The Edtech Meetup (SF) Mobile and Twilio

The Edtech Meetup (SF) Mobile and Twilio

Jun 20, 2012

The Ed-Tech Meetup: how mobile technology will impact education

By Meredith Ely, Learnboost

The Ed-Tech Meetup last week centered on how mobile can and will empower education. Fueled by eager teachers with amazing tales of 1:1 iPad implementation, their challenges in allowing 17-year-olds to BYOD (bring their own devices), and candid thoughts from teachers around the country, the LearnBoost team wanted to be sure we gave credence to the growing impact of mobile technology in education.

We welcomed Roger and Joël from Twilio who blew us away with a high-level overview of the potential for mobile to disrupt edu--both good and bad; we met tons of new friends who joined us from Calgary, Ohio, New York, New Orleans, and more; and we dug into meaty conversations about what innovators are doing to build the apps of the future!

Let’s talk mobile

10 years ago I got my first cell phone. It was for emergencies only. Functionality was limited to say the least. Calls and simple SMS (pre T9) put me beyond many of my non-tech-savvy peers. Connecting to the internet would have been ample inspiration for a sci-fi film: we’re talking cable connections.

Now, according to the NMC Horizon report: 2012 K-12 Edition, “In the U.S. alone, 61% of Americans age 12 and up own a mobile device, and 44% specifically own a smartphone.” Digging through the data a bit, it’s evident that mobile has proliferated every facet of life, and the implications for education are far from fully tapped.

Mobile technology (phones and tablets for this case) control about 8% of the online market share, and of that 8%, mobile phones far outnumber tablets. As apps continue to make the mobile space more accessible for developers and consumers, and as hardware costs decrease, we’re only seeing more mobile penetration in every sector.

How is mobile impacting education: survey says

Teachers like Scott Newcomb and Lucy Gray have grown a huge following with their wisdom on ed-tech and mobile learning. As much as the Twittersphere is thriving with advice and lists of great apps, we wanted to know how more classroom teachers were “going mobile.” To that end, I conducted a mini survey, reaching out to various teacher networks.

Fifty-two awesome teachers responded, and though the sample size doesn’t claim any huge breakthroughs, it was an interesting little experiment. Beyond hearing that the majority of teachers didn’t have any favorite apps or use cases, the most insightful findings were derived from the anecdotal responses. When asked what the “perfect app for edu” would look like, we found that most answers fell into one of 6 categories: productivity, individualization, administration, research, reading, and monitoring student activity. Here’s the presentation deck with some added analysis around the teacher survey in case you missed it or want to take a closer look!

How mobile will impact education

We asked the kind folks at Twilio to share some of the trends they’ve seen as developers flock to build nimble mobile apps on their API. I’ve posted the scrappy video that I took of Roger Huffstetler’s presentation--it was an off the cuff recording which started just after his intro, so apologies for the iffy quality.

Here are the key themes that Roger discussed as likely important for education:

BYOD. A fairly new concept, BYOD means “bring your own device.” This implies that students would leverage their own mobile devices in the classroom for a variety of uses/assignments. Roger noted that this could have a great impact on special education as it might streamline reporting and transcription. Furthermore, STEM curricula is enhanced when students can search and see chemical reactions and other scientific phenomena. Geolocation was another concept that would lend itself well in the BYOD environment, where schools could use the built-in GPS systems in almost all phones to better track students. Finally, something that really resonated with the teachers in the audience was Roger’s vision for a way to “lock” apps for specific uses – turning off SMS functionality for 1 hour during class for instance. As apps become more device agnostic, Roger predicts more educational apps will work across platforms, making BYOD truly possible.

Individualization. No doubt that putting the power of SMS, the internet, and apps in the hands of every child allows for a more flexible, adaptive learning path. How far we’ve come in effectively implementing adapted learning is difficult to say, but with advancements in mobile tech, we’re really setting the stage for individualization.

Data Collection. Almost like crowdsourcing problems, with mobile, binary data collection becomes multifaceted. When a student can ask a question and receive multiple responses from multiple sources asynchronously, the process becomes much more efficient.

Modularity. This speaks to the idea that apps create an environment where teachers and students can pick and choose among the tools and services they need. Ultimately, this allows for a more customizable experience.

Roger emphasized political consequences of some of these trends, noting that the achievement gap is real and pervasive, and that as we move toward a BYOD culture, we have to think carefully about what this means for students who may not have access to smartphones, tablets, or even basic cell phones. He concluded reminding us to hold ourselves and our students to high expectations as we move forward in the mobile era.

Making a mobile app

After Roger’s wonderful high level look at the mobile landscape, his colleague Joël took the stage to show us just how easy it is to use services like Twilio to build and integrate mobile tools into your classroom or product.

Aside from tapping into the ed-tech community’s inner geek (as illustrated by EdShelf’s Mike Lee in this little Tweet), learning how easy it was to set up mass texting, automated alerts, and mobile apps generally was super informative.

One of the best ed-tech moments of the presentation? In response to Joël’s brief coding demo, former special education insider at SFUSD, Jason Gilmore, noted that Twilio’s simple tools could completely replace the antiquated, expensive system that the district uses. To this, Joël wore a calm smile and said, “Yep, for $1.00 a month,” being sure to mention that it’s not by year, so schools wouldn’t have to pay during the summer months. How’s that for disrupting education?

More about The Ed-Tech Meetup

Don’t forget to take a walk through the meetup archives for some extra morsels of ed-tech fun. Our last meetup on integrating informal and formal learning, and you can find more here. Also, we had great member spotlights (some great tools!) in November and March. Hoping to see you at a meetup soon!

Reposted with permission. Originally appeared in Learnboost blog.

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