Mobile Learning and technology in the classroom may just be the game-changer that gives students around the world equal access to learning. This week on Netflix I watched “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary that follows the lives of several American students that strive to be accepted into charter schools. The movie is highly controversial, so I won’t give my opinion in this forum, but one theme that resonated with me as a parent of three elementary school students is that the parents in this movie wanted to get the best education for their children in order to ensure their success later in life. I think that’s a global theme that resonates with all parents who are invested in the success of their children’s education. In addition to parental involvement, technology plays a key role in leveling the playing field for students. Technology can help schools overcome distance and financial barriers by providing equal access to information whether you are a student in the Bronx or in Jordan. Online learning helps students learn at their own pace, and may even help students with parents who don’t review or assist with homework. I personally am thrilled with PearsonSuccessNet. My 3rd grader uses this website to review his math lessons the night before a test. He can sit at the computer and listen to the audio and watch animated lessons, while I fix dinner or help my other children with their homework. Technology in education can help to decrease absenteeism, lower dropout rates, and motivate students to continue on to college. I’d like to share with you three examples of technology changing the lives of students and teachers around the world.
Schools around the world are investing in laptop and 1:1 computing programs as part of their initiatives to raise test scores and increase graduation rates. Teachers use video and online content to engage students based on their interest and familiarity with technology. For students, technology is cool and makes the learning process fun and interactive. Lucky are the students at Cranford Burns Middle School in Mobile, Alabama; the Balquees School in Jordan; and the SKOL secondary school in the Netherlands. This fall, they will be using wireless technology in the classroom.
Common Sense Media is an U.S. non-profit organization that studies children’s use of technology with some staggering findings: 52% of children under age 8 have access to mobile media and 67% of teenagers have their own mobile devices capable of connecting to the internet. My 4 year old is a whiz on the iPad and iPhone; she knows how to turn on Pandora, play educational apps, and--her favorite− watching videos of herself. I love to see schools that grab onto the technology trend and run with it. One great example is Cranford Burns Middle School, where the administration is piloting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program that allows students to use their own smart phones, laptops, iPods, and other web-enabled wireless devices while in the classroom. Their goal this upcoming school year is to have 100 teachers adopt the BYOD program so that students can conduct research, answer questions and, more importantly, learn the technology skills and tools needed to be productive in the workforce. The BYOD phenomenon is taking off, and students, faculty, and staff all want to use their own devices in school. Cisco BYOD for Education provides a solution that allows IT and school district leaders to address policies, capacity, integration, and device access in order to deliver a superior user experience in a manageable, secure, and cost-effective way.
As a working mom and tech-geek, I was also impressed with the National Geographic article on “Wireless Learning: How Mobile Technology is Transforming Classrooms and Empowering Young Women in Jordan”. Students at the Balquees School are using wireless technology to improve their English language skills by using a mobile device to record their voice while reading. The teachers found that the students who listened to themselves reading were more engaged, motivated, and invested in their own learning. The Jordan students also use PowerPoint, social media, and YouTube in the classroom. I can assure you during my workday at Cisco I use each of these tools multiple times a day. Thanks to technology, these students will be better prepared for the workforce by the time they graduate.
The final example is Stiching Katholiek Onderwijs Leiden (SKOL), a Catholic secondary school in the Netherlands. SKOL has 2500 students, 230 teachers and 4 campuses. SKOL is also ambitious in the adoption of technology in the classroom; however, they were challenged in their attempt to support a BYOD initiative because they needed to update their network.
There were several factors driving the limitations of the Dutch school’s network. SKOL had previously outsourced their network management. That, combined with a multivendor equipment installation, left the secondary school with an unstable network that failed multiple times a month and required constant upkeep by ICT staff.
Read the SKOL case study to see how they upgraded the WAN and WLAN to provide a secure learning environment that enables teachers to have easy access to Internet, email, and storage, while enabling BYOD on campus.
How is your school or university transforming education through the use of technology? Please share your stories.