MOBILE LEARNING PIONEERS SPECIAL SECTION
You can take this prediction to the bank: Within five years, each and every K12 student, in each and every grade, in each and every school in the United States will be using a mobile learning device, 24/7. How can we say that when today 99 percent of the schools ban cell phones? Because mobile is bigger than the Internet.
While the Internet changed everything, mobile will change everything squared. The Internet is just a roadway, and computers— the equivalent of cars for the Internet—have been expensive. But now the Internet's "cars" are essentially free. The keepers of the information roadway—the telecommunication companies—will give you a "computer" (aka cell phone, mobile learning device, or MLD) for free when you pay the toll, which, by the way, keeps dropping substantially every year. Even K12, the quintessential technology laggard, won't be able to resist the mobile juggernaut.
Some will say, "It's just the novelty—a Hawthorne Effect—that is at play."
It doesn't take a PhD to see that MLDs resonate in a very deep way with how the mobile generation lives and breathes and, yes, thinks. And when school administrators—adults— "allow" the children to use, inside of school, the technology that the mobile generation uses outside of school, technology with which they are comfortable and proficient, they feel respected by the adults. School now becomes interesting and important and worthy of serious effort.
Some will say, "More data need to be collected; it's just too early to draw conclusions." Nevertheless, as we travel the country and the globe, we are meeting many pioneering educators who are not waiting for more data before moving ahead with mobile learning projects. These educators trust their own eyes; they see how thoroughly engaging mobile technology is for today's youth. And they trust their own thinking: Bring mobile technology into school and bring that engagement into school—into learning. Mobile learning is absolutely changing the game in K12 education.
The four districts we feature were part of District Administration's November- December 2009 Mobile Device Learning Guide. They have continued to move forward with mobile learning pilots ranging from 60 to 200 students, where each student is issued, for 24/7 use, a mobile learning device. These districts use HTC smartphones—running Windows Mobile 6.0 and GoKnow's Mobile Learning Environment program and connecting to the Internet using cellular service provided by Verizon Wireless. Teachers undergo three days of professional development during which they learn how to "mobilize" their existing pencil-and-paper lessons to take advantage of the MLDs' capabilities.
On their own, some teachers meet outside school to support their professional growth. St. Marys City (Ohio) Schools has created a professional community of local colleagues and meet face-to-face, as well as communicate via e-mail and phone. Monies from the districts' general funds are the primary sources, but districts tap state funds and local resources, such as the PTA. The districts find that the cost of going 1:1 with MLDs is lower than the cost of using laptops. And the students use MLDs for all four core subjects, from 30-60 percent of the day—inside of school, at home, on the school bus or on the playground. These case studies document the positive gains in student performance in classes using the MLDs since we last checked in.