Transforming Learning Through Mobile Devices

The motivating factor behind the decision by the Katy ISD to transform learning through mobile devices was the recognition that they, "had to fundamentally change the way we teach; the old methods were no longer working. We made the decision to launch a three-year program that would transform instruction, improve engagement, and breathe new life into the curriculum through technology.” They decided to focus on 3 main areas; incorporating web 2.0 tools in classroom instruction, digital citizenship and the feasibility of BYOD for classroom use.

When you look at the case study it is obvious that it required some forward thinking, but also some regard for practical considerations (i.e. long-term viability, community outreach and communication, infrastructure). I like how they referred to the phones as mobile learning devices (MLDs), disabling the calling and texting features so students could concentrate on the tasks at hand. T
he decreased discipline issues can probably be attributed to this decision along with the increased level of student engagement.

A critical step in building success was the decision to bring early adopters on board first so they could help with instructional technology design and to provide models for other teachers to incorporate in their classrooms. What is interesting for me is that Katy ISD is at the same stage as my school board (i.e. introduction of SMART boards) when they decided to embark on this initiative. The fact that the MLDs helped to differentiate learning comes as no surprise and neither should the improved academic results. For me, it just provides further evidence of what students are capable of achieving when they are actively engaged and empowered in the learning process.

What is also clear about the case study is that the MLDs were merely the tools by which Katy ISD were able to achieve their objectives of changing the way students were learning and the ways in which teachers provided learning opportunities.

In the case study, I would have liked to have seen some examples of the instructional strategies and technologies they employed in their classrooms to engage the students. The Digital Citizen (@RChids) and iPads in Primary Education (@dmandrews15) do a really good job of documenting the pedagogical considerations that are required in order to integrate technology to enhance learning.

Innovative teaching with iPads

I had a chance to observe a colleague that used innovative teaching methods and the toontastic iPad app to engage grade 2 students in the task of creating a story retell about the challenges they faced in preparation for their first communion. Students were divided into groups of 4 or 5 and worked together on the iPad to represent a challenge they encountered. These ideas had previously been brainstormed with the class so that each group could spend their time creating animations for a particular situation, as opposed to identifying a challenge. When the project started the teacher gave the students an overview of the features of the toontastic app and the class co-created the success criteria for the animations.

As I walked around to the different groups, I asked the students what steps they took when they did not know how to do something. Their approach to figuring out how to do something was very playful in nature. They just started trying different things to see what effects were created.

The teacher's approach was similar to the flipped classroom model example. The students were empowered to direct their own learning by finding creative and different ways to express what they knew about a topic or situation. This is why I refer to it as innovative teaching because typically the teacher would be the one directing the process as opposed to facilitating it. 

When you look at the teacher's blog you can see the iterative process documented by the educator (@RChids). He recognizes that he needs to reflect on how to best facilitate the process given the specific needs and abilities of the learners with respect to the desired outcomes. 

The teacher referred to success criteria when reviewing the group animations. It gave him an opportunity to provide formative feedback so students know what and how they can improve by referring back to specific items in the success criteria that the class created. This also improves the meta cognition of students as they are becoming more aware of what constitutes a good story re-tell and what they need to do in their animations to meet that criteria.