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While some celebrate it and others denounce its value, there is no question that portable devices such as tablets and smartphones are enabling teaching and learning to extend beyond the traditional classroom. Guest blogger Jan Bray, chief strategist and founder of Bray Strategies, national strategic consultant for Innovate+Educate, and former executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), explains how students can thrive in this new mobile learning space, and how we can all play a role in ensuring quality, “student-tested, teacher-approved” mobile learning technology.

Mobile Learning is Here to Stay

Here's what we know: in the fifth grade, student engagement in school is around 80 percent, but by the eighth grade it has dropped off to 40 percent. Research also shows us that mobile learners study 40 minutes more each week by studying everywhere they go and students with smartphones are twice as likely to study between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. So, not surprisingly, student engagement is directly aligned to the medium they are most connected to.

We also know that over 50 percent of teachers believe that mobile learning will improve students' ability to engage in classroom material, class to home communications, personalized learning, and students' ability to review materials anytime. So why are some schools banning mobile technology? It's time to meet students where they are and with the medium in which they're already engaged. But, just giving teachers and students access to mobile technology and mobile learning resources doesn't guarantee a high-quality learning environment or that the students will be more engaged just because it is digital.

Addressing the Need for High-Quality Mobile Learning Technology

Consider that in 2012 alone, the mobile learning product market reached $1.4 billion in revenue. How are schools and teachers supposed to determine which tools are going to be effective, easy to use, relevant to content, and engaging to their students? On the flip side, in such a saturated market, how do mobile app developers know what products are most needed?

Imagine what could be possible if teachers and mobile app developers worked together to bring “student-tested” and “teacher-approved” learning apps to market? Imagine what would be possible if, by connecting teachers and mobile app developers to collaborate BEFORE their products go to market, we can flip the traditional model and start to #disrupttheclassroom in a positive way for the future of our children's education and careers!

The Mobile Learning Partners (MLP) Initiative

The Verizon Foundation is serving as an agent of change through their Mobile Learning Partners (MLP) Initiative. In partnership with Innovate+Educate, the MLP Initiative is connecting classrooms and nonprofit mobile app developers to test and refine their beta-stage mobile apps in a live classroom environment.

Three underserved schools in New York, NY; Louisville, KY; Rock Hill, SC; and Las Vegas, NV; will receive $20,000 in funding to integrate a beta-stage mobile app into their curriculum. The MLP project is recruiting schools in these regions through October 1, 2014.

In addition, MLP recently launched a national challenge for nonprofit mobile app developers to compete to have their apps selected for testing in the chosen schools.

Twelve winning apps will be chosen and the developers will each receive $20,000 in funding support during this pilot project. Three of the participating app developers will win up to $100,000 in go-to-market funding from the Verizon Foundation at the end of the pilot year.

The goal of MLP is to empower students and teachers to have a direct say in the development of mobile learning tools that are engaging, relevant, experiential and ultimately increase student performance while shifting both the way teachers teach and the tools they use to teach with. MLP also hopes to empower mobile app developers to create high quality and informed products for the market.

Get Involved

Together we can build a movement of educators, technology enthusiasts, students, parents and communities to build a better digital future for all of us.

I invite you to #disrupttheclassroom by joining Mobile Learning Partners initiative :

About the Author

Janet Bray

Janet Bray is chief strategist and founder of Bray Strategies and a national strategic consultant for Innovate+Educate, a nonprofit organization dedicated to implementing research-based strategies to close the national skills gap and bridge the opportunity divide. Prior to this, she served for over 11 years as executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), where she managed staff and oversaw the development of program services for the organization’s 30,000 members and the CTE profession at large.  


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