collaboration between teachers and students. This can also lead to a learning gap for students from varying capacities of their devices. Students who can afford more advanced devices automatically have an advantage over their peers.
Although the school or district does not need funding for the devices, there are still changes necessary to implement BYOD — including network preparation and changes in policy and teaching method. Districts need to assure sustainability of the cost of network improvements, teacher training, and the management of stolen, lost, or damaged student property. It’s also ideal to have funding set aside to procure devices for students who cannot afford their own. The technology staff will also need to handle technical issues of multiple types of devices.
Part 3: Mooresville Graded School District – a Pioneer in K-12 Mobile Learning
Mooresville Graded School District is one of the most influential names in mobile learning. Their success has earned them the reputation as a pioneer in digitized, personalized education.
Successfully implementing a one-to-one deployment for roughly 5,500 K-12 students across eight schools is not easy. The district created a long-term technology strategy that focused on improving student academic achievement and engagement with dynamic teaching and learning environment across all eight schools.
An essential step in their digital conversion was gaining the cooperation of the schools’ administrators, teachers, parents, and community members. To prepare the teachers and staff, the district provided professional development training focusing on technology and pedagogy. The ongoing training enabled the teachers and staff to maximize up-to-date digital coursework and strategies. A symposium was also held for parents to discuss how they can contribute to the success of the program. With their involvement, students were now responsible for the technology, with an emphasis on avoiding loss or damage to the devices.
The district’s transformation began in the winter of 2007. A pilot program of 400 laptops in charging carts for English classes at Mooresville High School was initiated. After seeing an immediate result, including improved attendance and increased student participation, the district moved forward with a full one-to-one deployment at the High School and Mooresville Intermediate School in the fall of 2008, followed by deployments at East Mooresville Intermediate School and Mooresville Middle. In the fall of 2011, laptop carts were deployed to every 3rd grade classroom.
One of the biggest hurdles for one-to-one technology initiatives is budget and Mooresville Graded School District’s Digital Conversion was no exception. To generate the required funding, the district reallocated monies from traditional expenses, such as textbooks. They also solicited local businesses for support. In one instance, they brokered a deal with local telecom providers to offer low-cost Internet access. Parents, too, made a contribution by paying $50 a year for computer repair.
An Apple lease agreement provided MacBooks that were taken home by every student in the 4th through 12th grades. Each MacBook and Brenthaven Backpack given on the first day of every school year was surrendered on their last day before summer vacation. Third graders also received their own MacBooks, but they remained in charging carts in the classrooms.
Mooresville Graded School District’s one-to-one program virtually eliminated the “digital divide,” creating an even playing field by providing their students with equal access to technology and digital resources.
The overall result of this progressive program was an environment that shifted the focus off the teacher and onto the students. The teachers took on a facilitator role and students were more active role in their own learning. This created a culture of collaboration in the classrooms. Classes that have a diverse setup allows teachers to use different digital curriculums, ranging from sessions for skill improvement to challenging projects, allowing students to accomplish tasks in participative groups. Students are encouraged to have fun while learning, promoting better student engagement.
Mobile Learning is rapidly becoming an integral part of education. Students must develop the skills required to effectively utilize technology every day. Despite financial challenges, schools and districts are finding different ways to implement their own technology program.
The key to a successful mobile learning program is careful planning. Unless the school or district is equipped with unlimited funds, a full digital conversion program cannot happen overnight. It’s essential to identify the available resources — not only financially, but including the existing technical resources and support.
It‘s also imperative to have funds allocated to support the digital conversion, as well as incorporating training for the teachers and staff facilitating the digital coursework.
Sustainability of the program is also a major concern. It’s not enough to implement a successful mobile learning program. The technology initiative must be viable long-term and adaptable to the rapidly changing trends in technology. Policies and procedures should be in place to maintain the devices. An effective Acceptable Usage Policy assures that students are responsible when handling their devices and deploying quality protective cases to minimize the device damage rate.