5 critical tips for implementing mobile technology

Tips include those for educators, IT staff and admin

mobile-technology-students Long gone are the days when having a phone in class was cause for dismissal, with professors and students eager to implement mobile technology into the classroom. The problem is, not all implementation is effective.

From knowing why IT woes occur on your campus to learning why apps aren’t always the saviors they’re marketed to be, these 5 tips can help educators get the most out of mobile learning.

Have any tips you’d like to share? Do you think mobile learning in class is all it’s cracked up to be? Leave your comments in the section below, email me at, or find me @eSN_Meris on Twitter.

[Listed in no particular order]

1. Know that they’re not great tools for actual computing.

While many students appreciate the ability to use their tablets or smartphones in class as a resource, when it comes to using their mobile device for essays, content creation or any other complex coursework, they’d rather use an actual computer.

According to recent research from EDUCAUSE, which used data from over 195 institutions and over 100, 000 students, laptops (85 percent) and printers (84 percent) are practically tied for “devices most important to academic success.” The next most important device is a USB drive (68 percent), then a desktop computer (65 percent), followed by tablets (45 percent), smartphones (37 percent), and eReaders (31 percent).

The report went on to note that though students like using mobile devices for accessing the internet and social media platforms, most scholarly work happens on personal computers with software typically included in Microsoft Office. Read the full story here.

(Next page: Mobile tips 2-5)

2. Incorporate more social aspects into your course.

College students now own an average of seven mobile devices, and spend nearly four hours a day interacting with their laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Outside of using their mobile devices for internet-related research, students use their mobile devices for peer interaction, including texting, snapchats, and checking social media platform apps—think Facebook, Instagram, dating sites, Vine and more.

One of the best ways to make the best use of mobile devices in your course is to incorporate elements that emphasize peer interaction.

For example, using personal social networks, such as Ning or Edmodo, allows students to join your course-specific community. Incorporating online forums and asking students to create projects using platforms such as Instagram or Vine are other ways to get students using their mobile devices in ways that are intuitive to them, therefore making them better learning tools.

3.  They’re more than their apps.

One of the biggest backlashes educators experience with mobile devices is with apps. You can find an app for just about anything, but quality is not the only consideration when deciding whether you should incorporate an app into your course.

“One of the best things you can do when choosing technology is to turn off that autopilot,” explained Fran Simon, chief engagement officer for Engagement Strategies and cofounder of ECTN. “Be intentional and select tools that align with your curriculum objectives. Plan technology use as another tool to get the job done, like books.”

Karen Nemeth, founder and lead consultant for Language Castle and cofounder of ECTN, also emphasized that the first place to begin, before even thinking about technology, is in the tools already available in the classroom.

“Don’t fall for iPad or ‘app mania’! Technology is not always the best choice,” said Nemeth. “Apps designed for [students] aren’t always better than what you may already have, and that goes for mobile devices too! Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s better.”

However, for those educators interested in using mobile devices and their apps, there are 10 key considerations to take into account, such as: Is the cost worth it; does the device and/or software cater to multiple students; how much time is appropriate; does the physical classroom space promote mobile technology; and more. Read the full story here. Three professors have also recently developed a first-of-its kind mobile app rubric for app evaluation. Read the story here.

4. Know where the strain in campus wi-fi comes from.

Wi-fi-connected devices on college campuses have more than tripled since 2013, and entertainment devices are causing headaches as well, as they far outpace the increases in tablets and smartphones, a new report said.

Smart TVs and Nintendo 3DS systems increased more than 1,000 percent between 2012 and 2013, a study conducted by residential network provider Apogee found.

But it’s what students are doing with those devices that may be causing the largest issues.

In 2011, Ohio University students watching Netflix on a rainy day caused internet outages across the campus. Universities have found themselves temporarily banning steaming websites like YouTube and Spotify.

The 2013 State of ResNet Report, released by ACUTA, found that 6 in 10 campus IT officials think Blu-Ray players are a primary culprit behind bandwidth woes. More than 60 percent said video games and video game systems are one of the largest wi-fi leaches.

The problem isn’t a new one. More than a decade ago, campuses ran into similar issues with file-sharing services like Napster. While those early issues we’re dealt with by simply banning what were already legally dubious applications, today’s wi-fi-connected devices can’t be taken away so easily. IT officials are locked in an arms race between network capabilities and student expectations for entertainment.

“There is an expectation right now among students of, ‘Any device, any time, as much as we want,’” Joe Harrington, director of network services at Boston College (BC), said last September. “This has [IT officials] back on their heels a little bit, looking for ways to deal with this proactively rather than reactively.”

“Educational institutions that anticipate and plan ahead while leveraging partners and resources are in a good position to meet growing challenges in performance, security, and budget,” said Chuck Brady, Apogee CEO. Read the full story here.

5. Mobile device does not equal internet savvy.

21st Century college curriculum is currently undergoing a maker movement, with more educators assigning students project-based assignments that are characterized as technology DIY. For example, students can be asked to create anything from a video documentary of a sociological theory to an interactive iPresentation on chemical reactions. The goal of maker homework is to allow student to personalize their learning through the use of digital tools and creativity to express deeper learning of a topic.

However, just because students can access digital tools and resources, doesn’t mean they know how to vet and analyze appropriate resources, especially research on the internet. Just like educators, sometimes students need a little mobile tech professional development, too. Read the full story here.

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