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Best Practices

Over the past five years, pioneering mobile learning programs have mapped out many of the practices that help lead to successful implementations.  Case studies outlining some of these programs can be found in CoSN's 2011 Compendium: Mobile Learning Devices in School  available to CoSN members.  This guide also contains links to numerous existing implementations for reference purposes.  

Although many types of mobile implementations and different goals exist, those with the greatest impact on teaching and learning include 3 crucial elements working in concert:  Mobility, Web 2.0 tools, and a Digital Citizenship focus. 
  • Mobility: The transformation of teaching and learning is made possible by mobility - the real capacity of anytime anywhere learning made possible via 24/7 access to on-line resources and communities of learning.
  • Web 2.0 Tools: Changes in practice from teacher-led passive teaching to student-owned active learning 24/7 require the Internet tools that support participative communities of learning where students interact with each other, educators, and relevant communities; where students access, analyze, synthesize, and create digital content; and where students can document and record work in the field.
  • Digital Citizenship: Critical to the effective participation in communities via web 2.0 tools are the digital citizenship skills that enable students to protect their reputations, develop their voice, and develop into safe and savvy Internet users.
Because technology is evolving so very rapidly with new devices and form factors becoming available every year, a technology strategy that allows the program to evolve and adapt as new devices and innovations become available will optimize the value of technology investments and keep the program from becoming obsolete as new technologies come on-line.  Specific recommendations include:
  • Ensure each student has an internet-capable device
  • Provide robust wi-fi access in all buildings
  • Support mobile broadband access for anytime anyplace learning
  • Provide cloud-based tools and mobile apps such as web-based learning management systems, content creation tools, engaging drills, multi-media content, collaboration tools, and others that can be accessed from any device a student or their parents may choose to use.
  • Choose cloud-based services with a low migration cost to minimize impact of moving to new apps and systems as better options become available
The most successful implementations are intentionally adapted to the needs and goals of the specific school culture and stakeholders.  They are planned collaboratively with all stakeholders, they start small, and they are continually assessed and improved by the educators, technologists, and administrators working on the front lines of the implementation.  Specific recommendations include:
  • Begin with a thorough understanding of your school’s culture.
  • Create a strategic, multi-year plan for mobile learning within your district.
  • Make sure to conduct total cost of ownership analyses and be mindful of how you can sustain programming. Define the value of the project in measurable terms. (See CoSN’s TCO and VOI projects.)
  • Start with a pilot and expand on your successes.
  • Re-think your acceptable use policies (see CoSN’s Acceptable Use Policies in the Web 2.0 and Mobile Era).
  • Be creative with professional development. Plan a variety of formal and informal professional development activities for your staff.
  • Nurture your early adopter teachers who will, in turn, lead your district. Empower tech savvy teachers to serve as mentors for other teachers.
  • Ensure that all buildings in your district have sufficient robust, high-bandwidth Internet access to support at least one Internet-enabled device per student. Ideally, you will want to have both mobile broadband and high-speed wi-fi access to maximize your options.
  • Listen to parents and enlist their support for your programming. Communicate early and often with them and with other constituencies within your district.
  • Focus on improving teaching and learning, not the devices, throughout your planning.