Mobile Learning 09 Conference, Day 2, Morning Panels


 This post is a brief synopsis of the three morning panels at Mobile Learning 09.

Panel 1: What Is Mobile Learning?

I chaired this panel which consisted of David Whyley, Elliot Soloway, Thomas Greaves, and Mohammed Ally. It was a real treat getting to do this panel to set up the rest of the day. Here are some of my notes to sort of summarize what was said.

In essence, the speakers talked about:

  • what is mobile learning (David). He mentioned terms such as personal, choice, unobtrusive, and nomadic. His best quote was that of one of his students, who called his mobile device a “21st century pencil case full of my digital tools”
  • implementation (Elliot). Elliot made three points: 1. Big change: “the <mobile> computer revolution hasn’t even begun yet” (borrowing from Alan Kay); 2. Sustainability, at last; in that we now have a financial model, mobile generation, and curriculum integration that allow for this. I’m not sure I completely agree with him on this point, but we are definitely getting closer; 3. unique opportunities, or “learning my way”.
  • devices (Tom). Difficult to say if it is the devices, the content….. In any event, Tom’s main point about smartphones was that their use by students is lagging because they are often banned from schools and the hardware is not designed for students.
  • stakeholders (Mohammed). Besides an overview of various groups such as IAMLearn, Handheld Learning, and ISTE’s SIGHC, the key here was the concept of the learnable moment, and the push toward breaking down barriers of time and space by combining online learning and mobile learning.

I tried to recap the panel’s thoughts by calling what’s happening in the field of mobile learning a “new beginning”, with a focus on people (personal, customizable learning heavily dependent on communication and active participation) and change (in technology, cost, access, teaching and learning, curriculum, implementation models).

Panel 2: Mobile Learning and 21st Centurey Skills Development

Moderated by Keith Kruger, the CEO of CoSN, this panel included Tim Magner, the US DOE’s Office of Educational Technology’s Director, Susan Traiman, director of public policy of the Business Roundtable, and Albert Browne, national director and vice-president for education and technology of the Verizon Foundation.

Here is what they said:
Keith Kruger (CEO, CoSN)

Some places ban phones, some places (e.g. Philippines) see it as a connection to resources for learning. We need to have an educational conversation, not a technology education (e.g. 5 hottest technologies in education). What are the skills that are important?

  • 21st c. learning environments
  • Professional development
  • Assessment

Survey by the Conference Board, Oct. 2006

  • What skills are most important when hiring? Work ethic, collaboration, good communication, social responsibility, critical thinking.
  • What deficiencies did corporations see in recent hirings of high school students? Written communication, leadership, work ethic, critical thinking, self-direction.
  • What skills and content areas will be growing in importance in the next five years? Critical thinking, IT, health and wellness, collaboration, innovation, personal financial resp.

Albert Browne (Verizon Foundation)

Skill sets we need are changing: 21st c skills framework (P21).

Verizon Foundation: (free K-12 lesson plans and student materials, by leading ed organizations)

  • Need for new tools
  • Mobile devices provide relevancy
  • 21st c framework adapts to mobile learning systems (gaming, distance, virtual, etc.)
  • Mobile learning makes education ubiquitous


Need to focus on new skills, new devices, new pd

Tim Magner (US DOE, director of OET)

Can’t fix 20th c schools anymore, need to start building 21st c schools (interesting statement, to say the least).
School should not be about information but experience. Currently, students go to schools and listen, go home and practice. However, we need students who know how to apply what they learn. School should be a school-home-community ecosystem supported by technology.

Susan Traiman

Importance of STEM education.

Problem with educational research is who’s funding it. Analogy with pharmaceutical research. Need to be transparent about who is funding what and for what purpose. Need for more legitimacy and credibility.

Panel 3: Why Mobile Learning?

Julie Evans, the CEO of Project Tomorrow, and Carly Shuler of Sesame Workshop discussed their work.

Carly Shuler discussed the idea that even though the media are now different, the questions remains the same.

We don’t pretend that media or a television show can solve the problems of the world, but we do believe it would be a terrible mistake not to use these most influential tools to contribute to the solutions (Joan Ganz Coontz)

Research: Pockets of Potential report (see also my earlier blog post about this report)

Why the study? Ownership of cell phones. Other sectors showing advances in this area include health, banking, politics, and citizen journalism.

Reaching underserved children: see report for e.g. message to phone about letter of the day.

Question needs to shift from whether to use to how and best be used.

Julie Evans: CEO Project Tomorrow.

New data on Speak Up 2008 participants, will be released on March 24.

  • Digital disconnect is alive and well. Gap between how students learn and how they live. Powering down and up. Gaps exist between students and teachers, advanced technology students and other students, between girls and boys, between older and younger students (in activities and behaviors, as well as value statements).
  • How are students using technology for schoolwork besides internet research and writing? Wide range of things: accessing class info, communication, creation of content, uploading info to school portals and other sites (e.g. plagiarism check), gaming, digital content.
  • How satisfied are students with tech use at school? Not very.
  • Major obstacles: school filters and firewalls (5 yrs running); teachers limit technology use; too many rules (can’t use own devices, cannot access communication tools, rules that limit use of my school’s tech).
  • How would schools make it easier for you to use tech?
  • Let me use my own laptop, cell phone….
  • Give me unlimited Internet access.
  • Let me access school projects from anywhere.


A new battleground with emerging tech in education:

Mobile devices: communication (with classmates and teacher!), creativity (play games, create stuff), collaboration (projects, share calendars, share files), productivity (upload and download from portal, record and listen to lectures; reminders/alerts; do research).

What if you could design the ultimate online textbook? Ability to download info to my cell phone.

  • Grades 3-5 (25%),
  • Grades 6-12 (53%)

What tool has the greatest impact on learning (student perception)?
K-12 (for five years straight): laptop for my personal use at school and at home. (but as Julie rephrased it, it’s not the laptop itself , but is function as a proxy. It’s an issue of control over access). Others are mobile devices, gaming, digital media and communications tools…

Views related to technology in schools of administrators, teachers, and parents. Administrators most in favor, followed by teachers, then parents, esp. in the area of engagement.

What is needed besides funding? Equitable access, pd, ongoing tech support, examples of effective classroom practice, district support (53, 49, 47, 42, and 39% respectively)

Key trends to watch: continuing digital disconnects, spectrum of digital native-ness, blend of informal and formal learning opportunities, beyond engagement to productivity benefits, …

Julie closed with this question they asked students:

Imagine you were the president and your goal was to improve education to make sure every student is prepared for the jobs and careers of the future. What would you do? They got 250,000 responses…

Image Credit: “Capitol Butter”, my camera phone :)


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