Embracing Mobile Technologies in Schools

This week I have had an article on the use of Mobile Technoloiges in schools published in SecED, the full article can be read here. From reading the article you can probably guess that I am passionate about securing high quality learning outcomes for students using whatever means are appropriate. Often this can be through the use of technology, not that owned and presented to the students by the school, but the very devices students know and use every day. I work with many schools and still get frustrated when I go into schools where students own devices are seen never to be seen or heard, worse still – banned from being on site altogether. There are still many senior leaders who do not understand the power and benefits of the technologies and a lack of confidence and understanding secures an easy decision being made, one of blocking the technologies and their use. We need to get a grip on reality as educators and realise that these devices are an embedded and intrinsic part of society for our younger generation.

So many schools use technology in a way that gives them the latest gimmick or fad, but does it really have a deep impact on learning outcomes for students? Use of these technologies needs to be led by the curriculum and meaningful learning outcomes. Visions and strategies need to be developed off the back of developing pedagogy and practice. All too often it is the technology that shapes the experience which in my mind is the wrong lead. Educators need to develop an understanding of the functionality of these technologies and what opportunities they can provide so that it is the curriculum and learning outcomes taking the lead, with the technologies playing an important role in enhancing the experience and final outcomes.

If you are reading this I would love you to take the time and read the full article, but more importantly, leave a comment on your own thoughts about where we should be going with mobile technologies in education.


5 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Nigel says:

    Dear Dominic,
    I like the article in SecEd and I know my colleague and I would love to encourage the use of mobiles in our school. However, we have worries about cyber-bullying and inappropriate use (how do you control the 3G element?) which prevent us embracing this technology – an immense shame. We have policies in place relating to duty of care in order to obviate potential problems. What do you advise on this matter?

    • DTester says:

      Hi Nigel,
      What a great question – so many schools are asking the same questions about cyber-bullying and 3g elements and yes, it is an immense shame when these worries close the doors on this type of use of technology. I think it is true to say that many schools whoa re not confident, or understand the technologies fully play things say and are very cautious as to what they will or will not develop. Let me start with the 3G issue – I still hear of the odd school that has a total blanket ban on mobile phones which I think is a real shame. Whether we like it or not, the harsh reality is that these devices are part of day to day life for the majority of teenagers in the UK today. In my mind, blocking technologies creates further friction between students and the instutition – with a disproportionate amount of time then having to be spent on managing those students who rebel. We have taken the approach to embrace the change but embrace it in such a way that there are clear expectations, procedures/protocols and guidance. I do think that those schools who are continuing to block this shift in technology are doing a disservice to their students. Out in the world at work people are expected to use whatever tools they have at their disposal to do their job to the best of their ability. Surely we should be trying to develop this approach in how we educate our students? I know that there are many schools frustrated with the SLT still being in the dark ages and not embracing the change but they need to be shown the light, have good practice modelled to them and have clear directives about how the technologies can enhance the learning landscape. The policies you have in place need to be very clear, with two main strands, policies that apply to how stakeholders use school owned equipment and services as the school is ultimately responsibile for what goes on using those services but also more global policies that deal with route issues and concerns I.e. expectation on how students should use streaming media, social media email etc….. The latter can be used to hold students to account when using their own 3G devices.

      A school that has a very open policy about how it deals with Facebook incidents etc is far more likely to have fewer resulting problems than a school who does little to acknowledge the exist of social media. There is a degree of ‘better the devil you know’ thinking behind this. I know at Costello, when we were discussing at SLT Facebook and whether we should create an official Facebook presence or not – the one thing that was a clear driver was to create a regulated honeypot to attract students rather than trying to manage all these un moderated, student created groups.

      Change can be a gradual process though – many schools are dipping their toe in the water by purchasing a few iOS devices and managing those to develop a greater understanding of the technologies before opening it up fully to students and their own devices.

      Sorry for the rushed reply – am happy to talk privately about this in more detail if you want to, just get in touch.


  2. David says:

    The main starting point for us is to develop our wireless infrastructure. Speaking to Meru and various other providers ATM. When that’s on the way we can concentrate on device issues such as which to offer on a ‘lease to buy’ scheme, integration in lessons, storage and power management etc. It’s complex and pricey!

    • DTester says:

      Hi Dave,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I can whole heartedly recommend the Meru infrastructure, in my mind they are currently the only provider with a robust solution for the education sector due to the ‘virtual cell’ technology that ther system is built upon. It is most definitely a complex project to management strategically – dealing with a dynamic marketplace, changing needs, demands and expectations. I guess some of this is down to the spending rationale in the school – buy best, buy once? I know for us we made a significant financial commitment to develop wireless infrastructure at the school but this is paying dividends and I don’t think our TCO is much different than some other schools who have gone for a cheap solution, only to find that it does not work and then have to re-evaluate their whole provision model. From where I think you are at the moment – it is really important to evaluate the perceptions as to how this technology will be harnessed in the school – what stakeholders will use it, how will it shape workflows,learning outcomes etc…. Irrespective of the technologies at play there is quite a lot of developmental work need to review AUP’s, IT Policies, traffic auditing etc… You would be well advised to run this alongside any hardware procurement so that once the hardware is in you have new policies that fall in to place, allowing its immediate use.

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