The laptop is officially dead. Dell’s third quarter earnings plummeted 47%, driven down in part by a 26% decline in laptop sales versus last year.
In less than three years, mobile devices -- and more specifically tablets -- have relegated that once “go-to device” to so many dust-collecting paper weights. How exactly have mobile devices become so ubiquitous? What effect will they have in education? Most importantly how can educators effectively harness mobile devices? Many school districts are currently trying to figure out how to implement Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies to offset the cost of technology. The success of BYOD is contingent upon the people on the front lines of education--the teachers.
BYOD will have a tremendous influence in shifting education from its current structure into a 21st century one. Student devices will help cash-strapped school districts to save money on hardware and software. Free web, iTunes, and Google Play applications will reduce the amount of money districts are currently spending on software licenses. fDigital texts and resources lower textbook costs, copier costs, paper consumption and are easier to share. According to Chris Lehman, Principal of Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia and ISTE 2011 Keynote Speaker, the best technology for helping students is "a web browser." Mobile devices put technology in the place where it can do the most good--in student's hands.
Bring Your Own Device is in its infancy and like all new ideas there is a learning curve. To make BYOD happen educators need to roll up their sleeves and dig in.
For instance, in the beginning of the year, do a technology inventory with your classes in order to see who has access to what technology. On the first day of the school year I have my students complete a survey using Google forms. It’s a straightforward way to gauge levels of access. Do they have a smartphone? A tablet? A laptop? A kindle? It is ok if every student doesn’t have a device because you can pair students together, a great strategy, too, becasuse it promotes collaboration. (And this study suggests that kids are likely already using these devices to do their homework.)
Gaining parental support is also paramount to make your vision a reality. After reviewing student inventory it is important to send a letter home to parents and open lines of communication for any concerns that you need to address. For example, not everyone is ok with their child posting works online. In my experience as an educator, parents are your greatest resource. Their voice is powerful and can influence administrators and politicians. Transparency and inclusion earns their trust. Finally let parents know where they can find your students work. Encourage them to comment on blog posts, “like” things on Facebook, and interact with you on Twitter.
A few of my current go-to apps that can be used with any platform are Twitter, Claco, Evernote, Flipboard, and Learnist. I could list more but right now I am using these five applications a lot. Here’s why:
Twitter: I use Twitter to network with other educators, my students and people that interest me. A great way to utilize Twitter in your classroom is to create a back-channel for student discussion.
Before adoption: Debrief students and use discussions after the lesson.
After adoption: Students discussion takes place during learning creating more connectivity and engagement. Can my students go off task and chat with @cuteguy? Sure, but part of digital citizenship is teaching our kids proper netiquette. So I embrace allowing students to go online but remain vigilant moving around the classroom and monitoring their actions. We have an obligation to teach our students so that they don’t become the next [insert famous gaffe here]. Finally engaged kids don’t usually go off task because they are into what we are doing.
Claco: This is a place where educators can share lesson plans with other teachers. It has the potential down the road to be a repository for student work as well.
Before: Limited to asking colleagues in my building for lesson plans.
After: Able to search lesson plans/topics from educators all over the world.
Evernote: Evernote is great note-taking app and repository. It allows a user to easily share and tag multimedia with others.
Before: Share with students/colleagues via hard copy, flash drives, email, or network drives.
After: Share entire multimedia notebooks and single notes can be via url link for students/colleagues to view or edit in synch.
Flipboard: Flipboard is a great place to subscribe to, collect, and share content. It is a visually appealing way for readers to interact with writings in a way that RSS readers can't.
Before: Rely on RSS feeds to read blogs and news stories from around the web.
After: View blogs, social networks, and share content quickly and easily on any mobile device. Visually stunning compared to RSS readers.
Learnist: Learnist is quickly becoming one of my favorite new applications. Learnist is Pinterest for Education. You can create lists and visually bookmark, follow, and share learning interests with others.
Before: Bookmark educational content in my browser or through Diigo.
After: Easily share educational content/ideas with colleagues all over the world and bookmark them using visual boards.
BYOD is a logical step in the evolution of technology in education. The cost and maintenance of technology is a strain on public school districts. Allowing users to bring their own devices in the classroom will alleviate some of these costs. It will also helpp cash-strapped schools save on copier, paper, and textbook costs. Mobile devices allow users to quickly, obtain and share information at a fraction of the cost and time of laptops. To the critics that argue you can’t create content I would counter that with a good wireless keyboard, web- and mobile-based apps, and ingenuity (something kids have a lot of) you can create anything. Just ask the creators of the full length feature film Olive. It is for these reasons that I say R.I.P., oh, trusty Dell Latitude Notebook.