Going Mobile

It is fitting to me that the last class of my CTER program is called mobile learning, and that I am writing my first blog post while sitting in the living room of a rental house at the beach – true mobile learning.  (Also appropriate, I am having severe access issues, but that is another story).

Over the course of study in this program we have read, discussed, watched and learned about modern, transformative education – education that is tailored to the individual, is “just in time,” and that can take place anywhere or any time.  We have also studied the social constructivist theory of learning that is constructed together through interactions with other people and through experiences. One could argue chicken or egg here, but according to the 2011 Horizon Report that examines near- and far-term trends in education, the demand for individualized, just in time education is driving the rapid development of technologies to support it.  The authors state, “technology can and should support individual choices about access to materials and expertise, amount and type of educational content, and methods of teaching”  (Johnson, et al, 2011).  In other words, education technology should be mobile.

I got a cell phone relatively late in the game – a Samsung flip phone that I used for phone calls only – when my first son was born in 1999.  Since getting an iPhone four years ago, however, I have never looked back.  I am a mobile learner in every sense of the word.

First, I use my phone to ask basic knowledge questions all of the time – from remembering dates and phone numbers to looking up questions my family and I have about myriad topics.  In the last few weeks I have looked up information on baseball, the Olympics, the blackout in India, recipes, traffic and politicians.  Some of that information I will remember, and thus have learned in the traditional sense, while other information I only needed for a short time and will not remember it at all.  My favorite current use for my cell phone is as an Internet hot spot.  I have connected to class through it from a car en route to the mountains, a lakeside in Oregon and a beach in the Bay Area.  This has allowed my mobile learning to be both asynchronous and synchronous.  While I have heard a lot about people ruining their vacations by staying plugged in, I can say that my mobile technology has allowed me to take vacations that would not have been possible while I was enrolled in a masters program – if I couldn’t connect from all of those places, I wouldn’t have been able to be there and be in class a the same time.

According to the Horizon Report (2011), the current game-changer in mobile learning is the tablet, namely “the category-defining blockbuster that is the Apple iPad” (p. 14).  I bought a laptop when I started the CTER program and have loved having it as it has allowed me to access my classes and classmates in all of the aforementioned situations. When my district bought the administrators iPads, at first I used mine very infrequently, mostly because I found the QWERTY touch keyboard very difficult to use, so it was a poor substitute for the laptop.  After lugging my laptop through an airport to a conference last November and seeing my friend stick her iPad in her purse, I decided to give it another try.  I bought a keyboard/case for the iPad and left the laptop at home for the ISTE conference this spring, and now I am hooked.

I can easily read and annotate books, browse the Internet, email, update my calendar, take pictures or video – whatever I need – on my iPad.  After using my iPad during the conference, I find myself reaching to manipulate the screen on my computer, and feel frustrated that I can’t.

As an Assistant Principal, one of my most often received discipline referrals is for cell phones – obviously current school policy hasn’t caught up with the way students are using them.  In a previous blog post, I have made the case for expanding cell phone policies to allow students to use them, and the name of this blog suggests that there is no way we’re going to beat the mobile device tsunami, so we better start learning how to leverage their capabilities in our schools.  Current research (Wallace, 2011) shows that young people develop emotional attachments to their phones, finding that the devices themselves give them status, and the connections they form using them give them security and a feeling of social inclusion.  Wallace (2011) notes that in addition to being low cost and individualized, cell phones allow for spaced learning – learning that can take place spaced out over time – in places that wouldn’t normally be learning places such as riding the bus or standing in line.

What I will be looking at in this class is how to create more formal mobile learning opportunities for teachers and staff members.  Individualized, just in time learning is as important for adults as it is for students, but more often with adults I see a “fear” barrier regarding technology.  Pew research (Zickuhr, 2011) shows that 85% of all American adults own a cell phone, 95% of millennials (ages 18-35).  With most adults used to using a cell phone, enabling mobile learning through that phone would be a good first step towards engaging teachers with educational technology, and I look forward to considering ways to make that happen.


Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Haywood, K., (2011).  The NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition.  Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.

Wallace, P.  (2011, Winter). “M-Learning: Promises, Perils, and Challenges for K-12 Education.  New Horizons for Learning.  Johns Hopkins University School of Education online journal.  Retrieved online from http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/Journals/Winter2011/Wallace

Zickuhr, K.  (2011).  Generations and their gadgets.  Pew Internet & American Life Project.   Retrieved online at http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Generations-and-gadgets/Overview.aspx


About Katy Foster

I am an Assistant Principal in Larkspur, CA. I blog to publicly reflect on my own learning in leadership.
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3 Responses to Going Mobile

  1. Pingback: Going Mobile | ifyoucantbeatem | Leadership for Mobile Learning | Scoop.it

  2. Pingback: Going Mobile | ifyoucantbeatem | M-learning, E-Learning, and Technical Communications | Scoop.it

  3. Pingback: Leadership for Mobile Learning Resources (weekly) | Courses Newsadmission news | study abroad | school courses | college courses

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