Technology is all the rage these days. It seems everywhere you turn, there is someone on their cell phone, reading a book on their eReader, listening to music on their MP3 player or playing games on their tablet. The one place you typically won’t see all of this is in schools. While schools have traditionally banned personal devices, there is a growing shift towards allowing them. However, there are a few things that should be considered before adding personal devices such as tablets and smart phone to your school. The following is a list of reasons that should be used to include this technology and reasons that should not be used when considering allowing technology.
When to Add Mobile Devices (tablets, cell phones, eReaders, laptops, etc.) to your School
When you have a clear reason for wanting them
“Because everyone else is doing it,” is not a valid reason. Be sure you have a valid argument for allowing students to use mobile devices before implementing any plans. Define your goals and figure out ways in which mobile devices can benefit these goals before moving forward.
When you’ve done your research
Be sure to look into all the options. Do you want a BYOD program or a school supplied 1:1 initiative? Are tablets or laptops more appropriate for your needs? Which tablet will prove the features you need? Don’t just assume that the device everyone else is using will be the one that will fit your needs the best. Do your research and look at all the options available.
Additionally, be sure to consider how the devices will actually be used in classes. Chances are teachers are going to want a way to share resources with their students. Whether it is a video, homework assignment, presentation or any other number of resources, teachers are going to need a way to share information with students through the devices. The MediaCAST platform can help by creating a place for teachers to save all their resources in one place, and allowing for 24/7 on-demand access for both students and teachers.
When you can provide the necessary professional development
Teachers won’t use new devices if they don’t know how to use them. Train teachers with the new devices before they are expected to use them in class. If using a BYOD program, ensure teachers know how to find resources that will work across multiple devices and platforms. The training shouldn’t stop once the devices have been rolled out to students either – schedule time for teachers to learn from one another and share their experiences using the devices in their classrooms.
When you have a way to support the new devices
Adding a bunch of new mobile devices to your school will provide a serious drain on your bandwidth. Each device will need to access the internet. Consider tripling your current bandwidth before implementing a 1:1 or BYOD program.
To increase learning ability and potential
For most students, the traditional lecture method of teaching is not very effective. Simply being talked at isn’t very engaging and thus students will find other things to think about or have trouble understanding the concept. Mobile devices allow students to be constantly engaged. From texting in their answers to watching video examples of how to solve a problem, technology ensures all students receive the attention they need when the teacher is busy elsewhere in the room.
Additionally, students are no longer limited to the knowledge of their teacher. If a question or discussion arises that is beyond the teacher’s knowledge, the class can look up the answer together and work to find a suitable response. When students stop relying on their teacher to provide all the information they become more adept at finding it on their own, and thus become better learners.
To increase communication with parents
Due to busy schedules, many parents are not as involved in their child’s education as they would like to be. Adding technology to the classroom makes it easier for parents to stay connected. Text messages can be sent to parent’s phones if a child is absent, falls behind or excels in class. Blogs can be used to update teachers about what is going on in class, students can even take turns writing the posts. The more access to technology students are granted during the day, the more likely they are to keep learning when they go home, thus allowing for conversation between student and parent about what the student is learning to happen naturally.
When Not To
Because everyone else is doing it
This can be a very compelling reason to jump into adding mobile devices to your classrooms. However, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean they know what they are doing. Take time to understand how these devices can be used and define your goals before adding them.
To eliminate the need for quality teachers
Adding mobile devices to classrooms does not eliminate the need for quality teachers. If anything, it makes this need ever more present. With mobile devices, it is possible to create a truly personalized learning experience for each student, but in order for this to happen, the teacher needs to be committed to working with each student to understand his or her needs. Teachers need to be dedicated to adding the technology to their classes and using it to its potential.
To create a 21st century classroom
If this if your only goal in adding mobile devices into your classes, think again. Simply adding technology does not instantly create a 21st century learning environment. In order for these tools to be effective, you need to have a plan for how to use them and what you hope to achieve. Creating a 21st century classroom is not a goal by itself, it must be backed up with ideas and activities to integrate the technology and allow it to add meaning.
If you need to control everything that happens in the classroom
Mobile devices allow students to learn at their own pace and discover the things that interest them. While not always the case, classes using mobile devices have been described as “controlled chaos.” Students are all working on slightly different assignments or parts of assignments as well as collaborating with one another through their devices. When they have a question, students may not immediately turn to the teacher, instead, they may try to find the answer themselves using their mobile devise. If you are the type that need to control exactly what a student is doing and how they are learning at all time, mobile devices may not be for you.
Whatever your beliefs about using technology and mobile devices in the classroom, it is a debate that should at least be considered in every school. While some may not be ready for it just yet, starting the conversation early ensures you will be when the time comes. The important thing to remember about using technology in the classroom is that teachers should still teach their lessons, not the technology. The technology should be a tool used to facilitate learning, not the learning itself.
Now it’s your turn, what are your thoughts on integrating mobile devices into the classroom? Have you tried it? Why or why not? What were the results?