Comment Blog 29 June, 2018

The Power of Mobility in Education

Last week saw calls to ban mobile phones in schools from the Ofsted Chief and the Digital Secretary. However, mobiles are a part of our everyday lives that we seem to spend ever-more time on.

Mobile technology, making the Internet far more accessible to people on the move, has had the most transformative impact on the economy since the printing press. Just as there were those who resisted innovation in the days of printing press, sceptics view the use of technology in education with suspicion.

As educators, it is important for us to overcome these doubts. The way to do this is to understand the difference between mobility and portability. This distinction has made technology a tool to empower teachers and improve pupil outcomes.

Portable devices such as laptops, require a table and a desk in order for it to be used. They rarely have an App Store to update software for new functionality and the device remains pretty much the same throughout its lifetime. These devices may be effective for Office use, like email and browsing, but investment in this type of technology quite often limits the use of technology to a ‘presentation at the front of the classroom’.

Mobile devices are different. They allow for more movement and flexibility that create operational efficiencies in a school, saving 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 per cent.

Mobile devices typically have a prolific App Store. This is a game changer in education. Historically, teachers would go through a time-consuming process to have software installed on their devices. Access to an App Store allows teachers to determine the pedagogical value of software, enabling them to compare different products based on their needs.

In my own experience at The Olive Tree School in Bolton, mobile technology is empowering teachers to transform feedback given to pupils. All teachers use voice feedback rather than having to take books home and spend hours marking. This is improving the relationship between teachers and pupils because the voice feedback is personalised and can be replayed at home, helping to engage and inform parents.

This aspect increases transparency because parents have a better sense of the quality of education their children are receiving. This accountability can drive up school standards. But getting to this point requires school leadership embracing mobiles as an opportunity, ensuring every child at the school has the chance to benefit and that staff receive continuing professional development to make the most of new technology.

Investment in mobile tools is investment in the development of the school workforce. As the technology develops and becomes better, the school workforce also gains the opportunity to learn new tools that will allow them to do things that were simply not possible in the past.