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Articles: Mobile

A Pew Internet study released in April, “The Rise of e-Reading,” notes a gathering American trend of embracing digital content. The report found that 43 percent of Americans age 16 or older have read an e-book or other long-form digital material, such as a magazine article, over the past year. Of those in this age group who read every day or almost every day for work or school, 54 percent use tablets or other e-book readers. The report also says that those who read with e-book devices read more than others, and that portability and speedy access are major drivers of this trend.

Cameron Evans, Microsoft’s education chief information officer, doesn’t so much see the future holding a single device for one-to-one connections in classrooms, but what he terms “a richly connected ecosystem of learning devices, apps and services that are smart and aware of each other.”

The increasing number, affordability and practicality of apps, such as iBooks Author, is beginning to drive the choice of hardware devices for both schools and mainstream users, says Gail Palumbo, lead faculty and area chair for curriculum, instruction and teacher leadership for the University of Phoenix. “People are demanding more powerful apps that no longer work on older computers or even many newer ones,” she says.

Sixth-graders from the Wayland-Cohocton Middle School in New York train on Toshiba tablets, which the school won in a 2010 Win a Wireless Lab Sweepstakes.

Tablets have come a long way since Apple launched its pioneering Newton MessagePad in 1993, the first Internet-connected flat-screen device pairing a stylus with handwriting-recognition software. Since then, computer hardware companies have been refining and experimenting with the concept of Internet-connected tablet computing devices. The personal digital assistant (PDA), convertible laptop/tablets, dual-screen booklet tablets, e-book readers and other designs have been among the many iterations of tablet computers, sometimes known as slates or media tablets.

rural 4G

President Obama hopes to bring high-speed wireless Internet to all rural areas in the next five years with the National Wireless Initiative he announced last year.

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski

While both the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Education have released separate plans regarding the use of technology in education—the National Broadband Plan and the National Education Technology Plan, respectively—the two entities have teamed up to create a new commission to comprehensively transition U.S. schools into the digital era.

I’m not a Luddite, or even a technophobe. I just don’t have time to waste on technology that promises the world but fails to deliver. I’m the “show me” administrator, the doubting Thomas of school leaders. I write not about the latest and greatest technology for those administrators on the avant garde. Rather, this is a cautionary tale about letting the digital cognoscenti dash ahead to pastures new while we figure out how tried and tested technology can help us now.

I have a monthly email communication with Elliot Soloway, a University of Michigan professor and the chair of ISTE’s Special Interest Group on Mobile Learning, who writes our Going Mobile column with Cathie Norris. Somewhere within the email thread, Soloway is sure to write words such as these: “Someone has to tell the emperor he’s naked.”

Until recently, student electronic devices, from cell phones to iPods to laptop computers, were the forbidden fruit in schools. But with technology budgets languishing and such devices becoming more powerful, affordable and omnipresent in students’ lives, district technology leaders are now eyeing a welcome educational harvest through bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs.

While Facebook and Google+ are popular social networks for everyday life, dozens of other networks have been created to provide safe and effective social learning environments for K12 education. Social learning networks (SLNs) allow students to learn 21st-century skills. Students can build online portfolios and resumes and collaborate with peers through project-based learning, which will help them in college or the workforce.

Although Apple has hogged much of the e-book spotlight since its announcement in January that it would partner with Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to roll out K12 e-Books in addition to its improved iBooks applications, it isn’t, nor ever will be, the only player in tablets in education. On the heels of Apple’s announcement, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski released in early March his plans to get all U.S. students, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, using electronic book titles by 2017—in five years.

onslow county schools project tomorrow mobile learning

In 2007, Onslow County (N.C.) Public Schools agreed to work with Digital Millennial Consulting (DMC), a private consulting firm offering education technology solutions to schools and state agencies, in pioneering Project K-Nect, a mobile learning initiative aimed to increase math proficiency. The program, funded in part through Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach Initiative, provided high school students in this rural district with smartphones equipped with DMC monitoring software that tracked their usage of the devices and provided a safe network through which they could collaborate.

Netbooks Replace Smartphones
Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Central School District

Back in December 2009, Watkins Glen Central School District in Garnerville, N.Y., gave smartphones to 200 fifth- and seventh-graders and 20 teachers in three schools. Two years later, this small pilot program has transitioned away from mobile phones to a one-to-one netbook program for all 850 pupils in grades 5-12. According to Superintendent Tom Philips, the HP Pavilion netbook is more educationally appropriate for Watkins Glen than tablets or mobile phones.  

Blackboard Mobile

Teachers, students and parents can get instant access to courses, content and announcements via their mobile devices using Blackboard Mobile platform. Students and teachers can access documents in multiple formats, post announcements, create discussion threads and comment on blogs and journals.

Desire2Learn

We haven’t seen this big a change in education in 500 years. Every learner with an Internet connection can build a personalized, global network of people and information. It’s a shift that Robert Darnton, a Harvard University history professor, compares to watershed moments like the invention of the printing press. To stay current, every educator needs to dive into these networks ASAP. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone.”

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