Today, I would like to put forward a model for the introduction of mobile learning. This is partly based on my research, and partly based on wide reading of blogs, articles about mobile learning and anecdotal evidence from conferences and speaking to those involved.
My model is based on 5 pillars, which stand together to support the school’s vision. The school needs to have an overall vision. The vision will be supported by 5 key areas. There may be more, and I’m open to debate and persuasion, but these are the key ones that I have identified.
Each of these will be discussed in significantly more detail in later blog posts, but I will just discuss each briefly now:
– Technical infrastructure: The school needs to have adequate (and ideally better than just adequate) wireless access and sufficient broadband. The best comment I have heard about technical infrstructure was from Mark Howell (Meru Networks). He said that teachers and pupils don’t care about wireless – they just want it to work. It should be like a tap – turn it on and the water flows.
– Appropriate Hardware and Management – Big decision time. Which devices will you use, how will they be supplied, managed and maintained?
– Appropriate software and apps – A device is nothing in itself except a lump of metal and plastic. It is what you use on it (see previous post on ‘Which apps should I buy?’)and then the way that …..
–Teacher skills and understanding – help pupils to make the most of the opportunities the device afford.
Over time, you will build and develop ‘pupil skills and understanding’, so that they become better at independent learning, use creativity in their work and learn to communicate and collaborate effectively.
These headings are in the order I have given for a particular reason. Without the infrastructure, there is no point having the devices. I have heard about a school that had devices with no internet connection, but as pupils list their number one resource as being the Internet, it does seem rather pointless to cut off that channel.
Pupils and teachers can not use the devices unless they are available and managed.
If you were to make a Gantt chart to plan for your introduction of a mobile learning strategy, there would be some overlay between the categories. In the best case scenarios I am seeing at the moment, teachers are getting the devices and becoming familiar with them ahead of the introduction for pupils. It depends whether you want to wade in at the shallow end with armbands on and learn to swim slowly, or jump in at the deep end, make a big splash and then risk that someone may drown in the process.
I do have a hypothetical example of a school where things did not go well. It may be a real school, but it serves to illustrate how the Five Pillars approach works:
In this school, the Senior Management decided to allow Bring your Own Device. They consulted with parents and governors as part of the vision and they sent out a list to parents of which devices would be appropriate. Pupils arrived in school and proudly displayed the devices (which now could be on their desks instead of in their bags). In fact, 70% had already had devices anyway, so surely it made sense to allow their use. However, the teachers had not really been consulted. Some thought it was a good idea and some didn’t, but there was inconsistent use in lessons. Also, the technical department hadn’t really been consulted properly. The school already had wifi – but not sufficient coverage to manage 1100 new devices. The pupil devices kept losing the internet; pupils played games and messaged each other when they got bored in lessons; parents began to complain. The school felt it couldn’t go back on the decision now it had been made – and ended up with a big ‘salvage’ job, trying to create a proper vision to implement.
A later blog post looks at a new, more advanced model which we evolved for use with schools.