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Mobile Learning for All?

Within five years, every student in every school in the country will be using a mobile device for learning, predicts Elliot Soloway, who also proclaims that "mobile technologies are bigger than the Internet."

Soloway, a professor at the University of Michigan and co-founder of the mobile learning company GoKnow!, spoke on a panel at the ISTE conference here in Denver with his GoKnow! colleague Cathleen Norris, a professor at the University of North Texas, and three district-level administrators who have put in place mobile learning initiatives in their schools.

In the session, panelists emphasized the importance of administrative and community buy-in before launching a 1-to-1 mobile learning initiative. Susan Tomko, the director of information systems at the North Rockland Central School District in New York, told attendees that her district engaged in discussions with parents and the community for roughly two years before launching a pilot program with 80 mobile learning devices last year. Kyle Menchhofer, the technology coordinator for the St. Mary's City Schools in Ohio, mentioned that one form of financial support came directly from his district's parent teacher organization, in addition to funding from businesses and organizations in his community.

Darlene Rankin, the technology project manager at Katy Independent School District in Texas, noted that her district was expanding its public wifi in the future to allow students to bring their own mobile devices and connect to the school's filtered network.

All the panelists agreed that students and teachers were more engaged when using the mobile learning devices and found that incorporating them into classrooms helped differentiate instruction as well as level the playing field for students who may not have access to computers and the Internet at home. However, Soloway also pointed out that the price points for data plans for mobile devices do need to come down before widespread adoption can take place.

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