Today’s blog is a post by a global connection I consider a true inspiration, Mr. Abdul Chohan. Abdul has many inspirational stories but none more so than his connections with Apple and his development of schools in the UK. Abdul is the Co-founder of The Olive Tree Free School, Former CEO at Essa Foundation Academies Trust, Director of ThinkSimple Ltd, an Apple Distinguished Educator and has an amazing social presence.
Mobile access has become part of our everyday lives. Educators or not, ‘knowledge economy’ has changed radically over the last 10 years. The knowledge economy is defined as ‘an economy in which growth is dependent on the quantity, quality, and accessibility of the information available, rather than the means of production’.
Prior to mobile technology and the internet, the biggest impact on knowledge economy was the Gutenberg printing press. It changed the way entire industries developed even though there was documented resilience against this ‘new technology’. Humans have rarely had any impact when they have opposed technology that increases the knowledge economy. The current age is no different.
As educators, it is important for us to understand the difference between mobility and portability. I make a clear distinction between the two, based on functionality and propensity for developing new mobile applications.
Portable devices are very much what most people would call laptops, requiring a table and a desk in order for it to be used, reducing the mobility aspect. Portable devices rarely have an App Store that is prolific. The device remains pretty much the same throughout its lifetime with a few functional updates over many years. Mostly it can be said that they create a ‘secretarial approach’ in terms of its use. In most instances I see them being used for Office applications, email and browser-based tools. Investment in this type of technology for all teachers quite often limits the use of only a ‘presentation at the front of the classroom’ approach.
Mobile devices are different in that they allow for movement and flexibility in terms of how and where the device will be used. The simple ability to take photos can create operational efficiencies in a school that can save time and money. Photocopying is a perfect example, in a 1:1 deployed mobile environment, it is possible to reduce photocopying by as much as 70%. Mobile devices typically also have a prolific App Store. This in itself is a game changer in education. Historically, teachers would go through a ceremonial process to have the software installed on their devices. This would be a painful and time-consuming process from the moment the request was made to the point when the software was actually installed on the teacher’s laptop.
Access to an App Store that allows teachers to determine the pedagogical value of a variety of tools has become the norm in schools that have a 1:1 ratio of mobile devices for students. Teachers in mobile-enabled environment tend to continue to develop new skills and learn new tools that allow them to amplify their practices. Additionally, the ability to remove the cumbersome process that can be replaced by new apps is a welcome approach to education. The world we live in is focusing on mobility. We never hear anyone excited about a new app that is great for learning on a laptop type device. However, educators using mobile devices quite often get excited and share how new tools are being taken advantage of on a mobile platform.
The ability to use features like augmented reality, which can only be effectively used on mobile devices, are bringing a new found excitement in the classroom. Indeed, countries like Sweden and Denmark are already investing in a 1:1 mobile environment, in many ways this seems to be a moral imperative.
Harnessing efficiencies through the effective use of mobile technology is becoming an increasing opportunity. School leaders that have effectively deployed a mobile 1:1 environment say that photocopying costs have dramatically reduced as well as the time that it takes for teachers to prepare resources for lessons. In a mobile environment, it is possible to ask the question ‘What do we not need to do anymore?’, as increasingly technology is allowing us to amplify our abilities.
In my own experience at The Olive Tree School in Bolton, UK, mobile technology has allowed teachers to move to completely change the way feedback is given to students. All teachers use voice feedback rather than having to take books home and spend hours marking. Additionally, the relationship between teachers and students have improved as the voice feedback is very personalized. We also see that many students will listen to the voice feedback numerous times to understand what the teacher is trying to say. We have also seen greater engagement from parents, as they are able to listen to the feedback for their child almost immediately and are able to have the right conversations at home.
Mobile devices also provide increased transparency to ensure that all students experience consistently good lessons. It is possible to drive school improvement and standards using mobile tools. In order for this to happen a very clear pathway, with respect to mobile tools, needs to be set by leadership, so that all teachers understand which tools are being used to maintain consistency.
Quite often the sheer variety of mobile tools available can create inconsistency. Even though individually each tool may have its own advantage, as a whole school approach it is important to agree some ‘non-negotiable‘.
I sincerely believe that investment in mobile tools is an investment in the development of the school workforce. As the technology develops and becomes better, the school workforce also gain the opportunity to learn new tools that will allow them to do things that were simply not possible in the past.