“planet earth” available on Pixabay is licensed under CC0 1.0
I have discovered that research is a very necessary part of learning and growing. Recently I’ve had the opportunity to explore global and local examples of technological innovation so that I can learn what worked, what could have been done better and ways to apply those lessons learned. I hope to take what I’ve learned from my research and update my original mobile learning innovation plan that I previously developed. Being able to learn from others’ mistakes and successes when implementing technology is certainly an advantage and will help guide me as I lead my own mobile learning initiative at Lamar University.
I started by looking to the NMC Horizon Report 2016 Higher Education Edition for trends, challenges and developments in technology. The information presented in this report can be used as a technology planning reference as it forecasts what’s happening with technology in the near to distant future. There are several trends that I feel are significant such as redesigning learning spaces, increased use of blended learning, and rethinking how institutions work. A student-centered approach to education is driving thoughts on how learning spaces should be configured (Johnson et al., 2016). Envision a space with acoustics, mics, and mobile furniture. It has an atmosphere that promotes collaboration and active learning among students. This space can be modified slightly by adding equipment where students can actually model and create objects. It then becomes a Makerspace, an informal workshop where people come together to create, collaborate and DIY, which is an important development on the horizon. Blended learning has shown to increase collaboration and interaction among students and faculty and keeps online information accessible at all times. These two trends give way to a bigger long-term impact trend of rethinking how institutions work, focusing on how education is delivered and competencies are measured. Hybrid learning, competency-based education, online learning among others are a way to create additional learning opportunities for students outside of traditional classrooms and institutions (Johnson et al., 2016).
“ComputerScience_2010_38” by Rowan University Publications is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Next, there are some challenges that were identified in the report that were either solvable, difficult or wicked. The presumed solvable challenges deal with formal and informal learning and improving digital literacy. People can learn and gain new skills anytime, anywhere; informal learning recognizes that knowledge acquisition can happen in any given moment, no matter how casual the moment. What makes it a challenge is finding a good balance of formal and informal learning and finding methods for recognizing informal learning at universities and colleges (Johnson et al., 2016). Digital literacy is a big concern when it comes to digital learning environments and their users. Students must have the appropriate skills when using ICT in order to be productive and successful in their learning. Therefore training and support should be provided for students and faculty alike.
Personalized learning and competing models of education are among the difficult challenges while balancing our connected and unconnected lives and keeping education relevant are the wicked challenges presented in the Horizon report. Adaptive learning technologies, which is a top, recent development in technology, will be the key to making personalized learning a reality. Personalized learning gives the student more control and ownership of their learning experience and fosters motivation and engagement with the educational content. It’s recommended that personalized learning efforts must incorporate effective pedagogy and include faculty in the planning and development process (Johnson et al., 2016). At times it can be difficult to disconnect from devices and the whole digital world. However, universities are “tasked with encouraging mindful use, to be aware of your digital footprint and it’s implications” (Johnson et al., 2016). More universities are aware of the problem of excessive use of technology and working to regulate it when necessary. Last, there are some concerns that universities are not preparing learners for the jobs of tomorrow and they’re leaving college with a lack of 21st century skills. Although some have recognized the skills gap the “formal four-year degree remains the hallmark of employability” (Johnson et al., 2016). Our efforts in digital learning and leading will hopefully shrink the gap as we attempt to keep education relevant with technology.
Cropped version – “Device Love” by Luke Wroblewski is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The one important development in educational technology that’s rapidly being adopted world-wide that’s relative to my mobile learning initiative is Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD), sometimes called Bring-Your-Own-Technology (BYOT). Students and faculty bring their own mobile devices which include cellphones, smartphones, tablets, laptops and other portable devices to connect to the network at school and work. BYOD is a low-cost alternative to providing technology for students. According to a 2015 study, at least 42% of colleges and universities in the US had implemented a BYOD strategy in 2014 (Johnson et al., 2016). However, teachers need training to effectively integrate them into the classroom for the right activities. More and more educational content is being created for consumption on mobile devices as well as universities creating their own apps.
Research by Dahlstrom, diFilipo, & Askren (2013) indicates that an essential priority for the majority of institutions is facilitating anytime, anywhere access to course materials for students and faculty. The ECAR BYOE study also indicated that supporting innovative teaching opportunities is of high importance as well. However, a major component is offering professional development opportunities and guidelines for BYO integration techniques. This can be accomplished by utilizing the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) for information and resources for BYOE and mobile IT through resources, online and face-to-face events, and targeted PD opportunities covering instructional technology and tech integration. In short, for a mobile initiative to work the institution should be mobile ready and provide ample training for faculty on incorporating mobile technologies into curriculum and pedagogy.
Screenshot (above) from “ECAR Study of Faculty and Information Technology, 2015” (Brooks & O’Brien, 2015)
ECAR also published two other reports that provide significant findings regarding undergraduates and faculty and information technology. Both reports found that both students and faculty have positive dispositions and attitudes toward technology and more own Internet capable devices now more than ever (Dahlstrom, Brooks, Grajek, & Reeves, 2015). Students and faculty are highly interested in using mobile devices for teaching and learning but actual usage is low because of lack of training and support. Faculty claim that they would adopt technology in the classroom more if they had evidence of it’s impact on student learning (Brooks & O’Brien, 2015). At times, faculty restrict the use of mobile devices in the classroom if they believe students are not using it for educational purposes but it varies classroom to classroom. The study found that a faculty member’s time is it’s most important resource therefore they would like release from regular duties in order to have ample time to increase the scope of creative uses of tech in the classroom. They also want to make sure that there is plenty of technical support available to them in order to make sure their planned technologies work as they are supposed to in the classroom (Brooks & O’Brien, 2015). After reading these reports, it’s reaffirmed that robust professional development about integrating mobile technologies into curricula and teaching practices needs to be available to faculty, at their convenience, as well as sustained support and mentoring.
Screenshot (above) from “ECAR Study of Faculty and Information Technology, 2015” (Brooks & O’Brien, 2015)
According to Chambers (2014) and his article about the L.A. iPad program, failure of vision in any project plan can lead to major disaster. To learn from that debacle, we need to remember that the leader should always exhaust all resources when it comes to researching best practices for a successful deployment of any tech project. Lapowksy (2015) echoes those thoughts and goes further by warning not to get caught up in the tech frenzy and carefully think through your initial purpose in regards to technology. In this article, Horn implores districts to ask, “What problem are we trying to solve, and what’s the instructional model we need to solve it?’ and then finding technology in service of that.” L.A. learned from it’s mistakes and focuses on strategic planning before going forward with larger programs. The lessons gleaned here are to have a clear vision, strong leadership, and intensive research and planning when implementing a technology project.
The eSkwela case study in the Philippines was a project that focused on delivering education via Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to out-of-school youth and adults that had not previously completed their basic education (UNESCO, 2009). Community-based eLearning centers were set up across the country and used a combination of specialized e-learning content and collaborative instruction to deliver instructional materials. There were many components that worked together to make this project an ultimate success. The stakeholders and community were heavily involved in the planning and operations as well as were properly trained as teachers and facilitators. More importantly, there were continuous monitoring and evaluation activities such as focus group discussions so that participants and teachers could share their opinions and attitudes about the project itself. The monitoring and evaluation activities ensured continued feedback and allowed for future project improvement and ultimately its sustainability. The case study did come up with a few concerns and recommendations such as analyzing risks ahead of time, providing more vigorous teacher training for ICT integration in education, performing teacher evaluations for accountability reasons, and acquiring stakeholders’ and community ownership; Support from all involved is a significant determinate of success.
Research by Venezky and Mulkeen (n.d) focuses on schools’ adoption of ICT, how it’s used, and how students react to using it. It was determined that schools use ICT in a variety of ways such as: the focus of the innovation (ICT skills), teaching and learning, educational management, and extending the boundaries of school. Many schools had initiatives in more than one area and at times overlapped in those categories. The findings indicate that ICT usage did lead to slight pedagogical changes where students were more engaged and took more ownership of their learning in a student-centered learning environment. To summarize, this case study suggests that ICT adoption is an ongoing process and can be used as a lever to shape pedagogical strategies and connect students globally. In addition, it is necessary to provide adequate technical support and appoint ICT pedagogical guides, along with adequate ICT skills training for teachers. Professional development, which can be incentivized, can be delivered using various methods like peer tutoring, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and ICT champions. In regards to ICT in general, the crucial variable seems not to be the medium but the method employed. Positive learning outcomes occurred more frequently where technology was used as part of a clear pedagogic strategy (Venezky and Mulkeen,n.d.)
Screenshot (above) from “ICT in Innovative Schools: Case Studies of Change and Impacts – OECD” (Venezky& Mulkeen, n.d.)
The ICT-in-Education Toolkit is a very helpful resource that identifies effective uses of ICT for education and learning. Haddad (2007) suggests that for ICT to be used most effectively, teachers should continuously pursue professional development, more specifically using ICT for teaching and learning. Lifelong learning is necessary to stay up to date on technology in education. He goes further to explain that ICT should be piloted on a small scale and evaluated for improvement and modification. Through thoughtful planning, leadership, partnering ICT with existing instructional methods, and piloting and evaluation the implementation of ICTs can be successful, beneficial and make a meaningful impact in students’ learning.
My focus of mobile learning initiatives across the world was aimed at Europe and Latin America. These two countries largely differ in the sheer amount of mobile learning initiatives mostly due to economic differences. Latin America suffers with high levels of poverty and social inequality where Europe, specifically the UK, has launched the greatest number of mobile learning projects in Europe to date. What I learned from Europe is that they were able to develop these programs by experimenting with mobile learning practices, while fine-tuning approaches and strategies through trial and error along the way. They realized that mobile learning worked best in a “blend” of learning activities, as a complement to existing learning methods. There are no policies or guidelines for mobile technologies in teaching and learning and some educators and parents feel mobile devices can be a distraction in the classroom (Hylen, 2012). The continuation and future of mobile learning initiatives may depend greatly on social acceptance of using mobile devices for education however, the European Union (EU) emphasizes that each citizen will need a wide range of competencies to adapt with flexibility to a word that is rapidly changing and is highly interconnected (Sevillano-García and Vázquez-Cano, 2015). Latin America, on the other hand, has had smaller and fewer mobile learning initiatives due to telecommunications challenges such as wide-spread 2G technology, low mobile broadband access and the high cost of broadband. Although there is a high penetration of mobile phones in the country, they are primarily focusing on a 1:1 initiative using laptops across the region which is stalling plans for near-future mobile learning initiatives. It is hopeful that BYOT programs will likely become more common as smartphones become more affordable and accessible (Lugo and Schurmann, 2012).
Professional development has been a recurring theme throughout my all of my research thus far. I’ve found a couple of additional resources that can be used for PD for all educators. Encouraging staff to use technology in their classroom can be a difficult task but there are many techniques out there to use to get teachers and faculty on board. Sandy Schuck (2015) shares her ideas about using a professional learning community (PLC) as a way to support educators and get faculty to come together to share, grow and develop professionally. The members of the PLC can come together using their “collective genius” to share what’s working in their classrooms and how to improve their pedagogical strategies in relation to ICT. Another helpful guide published on Edutopia (Robledo, 2012), explains what you need to know about mobile devices for learning. It’s important to envision what you are trying to achieve with mobile technology in your curriculum before choosing apps and planning activities. If we embrace mobile devices in the classroom we can empower students in the learning process (Robledo, 2012). This guide includes many resources for teachers including tools, apps and other web tools, and additional PD resources relating to mobile learning.
Having the opportunity to research mobile learning initiatives across the world has given me a wider perspective regarding what works and what I can do better in planning my own mobile learning initiative. I’ve concluded that my updated plan needs to include the following:
- A clear vision for mobile learning at Lamar University.
- My strong leadership, persistence, and strategic planning.
- Focus on ICT as the lever and it’s pedagogical implications, not the tools themselves.
- Robust, convenient, personalized, and relevant professional development that focuses on pedagogical strategies for implementing mobile learning. May include a locally implemented PLC.
- Incentives for PD considered valuable to faculty (their time).
- Frequent, if not continuous, monitoring and evaluation of the project. Get feedback from participants for improvement.
- Provide continuous, reliable technical support throughout the project.
It seems that more research needs to be done to identify guidelines and best practices for implementing mobile devices in pedagogy and curricula. In addition, creating guidelines and best practices should be a continuous and evolving effort, especially at the rate apps and technologies are being developed daily. Methods for publishing and disseminating these findings should be developed as well.
“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
― Albert Einstein
My future research will include yearly Horizon reports and any ECAR reports as they become available. I wonder… What new trends will be in the Horizon report next year? Will any challenges identified in this year’s report be solved? What new developments in technology will shape the classrooms of the future? I hope with continual research and personal development I can answer some of these questions and more.