Mobile Learning Success Hinges on Parent Involvement

student_ipad_school - 080 by flickingerbrad, on Flickr

student_ipad_school – 080 by flickingerbrad, on Flickr

If the Los Angeles iPad fiasco has taught us anything, it’s that while we can’t control what students do at home with their school-issued mobile devices, we do need to plan for it. That’s why getting buy-in from parents and the community is a critical element of any mobile learning program.

Kids spend the majority of their time outside of school, after all. Without parental involvement, we can’t take full advantage of the 24/7 learning opportunities mobile devices afford. And teaching kids to be good digital citizens is all but impossible unless parents reinforce the lesson at home.

Of course, getting parents on board is the tricky part — especially those who still live mostly nondigital lifestyles. Monica Burton, principal of Patrick F. Healy Middle School in East Orange, N.J., will share strategies for making families and community members partners in your mobile learning initiative in an upcoming webinar on Bridging the Gap between School and Home with Mobile Devices.

“I think you have to promote (mobile learning) throughout the community,” said Burton, whose school has just launched a mobile learning program with the help of a Verizon Innovative Learning Schools grant.

Mobile-Learning-webinar“We did a lot to try to get the community involved, including talking to parents and students. We even got the mayor involved. Everyone seems to very much want the program to succeed.”

She offered the following advice to get parents excited about mobile learning:

Show the difference mobile technology makes. When meeting with parents about her school’s technology plan, Burton used concrete examples to illustrate the value of mobile devices in the classroom. By discussing the cost of investing in textbooks versus tablets and comparing the weight of a mobile device to the weight of the textbooks in a child’s backpack, she was able to convince 98 percent of the parents at her school to support mobile learning.

Help parents develop their technology skills. Many parents are uncomfortable with the idea of mobile learning simply because they lack the technological prowess to assist their children. Burton helped ease this discomfort by offering to teach parents how to use the technology available at her school. She also explained to them that it’s OK if their kids run circles around them with technology. “I think it’s exciting to see a child working with technology in ways you don’t know how,” she said.

Engage parents in their children’s learning. Keep communicating with parents throughout the year about what students are doing with their mobile devices. Suggest questions families can use to initiate conversations about what the kids are working on, and invite parent to shadow their children at school to see the technology in action.

Ultimately, Burton said, encouraging parent involvement is largely a matter of “being persistent and consistent in explaining why this is important and why they have to help us.” With community support, your mobile learning program is more likely to make a positive impact — and less likely to make negative news headlines.

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