Sunday, July 3, 2016

Asking the Right Questions About Mobile Learning

As of late, I have been engaged in a great amount of work, either assisting districts and schools as they begin to implement mobile learning (1:1, BYOD) or helping them get their programs on track.  Over six and a half years ago, I helped successfully implement a Bring Your Own Device initiative in my school. Not only were we the first to do it in my state, but there weren't many great examples to pull from at the time.  Thus, many lessons were learned the hard way. It is important to remember that change has to be treated like a process as opposed to one single event. The success of mobile learning relies on proper planning, reflection, and evaluation to improve. 

The key to successfully implementing sustainable change begins with asking the right question(s). Below are some questions to help you ascertain where you are, but more importantly, where you want to be with either 1:1 or BYOD. 
  • Is your infrastructure ready? Has an infrastructure audit been completed?
  • Have you developed a shared vision that takes into account staff, student, and community input? For success, all stakeholders must be on board and have clear outcomes developed.
  • Have you developed a strategic plan to ensure the initiative will positively impact student learning? How will you measure success and evaluate effectiveness? Has curriculum been updated and other resources explored?
  • Have you created policies that protect students and staff while promoting creativity?
  • Has staff been trained in digital pedagogy (lesson/project design, assessment, etc.)? Do they possess the confidence to integrate the devices with purpose to support/enhance learning? Have administrators been trained on digital pedagogical techniques in order to provide valuable feedback to staff? Have fears and challenges been addressed? How will equity be ensured in a BYOD environment? What will you do if students forget their devices, don’t have them, or have no access to WiFi outside of school?
  • Has a plan been developed to train students? What will be done to educate parents?
  • How will you build community support?
  • What evidence will be provided to the BOE and community that the initiative is a success?
Determine where you want to be and how you are going to get there with your mobile initiative. Once you have answers to the previous questions, reflect on the drivers of a successful mobile learning initiative to ensure that the stage is set for improved student learning outcomes. 


  1. Hi Eric! The only thing I question about this post is that it assumes admins are even on board w 1:1. The biggest struggles I have had over the past 16 years are with admin not understand why tech should even be in schools. They automatically think it should be tied to student achievement but are forgetting the real "whys" behind it- 4Cs/Future Ready Skills. At ISTE I had a teacher as me how I document increased student test scores due to tech. I believe this is the wrong question to ask. Before a 1:1 can even begin, admins (including supers) MUST understand the whys. :)

    1. Great points Katrina. The motivation behind this post (and questions) was to support those who had already made the decision to go BYOD/1:1 or who were having issues with the success of their implementation. My assumption was that the why had already been established. In many cases with edtech in general the why is not articulated. While I am wholeheartedly in your camp with regards to the importance of 4Cs and skills, we cannot avoid the reality that is our education system. As such administrators (and BOE's) will want to know in some way or another how this huge investment will impact achievement. That is something ICLE and I have been weaving into our work.

  2. One more comment- as educators we have all taught ourselves to say "it's not about the device"- BUT this plays a HUGE part in starting a 1:1. In all reality it IS about the device. Ss need devices that can withstand backpacks and locker rooms... Car and bus rides. Devices must withstand traveling room to room, field trips, and frustrated typing late at night. All things to take into consideration.

    1. I think that is the next most important question after the why has been clearly defined :)

  3. Great post, Eric. I love the questions you make at the beginning of the post. In my experience, my district seems to not answer the first question before implementing any change. It is critical that organizations take the time to reflect and see if they are ready to begin the implementation, whatever it may be. Trying to "get ready" for the change while starting to implement it adds to the frustration of everyone involved. It then gives the appearance of being unprepared or rushing the change. This adds to teacher frustration. I have shared your writings in meetings to help ease the change. Great post, Eric.

  4. Hi Eric, do you have any tips on building community support? In my district I think there is a stigma among parents about their kids being allowed to use their devices in school and I was wondering if you had any advice.

    Thanks, Tom