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Using Mobile Devices To Rethink Homework

Creating more effective models for learning

While administrators can face a variety of challenges when it comes to mobile device deployments and BYOD environments, using mobile technologies effectively can provide new opportunities for learning, including rethinking the age-old institution of homework.

In this web seminar, the director of instructional technology in the Putnam City Schools in Oklahoma discussed how the district is using mobile devices to promote deeper student learning while rethinking the practice of assigning homework in the process, and how technology can provide a better model than traditional homework across grades K-12.

Education Market Manager

The classroom has seen major changes over the past hundred years, but have our teaching methods kept up with those changes? Look at little things, such as what’s on the student’s desk. There used to be a notebook, or a little chalkboard tablet, which are being replaced now with Chromebooks, tablets and iPads. The front of the classroom had a chalkboard, now being replaced by interactive whiteboards, and converted to an LMS.

The introduction of either shared or 1-to-1 devices has been one of the largest innovative changes the K12 space has ever seen. We’ve discovered a whole new world of tools, and it has opened up new ways to shape young minds. Students can immerse themselves in subjects through digital technology, virtually travel the world, develop complex code to make robots, or develop rich content that as recently as five years ago only professionals could create.

With this evolution we’ve also discovered new challenges. Challenges that were once isolated to a single computer lab or the IT department have now spread throughout the entire school and district. Some of these include staying on top of technology trends, understanding and implementing changing philosophies on curriculum and instruction, device management, security, charging devices, space to house robots and projectors and so on.

But with all these changes that technology has allowed us to make, we still seem to see the overall classroom theme remain the same. Desks still face forward and instruction is done in the front. Collaboration has become a necessary skill, but lessons are still taught during the day and homework is done at night. If the classroom technology is totally different, why is the classroom methodology not progressing at the same time? Tackling these challenges starts by focusing on three components: financing, curriculum, infrastructure.

Director of Instructional
Putnam City Schools (Okla.)

We’ve been good about putting curriculum at the forefront of our technology deployment, even from the beginning. We thought about why we wanted to put iPads in the hands of kids, how that would affect their learning, and letting that guide us in our deployment.
We started by asking four questions. First, what is the quality of the assignments? Second, what is the quality of the adult help that our students have at home? Third, what was the quantity of homework? And finally, do we want to send home mobile devices?

We are very focused in our instructional technology department on using the iPads to create. One of the debates that you hear within instructional technology is that iPads are for content, they’re not for creating, but we have found that to be absolutely untrue.

We also were talking about the whole idea of feedback. One of the great things about formative assessments and homework is how quickly the students can get feedback about whether what they’re doing is right. That’s where we could see an advantage to sending home a device.

Then we had to think about, if we had them doing their work digitally, what were the expectations for the teachers to be monitoring what the students were doing? Then there’s the whole idea of collaborative work. Students can be collaborating on papers, teachers can be collaborating on papers with students—but one of the questions was whether we want our teachers monitoring students’ work in real time.

We have decided at this point not to send our devices home. For our elementary students, we believe the best homework for them is independent reading and Math Facts. Middle school is a harder decision, simply because they have more different types of homework. We’re finding that they were already doing some of the creative projects outside of school without us sending devices home. They were doing them on their phones, on their home computers or at the public library.

But it was important that we had this conversation. It’s the role of curriculum to make sure the device is used in a way that benefits students the most in the long run. As we go to 1-to-1 in our high schools, we will have to revisit this because homework looks totally different at that level. Having the framework there to have these discussions is important because our deployment evolves over time.

This approach allows us to make the best choices for our students based not only on our district’s finances, but also based on the curriculum and our student needs, and our students’ home lives. Many parents were nervous when we talked about the idea of students taking the iPads home. Some were afraid for their second-grader to take an iPad on the bus, or to walk home four blocks from the school with an iPad in their backpack, or to take it to day care. There are lots of different things we had to think through, and it’s constantly changing, but we’re excited about where we are.

Davis: One of the things we focus on at LocknCharge is effective ways of partnering with districts to help them through solving challenges in their mobile device deployments, whether they’re at the beginning of a deployment, fully deployed or somewhere in between. This includes looking at several factors to ensure your device deployments go smoothly. Are the devices going to stay at school or go home, or will there be a combination? Each deployment will be a little different, and you may need some different options to accommodate that.

By walking through some of these key questions, we can help design the infrastructure that’s needed to help you make your deployment go smoothly. Often infrastructure plays second fiddle to curriculum and finance deployments of a technology plan, but our experience is that it plays a critical role in enabling a deployment and having a successful rollout. 

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit: