by Staff Writers, OnlineColleges.net
The mobile learning revolution is creating a lot of buzz in the education world, and the benefits undoubtedly stand out. But nothing exists as a purely positive entity. While the movement toward “m-learning” (as those totally in the know call it) marks a change in how education approaches technological developments, anyone considering the developing tools needs to research the downsides before making the leap.
On a more positive note, discounts and grants do make mobile learning a more accessible option for many classrooms. But districts these days aren’t exactly enjoying the budgets needed to incorporate smartphones, MP3 players, laptops, and other mobile devices into the hands of every student. Or, in so many (if not most) cases, even one or two per course. And it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to know that the latest and greatest in gadgetry isn’t inexpensive. It will take an upswing in funding and a downswing in pricing to watch mobile learning’s reach grow.
Mobile learning buffs love touting how the strategy opens up more educational opportunities for special needs students — and they’re definitely right! But this strength unfortunately doubles as a weakness in some instances. Teachers unfamiliar with the accessibility standards stapled to all technological developments might inadvertently isolate students with physical and/or mental impediments toward utilizing them. So before implementing a mobile learning model in the classroom, take pains to ensure every kid or adult will benefit from the gadgetry at hand. If such a thing proves impossible, make sure to provide equal alternatives for those unable to maneuver the technologies in question.
Taking advantage of mobile devices, especially smartphones, usually means downloading educational applications. Which, in turn, deplete batteries much quicker than rolling with the defaults. Scientists and developers constantly strive to improve upon the drainage issues associated with various gadgets, but the disadvantage to a classroom setting remain the same. Battery life is, obviously, one of the more minor cons to a plugged-in education model. Not a dealbreaker, but still something of a challenge when incorporating portable tech into the curriculum. Especially when the kids forget to shut everything down at the end of the day.
security, privacy, and safety:
When working with minors especially, educators need to weigh issues regarding privacy, safety, and security before ever toting a mobile device into math class. Any and all lessons incorporating phones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets also require both parental permission as well as intensive schooling in how to interact with others in digital spaces responsibly, ethically, and most importantly safely. Unfortunately, there’s no way to universally protect users from identity theft, stalking, cyberbullying, and the like. Only strategies for minimizing the risk. Be sure to take all of this into consideration before taking advantage of mobile learning’s myriad pros.
Small, touch-sensitive screens are pretty much standard for tablets and smartphones, but they present a few challenges to learning. They aren’t always the most accurate and responsive, especially when greased-up after a long day of lessons, and sometimes boast so much sensitivity to stimuli, they react when the user wishes they’d just stay put for a cotton-pickin’ second. As a result, this could compromise the validity of student answers and, in kind, their grades. Make sure to draw up a contingency plan in the event that technical difficulties arise. It wouldn’t really be fair to penalize students because their devices hiccuped during an assignment.
theft and loss:
Because of their portability, mobile devices — particularly smartphones — unfortunately lend themselves to getting lost and stolen. More than the fiscal cost, this could also lead to compromised identity and data, thereby endangering students’ privacy. Engraving serial numbers onto purchased gadgets and increasing encryption help deter some of the risk, but it won’t eradicate the issue altogether. Before implementing an m-learning program in the classroom, devise a system to ensure every piece of equipment ends up in its proper place before dismissing students. And, of course, keeping them properly hidden and locked once the work day wraps up.
No universal platform between mobile gadgets exist, proving quite a challenge when it comes to synching projects. Unlike cost or safety protocol, however, intensive research about what pieces fit together ahead of time can quell this little issue pretty quickly. But don’t expect the kids at home to necessarily possess the technology to maneuver between devices. Try and confine mobile learning to spaces where compatibility problems will not emerge.
Mobile devices probably won’t bring home too many gold medals for their ability to store data, which offers up a roadblock to student success. Even though many users — not just the teachers and students out there — turn toward cloud computing to address the problem, this strategy comes packaged with security risks. It’s best to keep expectations and requirements light when dealing with limited storage capacities, and make alterations and alternate plans to accommodate and compensate for them.
Some districts and individual schools actively block sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets, which proves problematic when it comes to assignments utilizing their educational potential. Teachers need to clear their intentions with the governing bodies before setting their intentions into motion, as they might end up with a most unpleasant surprise if they intend to unleash their students onto the web (or vice versa). Because of the whole “if we let you do it, we’ll have to let everyone do it” attitude, be prepared to alter projects as a result.
Old people are right: technology does progress at a frequently dizzying rate, and keeping up with it often proves a most costly venture. Introducing the kidlets (or adults) to digital literacy projects might wind up futile, as a shiny new option might emerge mere months after they master one particular device. Rolling lo-fi often proves just as effective as the latest gadget trends, costing less and requiring fewer upgrades in the long run.