Taking the Mobile “Gamble”

Taking the Mobile “Gamble”

How mobile learning apps can encourage outside-of-class study habits

By Becky Splitt     Feb 3, 2014

Taking the Mobile “Gamble”

Our education system today is in a state of transformation, and students are caught in the middle. From increased standardized testing to growing classroom sizes and shrinking budgets, our children are learning how to “learn with less.” Technology--mobile technology, in particular--is becoming a game-changer for education as traditional resources continue to dwindle.

In a classroom where the teacher’s time and resources are already stretched thin, mobile learning apps offer several opportunities to facilitate engagement in a way that makes sense to students.

1) Learning from Others--The Gold Standard

Teachers consistently tell me that their biggest struggles are getting students to engage with the material, spend time studying outside of class, and--most importantly--interact with each other.

As teachers evaluate what apps to use, it’s important to consider how well the technology connects students to each other. It's been proven over and over again that people learn best when they collaborate with like-minded peers, as demonstrated in the classic study Uri Treisman conducted at UC Berkeley. Yet most students still study on their own. (80% in fact, according to StudyBlue data.)

Why? Kids are often too shy to ask their classmate for notes in fear of appearing “dumb”--and those social inhibitions may never change. A UC San Diego study suggests that students who are shut out of the “smart” cliques suffer by not being able to reap the benefits of shared brain power.

Mobile technology offers a powerful solution to these social barriers and makes it possible for people to come together to share information frictionlessly. At StudyBlue, connecting students to their peers has been our driving force. We make a growing library of more than 190 million pieces of content available to all. About 20 percent of our users create the vast majority of that content. So in this way, we harness the knowledge of the stronger students to benefit everyone through their common desire to learn.

2) Distributed Learning--A Little Here, A Little There

Contrary to popular belief, students are using their mobile devices to do more than tweet and Snapchat; they are using these devices to study and learn better. We learn and process information most effectively when we study it in small portions at different places and different times--a strategy called “distributed practice”.

Prior to the dawn of OERs and educational software, students had to carry around all of their books and notes and distributed practice was impractical. But now, with the increase of mobile learning apps, students can access their material 24/7, switching seamlessly between devices and platforms throughout their day. The nearly 50 percent of StudyBlue’s students who are on mobile tend to study in sessions of 10-15 minutes as they’re eating breakfast, riding the bus to school and/or walking between classes.

In fact, mobile users actually study about 40 minutes more per week and tend to study during the early morning (6:00-8:00 am) before classes start (rather than pull all-nighters). Why do they study more? Because it’s easy to take out their phones, flip through a few note cards and transform wasted “in-between” times into productive learning times.

3) Measuring Results

Lastly, mobile learning apps offer a wealth of new opportunities for students and teachers to track and understand the performance of students.

Many schools require teachers to demonstrate how they are implementing real-time intervention strategies and formative assessments throughout the year, instead of just evaluating students during exam seasons. Mobile study apps allow teachers to better understand how students are engaging with course material outside of class.

Samantha Carr, a high school French teacher in Southern California, loves to watch her StudyBlue teacher portal to track as her students go from 75 percent accuracy to 100 percent. She is able to see exactly what and how much time her kids are studying outside of class relative to how well they are doing on homework, tests and quizzes in class.

Tracking student performance on mobile also enables teachers to tap into information that helps improve their own teaching techniques. For example, if several students are consistently getting an answer wrong on StudyBlue, the teacher knows that he or she should review the concept in class.

Mobile apps have the power to be both an effective assessment tool and a frictionless way for kids to learn from each other. Instead of banishing cell phones to lockers, teachers are increasingly embracing mobile devices to improve student engagement and outcomes. We’re on the cusp of this huge shift in tech resources for education, and mobile technology is a frontrunner in molding how teachers teach and how students learn for generations to come.

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