Oct 25, 2013
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There are more than 6 billion wireless subscriptions worldwide. Every day, people are interacting, transacting, learning, and working—all from their mobile device. From October 7th- 9th, at the 4th Annual Wireless EdTech Conference in Chicago, discussions were focused on how to leverage these digital channels for students.
Mobile connectivity offers new ways of teaching and learning that ultimately improve academic performance and produce results. At Wireless EdTech, leaders in business and education gathered to discuss major challenges in research, practice, and policy that must be resolved to realize the full potential of mobile broadband for learning. As the original founder of, and this year a proud sponsor of Wireless EdTech, Qualcomm Wireless Reach was able to demonstrate how mobile technology is providing creative new ways to increase student engagement.
The “Mobile Learning on The Ground” panel was moderated by Kathy Spencer, former superintendent of Onslow County Schools, who in 2007, in collaboration with Wireless Reach, started one of the first 1:1 smartphone projects with high school algebra students. The project demonstrated increased student proficiency and engagement, but also, surprisingly, included unexpected results such as an increase in student enrollment in AP math and science classes.
Other panelists included Ben Weintraub from Kajeet who presented findings from the Making Learning Mobile project; Bob Hirshon from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, who shared the free teacher application developed for the Active Explorer project; and Elliot Soloway, who talked about how the WE Learn Project is transforming teaching at a school in Singapore. All conference sessions are now available online.
I was able to share one of our recently launched projects done in collaboration with School in the Park: Augmented Reality (AR) for Learning. In AR learning experiences, mobile devices overlay digital education material and interactive media on physical environments, including text, images, audio, video, 3-D models and questions to enable a true mobile experience. Answers to the questions and completion of the activities ensure that students are making the connection between what they are learning in class and what they are observing in the real world during field trips.
In order to utilize mobile devices for education, students need access. Julie Evans of Project Tomorrow discussed data from the Speak Up 2012 National Research Project. In fall 2011, 26 percent of students in grades 6-8 said that they had a personal tablet computer. Just one year later, in 2012, the percentage of middle school students with tablets doubled to 52 percent.
Despite this increase of mobile devices in the hands of students, many schools are still reluctant to allow them. Among high school students with smartphones, only half say they can use their device at school, and only nine percent of students say they can use their personal tablets in the classroom. This data highlights the importance of additional support from policy makers, school administrators, and parents to make mobile technology available to all students.
Dr. Chris Dede of Harvard University, Karen Cator of Digital Promise, Robbie Melton of Tennessee Board of Regents and several other enthusiastic visionaries urged conference attendees to join in promoting the benefits of mobile technology both in and outside of classrooms.
“The problem with education in America is not the lack of excellence, it’s a lack of equity: kids who have the opportunity and those who do not,” said Karen Cator during her keynote speech. She encouraged the audience to help others leverage technology to support lifelong learning by sharing examples of innovative teachers and principals implementing technology in their schools.
Since 2010, through my work at Wireless Reach, I have had the opportunity to work with education, government, and business leaders across the globe to help determine how mobile learning can become ubiquitous worldwide. Wireless Reach education projects are designed to address the barriers to adoption of wireless technology in the classroom, including the need for digital content and assessment, infrastructure, privacy and security, and professional development for teachers. I look forward to sharing the advances made through these projects as we strive to accomplish digital equity for students regardless of their socio-economic status.