Thursday, August 11, 2011

Powering Up in the Classroom

Defining Mobile Learning 
In education, the words "Mobile Learning" are starting to appear more often.  Mobile learning is anytime, anywhere seamless learning.  In other words, it is ubiquitous learning.  A mobile learning device could be a laptop, net book, iPad, iPod Touch or even a smart phone. 

A Change in Thinking
Many schools have labeled the use of mobile technology as a distraction in the classroom.  Also, many schools have banned cell phones.  On the other hand, as technology has improved, many schools are seeing the benefits of using these devices in the classroom.  Educators are coming to realize that the students use these types of devices everyday at home, and then are asked to "power down" when they get to school.

Embracing Mobile Technology
St. Marys City Schools in Ohio has decided to embrace using smart phone technology as an educational tool.  In St. Marys, the smart phones are referred to as a "Mobile Learning Device" (MLD).  The term "MLD" is used because of the negative connotation of the word cell phones in schools.  The texting and the phone capabilities are turned off, which essentially makes it a small computer.  This coming year, every student from 3rd to 5th grade will have a mobile learning device in his or her hand. There will be over 500 devices within the school district.  Also, they will be incorporating BYOD, Bring Your Own Device, as a pilot for the upper grade levels.  The goal of the district is to have a mobile device in the hand of every student from 3rd to 12th grade.

SMCS is "leveling the playing field".  Now every student has Internet access, word processing capabilities and many supportive applications.  The GoKnow applications that are being used allow the teachers to create and "sync" lessons to the students' devices.  When the students complete the assignment, they simply "sync" their work, and the teacher can grade their assignment at their computer.  These Mobile Learning Devices are not an add-on within the classroom.  The students are able to take them from class to class and are with the students throughout the entire day.  The students also have the ability to use video, audio and camera aspects on their device.  Many teachers allow the students to take their MLD on field trips to take pictures and to record notes. 

This so called "disruptive technology" has had a positive impact on the students.  Unmotivated students have become motivated.  The use of these devices has enabled educators to reach all learning styles.  The students are completely immersed and engaged in their learning.  St. Marys has noticed an increase in mathematics and writing achievement. With the ongoing improvements and changes being made technologically, St. Marys City Schools is making an effort to change along with the times.  St. Marys has had great success implementing Mobile Learning devices into the classroom!  To find out more about St. Marys Mobile Learning Technology visit their website


  1. Thanks for sharing this article. I'm heading to the school's website and find out more info.

  2. Glad to be able to follow you here as well as through Twitter.

    I do have a slight disagreement with one of your statements. I'm not sure that laptops--at least the current iteration of laptops--deserve the "mobile" moniker. I'd agree that they're portable, but that is essentially different than mobile, at least in the current sense of the term mobile learning. Laptops simply port your desktop work to another location. You still need wi-fi or ethernet support and probably a place to recharge. You don't walk around the classroom teaching with a laptop--you're essentially confined to a single spot. Laptops (mostly) are not aware of where they are geographically and can't return information to you based on that data. Laptops simply move the desktop metaphor to a new location, but they don't offer you the pocket or purse immediacy of learning anywhere anytime, at least compared to smart phones and tablets. I think we'll see a significant amount of convergence in those areas--we're already seeing it in OSX Lion--but it will be laptops that make the most adjustments to mobile learning. I'm questioning whether or not I actually need a laptop anymore. I have a powerful desktop, an iPad, and an iPhone. When I'm not at my desktop, I use the latter much more than I use my laptop.

    Just because you can move it doesn't make it mobile.

  3. We're starting a mobile learning initiative this year in our school of ed. It might hold some interest to you. I'll add your blog to the resource list.

  4. As a mom of 4 and former teacher, I am excited and optimistic about this trend. My kids use a variety of mobile devices at home, along with a computer, to complete their school work and extend their learning. My husband and I also operate a website that enables kids & teens to manage their money and have found that our mobile version is very popular with kids & teens. I am thrilled that there are teachers (like you!) and school systems who are utilizing the educational opportunities with mobile technology. Hope you keep us updated on the progress!

    Pam Whitlock

  5. The Blog looks great. Accessed it with my Android phone. Looking forward to your posts

  6. Skip, I agree with you on your thoughts on the laptop not truly being mobile. Thank you for sharing your Mobile Learning Initiative. I look forward to finding out more about your Mobile Learning program.

  7. HI Scott,
    Welcome to the blogosphere. You are so lucky to work where they "get" it. Don't make the kids turn off as they walk into our rooms, instead let's use all that tech to teach them in ways that they want to learn.

    I am so grateful to have a set of net books for my students. We have so much fun learning everyday whether we're sitting at a desk or doing on investigation outside. We can carry our devices with us whenever we are learning.

  8. Hi Scott,
    So pleased to see this. My own school is piloting BYOD this year and I am very excited to see how it evolves.

  9. Just wanted to stop in and say good luck- I know you'll do great things with it. We're doing a lot of stuff like this as well at my school and it's a great learning experience for all. 450 kids, 350 ipod touch's, 229 laptops/netbooks, and we're gonna start piloting BYOD (anything they've got, basically) this fall. Very exciting times!

  10. Hi Scott. Good luck for the blog, and thanks for sharing all your mlearning insights and successes with the rest of the world

    @geoffstead from

  11. Love your new blog! Thanks for sharing this. I'm planning to start using iPads in class (5 for 20-30 students) this fall. There's a lot to learn from you!

  12. Thanks for bringing the use of MLDs to the forefront. I wholeheartedly agree that there is a place for these tools in the classroom. What we should be doing now is teaching MLD digital and social responsibility.
    Sidebar: A funny thing happened during an IWB presentation with college students recently. There were looks of surprise on their faces when they were asked to take out their phones and use them to provide instant feedback via Poll Everywhere.

  13. The site looks good, Scott! Looking forward to following your new blog. When it comes to mobile learning, our district is all over the map. For example, we have one school where every single student has either a district-issued iPad or netbook. Across town at another school in our district, some students are lucky to get 20 minutes in the computer lab once a week. I wish our district would allow students to BYOD, but we're a long way away from that. I'm plugging away, trying to be a catalyst of change. That's why I joined our PD website committee. We're trying to create a vibrant online resource for teachers - by teachers.

    Thanks for sharing your pearls of wisdom. Good luck! Keep up the good work!


  14. Thank you for all of the kind comments! I am looking forward to sharing my experiences about mobile learning.

  15. Hello Scott!
    Great blog. However, I think the quintessential Mobile Learning Devices are, in fact, smartphones. This is especially true in countries like mine, in which tablets are not affordable to everyone and carriers charge too much for a 3G service. My students and I work with smartphones. They integrate their social abilities to content. Unmotivated ones have become motivated.
    Thank you very much for sharing such valuable information!