There are benefits, challenges and considerations when implementing a mobile learning strategy or 1:1 programme in schools. With good planning and leadership, challenges can be overcome and learning benefits can be realised.
Our research highlights many benefits of learning with 1:1 mobile technology.
Engagement and Motivation
Schools reported genuine excitement over the introduction of mobile devices which in their opinion let to increased motivation to learn. Pupils were reported to be more creative, independent and engaged with their schoolwork. Our research showed motivation was due to three things: interactivity, speed, and range of access to information.
Our research schools observed an increase in creativity almost as soon as personal mobile devices were introduced. Students started using their devices to create, present and share work in a variety of ways, not possible before. At all of our Research,h Schools this process of familiarisation and discovery appeared to enhance teaching style and the ability for students to use their device in an innovative and creative way.
Independent learning is one of the benefits that teachers, parents and students have been most excited about when implementing a mobile learning strategy. Of the reasons to introduce mobile devices, 90% of our research schools stated “to support self-led research and problem solving’. Students are more willing to explore, engage and go beyond their current understanding of a subject and are not restricted by the learning styles of others in the class.
Collaboration is extended beyond the classroom and enhanced by instant communication, via email, instant messaging and video chatting. The gap between home and school is thus receding. Pupils are able to work on the school bus and in the car, and pupils who are away from school can keep up with schoolwork. Collaboration within the school environment seemed to increase with 92% of students saying “I can share my work and collaborate with others in my learning session”
Special Education Needs (SEN)
1:1 mobile learning allows teachers to differentiate between different learning styles and abilities making them a perfect learning tool for SEN students. Students who ordinarily struggle with traditional ways of accessing and presenting knowledge now not only have more options, but can use the same device as everyone else and are not set apart in class. Mobile devices enable students to present information so that it is easily understood, providing a more accurate picture of their abilities and progress.
Our research has shown that there were a number of challenges to overcome before the proven benefits of a whole school mobile learning strategy could be realised.
Integrating mobile device into teaching and learning was one of the main challenges raised by schools, and they met the challenge in a number of ways. Some decided to clarify their desired learning outcomes at the outset. Others made sure to embed the device as a learning tool. One school introduced a new curriculum and an entirely new discourse of learning. Most of our schools planned to achieve integration through initial and regular training: a strong learning ethos was seen as the key.
Distractions and Addiction
Distraction was indeed an issue when students were first given mobile devices, however the novelty very quickly wore off and distraction reduced over time (particularly since the first term of use). Some teachers did install apps such as Screen Time Parental Control, but most told us that they saw distraction as no more problematic than note-passing or window-gazing.
With mobile technology, students have constant access to social media and other communication tools. So, there are obviously concerns that despite the benefits, cyberbullying and harassment is more likely to occur. We have carried out significant research for safer internet day for the last 3 years on how young people are using the internet. Whilst there are some alarming statistics (LInks to reports here) our testimonials direct from students shows that they are are aware of staying safe online.
Mobile device are simply a tool, just like a pen or a ruler. Teachers recognised that if they wanted to make the most of mobile devices, they needed interactive and engaging content. They also wanted to be able to edit and adapt this content. Traditional publishers do not always offer these capabilities, so teachers are often requred to create their own resources. One research school even offered training in App Development.
Clearly, finance is a huge consideration – but our research schools have all developed incredibly creative ways to ensure that all students had access to a personal mobile device. These ranged from a parental contribution towards the cost of their child’s device through to full funding by the school. However, even when parents were asked to contribute, the schools were willing to be flexible. The contributions could be either full or blended. Some schools developed “at home” schemes where parents only contributed if students took the tablet home. Other schools were able to cover the costs for pupil premium students.
For our schools, existing IT resources were either outdated or lacked a long-term vision. School leaders wanted this new technology (mobile devices) to be different, to be more integrated into teaching and learning. Many of our schools relied on technical teams to figure out the new IT challenges, but were concerned that these teams didn’t understand how the technology would actually be applied, or have the skills to implement them successfully. Also, the sudden introduction of a large number of tablets meant that WiFi and other IT services needed to be upgraded. which added additional costs on a school budget.
Theft and Breakages
Breakages, and choosing insurance, was a concern for many of our research schools. A number of schools chose to self-insure: focusing on responsible use policies and identifying robust, protective cases. In addition schools took the time to teach students how to carry around their mobile device so as to minimise breakages. Schools reported breakage rates between 3% and 6%, much lower than anticipated. One school calculated that for the same price as an £18,500 insurance premium they could afford a breakage rate of 12%. Theft was not really a concern: schools took time to advise parents on safety precautions outside of school. Around the half of parents at the pre-use stage were concerned about tablet theft, yet only 3% of parents at the post-use stage reported issues with safety or theft.
Our research highlights the benefits and challenges of developing and implementing a 1:1 mobile learning strategy.
Implementation of a 1:1 mobile learning strategy should not be taken lightly and must be planned and executed carefully. Each school will have their own specific reason as to ‘Why’ they want to introduce 1:1 learning and this should be the starting point.
As with any large project, there are many considerations that have to be thought through, debated and agreed with all stakeholders. We have highlighted below a number of these considerations but your school, team, students and parents may have others that are specific your school.
Time and Cost
If schools don’t have the time to commit to planning, managing, administering, maintaining and embedding a 1:1 mobile learning programme and the cost to support this time commitment then, in reality, it will be very difficult to make it a success. In some instances even if schools have the budgets; if they don’t have the time it can be more difficult – however having budgets may allow them to procure services and support that can mitigate any time challenges they may have.
Training and Support
Traditional IT teams invariably do not have the skills for these new technologies and will need just as much investment in training and support as teachers. And never underestimate the value that Teaching Assistants and students can bring with the right training, support and time.
Hardware and Software
‘What device?’ is usually the first question and is always the most emotive. However schools need to also consider the ecosystem they will use with their chosen device or Bring your Own device (BYOD) scheme, how will apps be deployed, what mobile device management (MDM) system will be used, will there be device use policies that need to be developed, how will classroom management change. To name but a few.
Schools need to ensure communications are right and be prepared to make changes very quickly – there needs to be a strategy and plan for all the key stakeholders that work holistically across the school community.
Wifi is now a commodity item and needs replacing or updating on a regular basis as technology becomes ever faster and more powerful. With more schools adopting cloud-based storage solutions, robust school infrastructure is key.
This could be anything and can be specific to your school needs and culture. Plan in additional time and money for things that you may not have identified.