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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

The mobile learning revolution is alive and growing in popularity every day. When schools move toward mobile learning in the classroom, they can take advantage of electronic devices such as tablets and cell phones that offer portability and ease of use. Mobile learning technologies can offer teachers a flexible approach to learning with their students in a variety of locations, and encourage this learning to continue at home.

As schools begin to consider the movement towards mobile learning, it's important to support teachers with strategies for success, particularly if they are new. As I began to research this topic I was disappointed to discover that resources for supporting new teacher use of mobile learning strategies weren't easily accessible. So I reached out to my friend Lisa Nielsen and her co-author Willyn Webb to share with us how a new teacher might begin to use mobile learning in the classroom.

Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb

Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb are mobile learning experts and the authors of the book Teaching Generation Text. Nielsen blogs at TheInnovativeEducator.blogspot.com and works with educators and administrators to innovate learning with technology. Webb is a teacher, administrator and licensed professional counselor.

Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb on Mobile Learning Support for New Teachers

More and more teachers are finding success with using mobile devices in the classroom. As a new teacher, you will want to investigate the policy and attitudes of your school and administration regarding the use of mobile devices for learning. What is the written policy? What is the spoken policy? Are there other teachers, coaches or administrators in your school who are doing this? Find like-minded teachers and begin a discussion.

Success doesn't just happen. It takes strategic planning and putting the right building blocks in place for success. This means doing things like informing parents, teaching responsible use, updating classroom management techniques, carefully planning activities and including students, and teaching students about safety and etiquette.

These next five building blocks will help ensure that you have just what you need in place for a smooth integration of mobile devices into your teaching, learning, and connecting with students and parents.

1) Notify Parents

Before teachers get going with mobile learning, they should inform the student's parents. This should include mobile learning ideas to strengthen the home-school connection. You may want to model this notification after others in your building, write your own, or look to Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning for examples.

2) Develop a Responsible Use Policy

Just like any other classroom tool, teachers need to work with students to establish responsible use policies. In some classrooms, the teacher just explains how the general policies apply to the use of mobile devices; in others, they create a new policy; in some schools, the students help create the policies; and in some classrooms, they invite parental input as well. Remember that it's a good idea to ask your administrator if there is a school-wide policy, as well as connecting with other teachers in your building about their policies.

3) Establish Classroom Management Procedures

Teachers who use mobile devices for learning must use updated procedures that include how to manage mobile devices in the classroom. Talking to fellow teachers and learning what works for them will provide consistency within the building. Be open to modifications or suggestions your students may have. They may have some good ideas. Note, however, that this should be determined and posted in advance of using mobile devices in the classroom.

4) Plan Activities "With" Students

A well thought-out plan for embedding mobile devices into instruction is key. Develop a well-crafted outline and description of lessons and activities that could be used for learning with mobile devices. For a fun lesson that will involve students in planning how to incorporate mobile devices into their learning, look on the Teaching Generation Text blog. This plan can be shared on your class and/or school website as well as distributed to parents, guardians and school community members.

Here are some ways you can incorporate mobile devices into lessons with your students.

  • Language Arts
    Flickr is a free and easy-to-use tool to instantly create books with your students using any mobile device with photo and email ability. This link will also provide you with ideas for the classroom.
  • Math
    Use Google SMS to enhance math class by texting Google at (466453). You can use queries like:
    • Stocks - stock tgt
    • Products - price ipod player 40gb
    • Calculator - 1 us pint in liters
    • Currency Conversion - 8 usd in yen
    You can visit http://www.google.com/mobile/sms/search/ to see how this works.
  • Social Studies
    Use the free group texting service Cel.ly to assess students' prior knowledge of the day's topic with a link to a polling tool such as Poll Everywhere that allows them to send in responses. Upon their arrival in class, the app displays their responses on the screen. As soon as class begins, prior knowledge is activated, the discussion is in full swing and all students have input.
For more lessons, check out Chapter 5 of Teaching Generation Text, which provides detailed, standards-aligned ideas to engage learners with mobile devices.

5) Teach Safety and Etiquette

Knowing proper safety and etiquette when using mobile devices is an essential 21st century skill. Students need support not only with engaging in and developing safe and appropriate use for themselves, but also with how they may handle a situation when others are not exhibiting appropriate behavior. A fun lesson focusing on good manners with phones can be found on the Teaching Generation Text blog. Not only will their parents appreciate this, but many of their future employers will as well.

Building Blocks and Additional Resources

With these five building blocks in place, new teachers are provided with the means to lay the groundwork for the effective integration of mobile devices in the classroom. Taking the time to address each of these areas will prevent problems and encourage support from administration and parents. These building blocks support new teachers in having classrooms that run more smoothly and foster student engagement. They will also ensure that you are better prepared in harnessing the power of the tools of the 21st century.

Useful Links for Mobile Learning Resources

Fab Five FREE Apps for New Teachers

  1. TeacherPal - take attendance
  2. Nearpod - presentation, collaboration, real-time assessment
  3. ShowMe - interactive whiteboard
  4. Mobile Mouse - wireless remote
  5. BeeTag - QR code reader

We hope these five building blocks and resources have been supportive to you! We'd love to hear about the ways you are working to bring mobile learning into your classroom. Tell us what works for you and what strategies you use. Be sure to also join us for New Teacher Chat on Twitter at 5pt/8et. A Mobile Learning in the Classroom chat is upcoming soon!

This blog is part of a series sponsored by Autodesk.

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