Friday, August 17, 2012

Making a Case for Mobile Learning

Guest Post for SmartBlogs on Education

Over the past four years, I have had the privilege of teaching in a forward-thinking school district that has embraced the use of mobile learning devices in the classroom. Mobile learning has become the new buzzword in many educational communities. Mobile learning is essentially anytime, anywhere learning. This type of learning could be with a netbook, iPad, iPod touch or even a smartphone. My friend Elliot Soloway, a professor at the University of Michigan has said, “Within five years, every K-12 student in America will be using a mobile handheld device as a part of learning.” I feel that in some fashion this will come to pass.

This coming year, our mobile learning initiative will consist of an iPad lab for K-2 students, iPads for special needs students, and smartphones for all students in grades 3 -5. Also, BYOD — bring your own device — will be implemented for all students in grades 6-12.
While teaching with mobile learning devices the last few years, I have made many positive observations. I have been pleasantly surprised at the responsibility and ownership that the students have taken in regards to their mobile learning devices. This was a major concern when introducing smartphones into the classroom. It must be pointed out that I work with 9- and 10-year-olds. I have never had any devices stolen or broken. The students take ownership of their work and creations. They are more willing to share their work with others. Another positive that I have observed is that unmotivated students have become motivated. Through the use of mobile learning devices we are reaching all learning styles. Students are constantly engaged and excited about learning.
From a teacher’s standpoint, I have come to the realization that I do not have to be the center of learning. I can be the guide on the side, so to speak. This allows the students to take more of an active role in their learning. They are the drivers of their learning, while the teacher takes more of a passenger role to allow the students to explore and connect to their learning. It is also a great sight to see when students are able to operate and maneuver their way through the many workings of their mobile learning devices. Whenever a student finds a shortcut or helpful hint in using their smartphone, I make sure to have the student share this information with the class. This once again allows the students to take the lead when it comes to their learning. The classroom teachers will need to learn to be accepting of the fact that the students may know more about the devices than the teachers themselves. This is difficult for some teachers, however once they learn to let go of the typical teacher/student roles, they will watch in wonder as the students progress in their learning!
My hope is that more school districts will realize how valuable mobile learning devices can be in the classroom. Many of these tools the students already have in their pockets. We must come to a realization that students are learning in different ways than they may have in the past. Their education is progressing with the evolving technology. To learn more about using mobile learning devices in the classroom visit The Mobile Native.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Remind101 - A Safe Message System for Teachers

As a student at Michigan State University, Brett Kopf struggled with dyslexia and ADD.  Likely during a class in which he should have been paying attention, his mind wandered to a potential solution for his resulting disorganization - if there was a service that could send him a text message every time he had an assignment due, test, or schedule related announcement, his status as a student could dramatically improve. At that moment, Remind101 was born, or at least the concept. It wasn’t until Brett shared his idea with his brother David that the product came to be.

Now co-founders of one of the leading companies in mobile education, the Kopf brothers have found how truly impactful their product can be in the lives of educators. 

Remind101 is a free, safe messaging service for teachers to communicate with students and parents via text or email. Teachers sign up for an account, create classes or groups, gather subscribers, and start messaging. All without ever sharing their personal cell phone number, or collecting phone numbers from their students or parents.


When you create your first class on remind101 you will be issued 2 key elements - an anonymous phone number from which your messages will arrive, and a class code with which your students / parents will subscribe. Text the code to the phone number, and you’re in. It’s that easy.


Teachers are now using the service for all sorts of reminders from, “Don’t forget to bring $20 and your signed field trip form tomorrow,” to “Biology test Fri. Study chapter 9 extra hard!” to “I’m so proud of how hard you’ve all been working! Keep it up,” the uses are endless.

Today, over 200,000 teachers, students, and parents use Remind101 to deliver millions of messages per month.

It’s an amazing journey to see what a simple reminder can do. Learn more on their website: