Enabling Mobile Learning

Getting the right apps and content to students to enable quality mobile learning.

GUEST COLUMN | by Tyce Miller

It’s not a secret that the world is going digital or that mobile devices have changed the way we operate in our daily lives. It’s also unsurprising that mobile devices are infiltrating classrooms from kindergarten all the way up to graduate school. This is an exciting time for teachers, administrators and IT departments as they have tools available to them that they’ve never had before to deliver educational resources.

With all of these advancements, there are an equal number of challenges associated with advanced technology in the classroom. One major concern is how to get the right applications and content to each student to enable mobile learning. With teachers already responsible for supervising the traditional classroom, adding another set of eyes to an entire fleet of mobile devices can be daunting.

Imagine a classroom with thousands of students and a mobile device for each, there’s no way a school’s IT department, much less one teacher, can ensure that each student is using the technology appropriately unless they have a management tool that can assist them.

There are three categories that need to be addressed when dealing with the explosion of mobile in the classroom:

1. Proliferation of mobile devices

Schools all over the country are implementing mobile components to their daily routines. It’s becoming more and more commonplace to walk into a classroom and find students reading or taking notes on tablets; this is a direct response to how today’s students prefer to learn. By utilizing technology that they probably already have in their own bag, e.g., a tablet or a smart phone, teachers can capitalize on a student’s passion for technology while combining it with classroom material. For schools using mobile technology in the classroom, education leaders are not only concerned with how to ensure that today’s culture of digital natives are staying on task and accessing school approved resources — but also how to guarantee that they can monitor and track all of the devices.

For example, if a K-12 school receives funding enabling them to purchase mobile devices for their classrooms, then school administration needs to have the capability to accurately track and monitor where the devices are at all times so they can protect their investments.

IT administrators are tasked with ensuring devices are compliant with school policies and can monitor violations in real time. This empowers the school to maximize their mobile investments by increasing IT efficiency and reducing costs associated with managing mobility. In many cases, schools are lacking the IT resources necessary to monitor thousands of devices without a third party management tool in place. The burden needs to be taken off IT and a solution needs to be put in place that allows a small team or even just one person to manage the entire mobile environment. It’s critical to have a solution that enables schools to manage their devices by locations, grades, classrooms and even by teachers.

Another concern plaguing teachers now is the potential for students to bring their own mobile devices into the classroom and have the ability to access harmful or disruptive content. In both scenarios, administrators need to ensure that they are facilitating a nurturing educational environment and also remain in compliance with government mandated regulations. Schools are looking to subject matter experts to manage their environments and act as that additional layer of security necessary when tasked with managing students in the classroom.

2. Explosion of educational apps

Once the device has been addressed, the focus needs to switch to the apps and content on those devices. Mobility in education goes well beyond just the devices and is now moving toward managing and distributing the applications included on them. There are more than 70,000 educational applications that are available to help students with everything from vocabulary words to understanding the anatomy of the human brain. With this vast and diverse array of applications, educators need to not only sort out which will be the most beneficial to their programs but then how to control their use. This includes distributing the chosen app to the right students.

For instance, you wouldn’t ask a kindergartner and a senior in high school to download the same learning application — for obvious reasons. IT departments need to have the capability to push specific apps and content over-the-air to the right students based on location, device type and profiles present on that device in order to facilitate personalized learning. In addition, there is a need to be able to deal with reimbursement or purchasing of the app and finally identifying those apps that are allowed on the device at any given time. All of these factors need to be seriously evaluated before delving into educational apps in the classroom.

3. Mobile access to school documents and approved content

Traditional paper textbooks are being replaced with digital curriculums and personalized learning on tablets, and students are reaping the benefits of always having the latest information at their fingertips. From a textbook to a syllabus, sensitive files can now be distributed to student and faculty devices. Along with applications, content is another critical issue for educators and IT administrators. As digital curriculums and personalized learning become the norm rather than the exception, it’s crucial that the content is distributed and stored in a secure manner on mobile devices. This ensures that there is a central location for everything and also that administrators can push down updates and new content directly to the end-user. The bottom line is that students must have a simple way to access school content from any mobile device no matter the location or operating system.

A daily evolution

All of the considerations and challenges that are associated with mobility in the classroom don’t detract from the excitement that surrounds this change in how our students learn. Mobile technology has become a disruptive force in the field of education but it doesn’t have to be a painful transition. By controlling the devices and the content and applications on those devices, the headache of implementing mobile technology can be mitigated.

At the end of the day, teachers are tasked with inspiring students and adapting to evolving trends so they can be the most effective at their job. There is a paradigm shift in education and in order to facilitate mobile learning, schools must have a solution in place that is capable of controlling individual student’s environments on the device itself.

Education, like every other industry, evolves on a daily basis. As new consumer electronics come on to the market and permeate our homes, students will learn and adapt to them and subsequently want them everywhere they go. Teachers now have the ability to support the technology they crave but in a safe and secure environment.


Tyce Miller is the Director of Education Solutions at AirWatch. Write to: tycemiller@air-watch.com


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