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Making a case for mobile learning

4 min read


Over the past four years, I have had the privilege of teaching in a forward-thinking school district that has embraced the use of mobile learning devices in the classroom. Mobile learning has become the new buzzword in many educational communities. Mobile learning is essentially anytime, anywhere learning. This type of learning could be with a netbook, iPad, iPod touch or even a smartphone. My friend Elliot Soloway, a professor at the University of Michigan has said, “Within five years, every K-12 student in America will be using a mobile handheld device as a part of learning.” I feel that in some fashion this will come to pass.

This coming year, our mobile learning initiative will consist of an iPad lab for K-2 students, iPads for special needs students, and smartphones for all students in grades 3 -5. Also, BYOD — bring your own device — will be implemented for all students in grades 6-12.

While teaching with mobile learning devices the last few years, I have made many positive observations. I have been pleasantly surprised at the responsibility and ownership that the students have taken in regards to their mobile learning devices. This was a major concern when introducing smartphones into the classroom. It must be pointed out that I work with 9- and 10-year-olds. I have never had any devices stolen or broken. The students take ownership of their work and creations. They are more willing to share their work with others. Another positive that I have observed is that unmotivated students have become motivated. Through the use of mobile learning devices we are reaching all learning styles. Students are constantly engaged and excited about learning.

From a teacher’s standpoint, I have come to the realization that I do not have to be the center of learning. I can be the guide on the side, so to speak. This allows the students to take more of an active role in their learning. They are the drivers of their learning, while the teacher takes more of a passenger role to allow the students to explore and connect to their learning. It is also a great sight to see when students are able to operate and maneuver their way through the many workings of their mobile learning devices. Whenever a student finds a shortcut or helpful hint in using their smartphone, I make sure to have the student share this information with the class. This once again allows the students to take the lead when it comes to their learning. The classroom teachers will need to learn to be accepting of the fact that the students may know more about the devices than the teachers themselves. This is difficult for some teachers, however once they learn to let go of the typical teacher/student roles, they will watch in wonder as the students progress in their learning!

My hope is that more school districts will realize how valuable mobile learning devices can be in the classroom. Many of these tools the students already have in their pockets. We must come to a realization that students are learning in different ways than they may have in the past. Their education is progressing with the evolving technology. To learn more about using mobile learning devices in the classroom visit The Mobile Native.

Scott Newcomb (@SNewco) has taught for 11 years and works with fifth-graders at St. Marys Intermediate School in Ohio. This is a public school in its fifth year using mobile learning devices with students. Newcomb helped organize and participated in the first Mobile Learning Technology Conference in Ohio. He also has helped with professional-development training for staff members and conducted webinars on the topic of mobile learning for Classroom 2.0 Live, EdTech Talk and the Reform Symposium.