Healthcare compliances training and discussion blog

Archive for November, 2010

Mobile Safety and Teen Perspectives

PEW has some interesting research on what teenagers think about mobile phone safety. Below is a PowerPoint presentation from senior research specialist at PEW Amanda Lenhart that show some recent statistics.


  • 58% of teens from schools that forbid cell phones use them during class anyway
  • 31% of teens that take their cell phones to school send text messages during class everyday
  • 4% of teens age 12-17 have sent a “sext message”
  • 15% of teens age 12-17 have received a “sext message”
  • 8% of older teens sent “sext messages”, 30% of older teens received them
  • No gender difference in sending or receiving “sext messages”
  • 52% of teens talk while driving a car
  • 34% of teens text while driving a car
  • 26% of teens have been bullied via text message
  • Girls text message more than boys

Challenges in Mobile Learning

Let us look at some of the main concerns faced by educationists and m-learning advocates and methods by which these issues may be overcome.

What if my teachers and staff are not tech savvy?

One of the key criteria for any new technological to be successful is that it needs to be easy to learn, with immediate benefits. Mobile phones are not new technology. Smartphones are designed to be intuitive and do not require special training to use.

What may require some hand holding is the use of software that will enable your teachers to deliver customized content to student mobile devices. While these are designed to be easy to use, as with any new software there will be a small learning period during which teachers will become more familiar with the software features. Internet browsing and basic formatting skills are important, but they are not critical to be able to offer mobile learning to students.

If your teachers are already browsing the net, emailing and creating documents and presentations with ease, they will have no trouble adapting to mobile learning applications.

Will students use it to cheat?

Let’s face it. Some students will always try and cheat. Be it crib notes, or old-fashioned copying, cheating does occur. Mobile learning enables students to utilize their studying time effectively by providing bite-sized chunks of material in a way that can be easily reviewed. It does not facilitate cheating.

While there is evidence that mobiles are being increasingly used by students to cheat, implementing m-learning pedagogies will not necessarily raise the number of cheaters.

To overcome cheating issues, many schools and educational institutions prohibit students from bringing mobile phones into the exam hall, or at the very least have them switched off. Warnings and penalties can deter cheaters, but vigilance during examinations for all types of cheating including mobile phone usage will just have to continue.

Will learning material need to be reformatted?

Most mobile phones are compatible with standard text, music and video formats available today. If reformatting is required it would usually be to standardize your formats and can probably be done on your own computer.

Based on your existing material, how you package your content for mobile phone delivery is up to you. Sometimes it could be as easy as recording a lecture or copy-pasting a laboratory process. The advantage of mobile learning is that the small screen let’s you look only to the important points that need to be reviewed. For multiple choice exam preparation like the SATs, you can use m-learning software like Mobl21, which enable you to create quizzes and vocabulary flashcards easily, and supports popular file formats add media like audio and video.

Isn’t this just a high-tech package for the same old dull and boring content?

With evolving learning tools, pedagogies must evolve too. From drawing on chalkboards to using OHPs (Overhead Screen Projectors), playing alphabet songs to computer learning, our methods of instruction change with changing technologies.

While current learning pedagogies are still trying to incorporate mobile learning methods, it is definite that today’s students lean more towards active discovery as opposed to age-old passive absorption. And mobile learning is all about providing interactivity in learning.

If the goal is education, content cannot be “dull and boring”. Learning and learning material must be dynamic for it to be assimilated by the information-overloaded students of today.

Flashcards, quizzes, podcasts, videos, historical speeches, graphic timelines, real-time global collaboration, satellite maps… a whole interactive encyclopedia of information is available in a few clicks. Using it effectively just requires some creative application.

What about the digital divide? Not every student is tech savvy.

While it is valid that some students still have no access to technology, what is also true is that mobile technology is now globally available and pervading every aspect of our lives.

In the 2009 Parent-Teen Cell Phone Survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, 75% of 12-17-year-olds now own cell phones (up from 45% in 2004).

Implementation of m-learning methods early in schools is also an effective way to overcome this digital gap. Classrooms provide the ideal equal learning ground, with students able to mimic peers and quickly learn from each other. Mobile learning will also enable students to exchange data, find information and collaborate, all vital skills for today’s wired world.

How will I measure learning effectiveness?

The same way you do today. Ask questions on lessons that have been revised, have students write papers and assign projects which require subject understanding to be completed.

Additionally choose mobile learning applications that enable you to create content which you know will be of value to your students. Some applications, like Mobl21 provide you with the flexibility to create notes and flashcards and even monitor which learning material your students are working on.

While new technologies are always exciting, creating the habit of using the mobile phone for learning, requires effort and persistence on the part of both the teacher and the student.


7 Questions to Consider when Evaluating Mobile Technology in Education

When evaluating mobile technology for its use in education, these 7 questions should guide you towards well-made decisions.  The trick will be in making a decision that strikes a balance amongst all your answers.

Although there are many factors to address prior to making any decisions relating to mobile technology in education, I consider these 7 questions to be most important:

1. What provides the most learning gains and opportunities?

Successful integration boils down to performance gains of students and professional development of teachers.  If your proposed mobile technology can’t do either of these very well, scrap it and look for something else.  In my opinion, this is the first and most important criterion to consider.  If this question can’t be satisfactorily addressed, start brainstorming for new ideas.

2. What requires the least expenditure of student & teacher time?

You’ll find it easier to gain support if the learning curve isn’t very steep.  Try and find mobile technology that builds on learners’ prior knowledge.

3. What requires the least amount of school funds for purchase?

Like most educators, I’d like iPads for every student in our school, too.  But I’m not holding my breath. Obviously, affordability is a huge determining factor when deciding what mobile technology to integrate in your school or classroom.  Check your balance sheet before committing to major purchases, and keep in mind that expensive technology is also a gateway opportunity for companies to try and sell you even more expensive technology to supplement their product.

4. Is there a large community supporting it?

Remember Sega’s Dreamcast?  It had great potential, but ultimately failed because of the lack of support.  Bearing that in mind, this question doesn’t just apply to mobile technology.  Make sure the software or hardware you’re evaluating has wide community support that will promote longevity.

That being considered, check out the current trends of the mobile technology you’re speculating about – try not to integrate anything that has waning support.

5. Can scalability be supported?

Can you (as a teacher or administrator) ensure that support will be provided once your mobile technology goes mainstream into the classroom?  It may be easy for you to use, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy for everyone to use.  Simplicity should be a goal, along with a strong support team to address unforeseen issues.

6. Does it respect privacy laws specific to education?

Ensure your proposed mobile technology doesn’t violate FERPA or any other local and federal policies.  No matter how good your technology may be, if isn’t aligned with privacy laws (or all laws for that matter), it isn’t allowable.

7. What’s the expected life cycle before necessary upgrades?

With free software, this isn’t really an issue; however, it’s a huge issue with mobile hardware.  Of course, you could play into this factor and make it work in your favor.  Today, it’s far cheaper to buy the older iPod Touch models than it was three years ago, which is still receiving continued support through the Apple App Store.

Please consider this is not an exhaustive list.  Additionally, this only reflects my personal opinions as to what qualifies as the most important criteria to observe prior to integrating mobile technology in education.

Are there any other important factors to consider that I didn’t address?  Feel free to add your comments below.

What do I believe strikes the best balance amongst all these factors?  Check back tomorrow!


Mobile Learning on Campus: Balancing on the Cutting Edge

Universities that roll out campuswide mobile initiatives say they are sending a message that they are unafraid to experiment with technology.

As soon as the Illinois Institute of Technology announced last May that it would be giving all 400 incoming freshmen Apple iPads, a lively debate broke out online at (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) between people who saw it as a marketing gimmick to attract students and others who believed it was an honest attempt to implement a new and useful educational technology.

Mike Gosz, IIT’s vice provost for undergraduate affairs, has heard sarcastic comments about the project, and he readily admits that the desire to be seen as an innovative campus played a role in the decision. “We are the Illinois Institute of Technology,” he points out. “We need to be at the forefront of technological development. That message needs to be made clear to prospective students, and that was part of the decision.”

Yvonne Belanger, head of assessment and planning for Perkins Library and the Center for Instructional Technology at Duke University (NC), says her school’s distribution of iPods to more than 1,600 entering first-year students in 2004 was also done, in part, to demonstrate that the university is willing to take risks and experiment with new technologies.

So she is sympathetic to academic officials who are criticized for rapid deployment of new tech tools. “We had people say the iPod rollout was a gimmick too,” she recalls. “People actually asked if our admissions went up because of it—as if people were going to make a $40,000-a-year educational investment based on a $150 iPod.”

Bill Rankin, of Abilene Christian University (TX), agrees with Belanger that students are less interested in the hardware giveaway than in what a mobile initiative says about the school’s willingness to experiment.

Rankin is in a position to know about these things. As director of mobile learning at ACU, he oversees the campus’s much-touted initiative that gave iPhones and iPod Touches to incoming freshmen and faculty members. (The program won a 2008 Campus Technology Innovators award;

“The reason students are excited about this iPhone program is not because it’s like getting a free toaster,” Rankin told CT last year. “They like it that we are actually thinking about the future of education. We’re saying to them, ‘Come study with us and help define the future of education.’ They like being active participants in that discovery.”4

Relevant to the Future

With Title III grants from the Department of Education, Seton Hill University (PA) has been working on infusing the latest technology into the classroom for several years, including creating labs for faculty to explore emerging technologies and experiment with Second Life, as well as investing in ubiquitous WiFi. In the same vein, the Griffin Technology Advantage program, Seton Hill’s campuswide iPad initiative launched this fall, provides incoming students with an iPad and a MacBook Pro that students will take with them upon graduation. Students pay a $500-per-semester technology fee, which also helps pay for an on-campus Apple Certified Service Center and a completely wireless campus.

These kinds of efforts have brought Seton Hill notice, including making the IvyWise (a college-admissions counseling service) top five list of schools that leverage the power of mobile devices. Yet Seton Hill President JoAnne Boyle is emphatic that marketing and recruitment were not strong motivators behind the program. “Our number one motivation was the potential to address individual students’ ability to acquire knowledge and think,” she says.

In Duke’s case, Belanger notes that the school “didn’t have any specific academic goals” for its iPod initiative, but rather “wanted to see what interesting uses of the technology would develop.” That effort has, in fact, evolved into the Duke Digital Initiative, a multiyear program that allows faculty to experiment with new and emerging technologies.

This past fall, when George Fox University (OR) offered students a choice between receiving a MacBook or an iPad, the program was motivated by twin desires: to be future-oriented and to bolster the school’s ongoing major technology initiative.

For the last few years, George Fox administrators have been getting pressure from some parents and other constituents to downsize or eliminate the school’s Connected Across Campus initiative, which has expanded the campus’s WiFi infrastructure and put a MacBook in each student’s hands since 2008. (Previously it had offered a PC or an Apple laptop for several years; the all-Apple environment has proven much easier to provide consistent tech support.)

As CIO Greg Smith explains, the program is included in the school’s tuition costs, yet the laptop has increasingly become a commodity that most students bring to campus with them. “People ask, why spend money on it that could be spent on something else.”

Throwing an iPad into the mix might seem counterintuitive, but Smith thinks the addition of the device moves the Connected Across Campus program forward. “I pushed for including the iPad option as a step that might be a transition away from the laptop program, and one that is more relevant to the future college student.”

Not Without Challenges

Parental grumbling notwithstanding, Smith has found that the Connected Across Campus program has been an effective recruiting tool for prospective students. But leveraging the iPad initiative in recruitment meant making the decision last February, before the iPad was formally introduced. “We hadn’t done any hands-on with it,” he admits. That early decision had an impact on student adoption: Students had to announce their choice by July 15, and only 8 percent opted for the iPad over the MacBook.

Even schools that launched their programs after the iPad’s release still felt overwhelmed entering into such new territory. IIT’s Gosz remembers the excitement on his campus last May when administrators announced the iPad program. “It was like jumping out of an airplane and then figuring out how your parachute works,” he says.

Smith concedes that there are iPad mobile support issues for the George Fox IT team. For instance, iPads work off WiFi, so for freshmen who have an iPad only, wireless access can be an issue in some of the older dorms on campus. In those cases, IT helps students set up their own WiFi networks under its guidelines, as it continues to expand WiFi coverage.

Also, unlike MacBooks, which the university owns, the iPads belong to George Fox students. “We have no control over their software usage,” Smith says. “The only thing we do is give them an iTunes gift card and encourage them to buy iWorks, but the students will be responsible for all other iPad applications.”

Duke’s Belanger says the university’s 2004 iPod initiative taught her the need to carefully assess the hands-on IT support such a rollout requires. “We hadn’t anticipated how much training the students would need,” she recalls. “We thought they would automatically know how to use it, but we had to hold workshops and training sessions.”

There were other unexpected challenges. Duke preloaded iPods with information about the campus and a recorded greeting from provost. As soon as students turned on their iPods and synced them to their computers, many accidentally erased all that content. “It was disheartening, but kind of amusing,” Belanger says wryly.

Improving the Academic Experience

Technological glitches aside, the administrators who ventured into these campuswide mobile initiatives have both high and realistic hopes for their impact on both students’ and faculty’s academic experiences.

The IIT project, for example, evolved from an earlier plan to improve customer service for students. Surveys had indicated students wanted better tools to navigate their way around the campus and its administrative systems. IIT was planning to create a campus-specific app and give iPods to all incoming freshmen and transfer students. But after seeing a demo of the iPad, and its price point relative to the iPod Touch, campus executives switched gears and gave all 450 first-year students iPads instead. The IIT app provides students with access to news, events, maps, and course listings. It will also enable the university to push emergency alerts directly to iPod, iPhone, and iPad devices.

Gosz, who is leading the implementation, says the iPads are already changing things at IIT. In the summer, 20 faculty members who work with freshmen received iPads and attended workshops put on by Apple. Faculty members have set up a social networking group for discussions on how to use iPads in class. In one discussion, a civil engineering professor described how students could use the iPad as a GPS device to map the campus. A graphic design professor is exploring 3D modeling capabilities. The school is adopting Blackboard Mobile Learn and Wolfram’s Mathematica for the iPad.

At George Fox, the iPad thus far has been embraced more by liberal arts faculty than those teaching science and engineering courses, which might require Windows capabilities, Smith reports. The devices are already in use by a juniors abroad program in Paris. Two professors described to Smith sitting on the banks of the Seine waiting to take students to the Louvre. One was giving a talk about what they were going to see. The other was pulling up art images on the iPad and passing it around for the students to view. “The device is great in that type of social setting,” he says.

Smith acknowledges that the iPad’s potential as an e-reader was an early selling point but because textbook publishers’ business plans are still developing, “this is essentially a pilot project.” He adds, “It is a tremendous opportunity to study how [the iPads] might impact teaching and learning.”

Seton Hill’s Boyle is equally sanguine about the school’s mobile initiative. “We think 20 percent of courses will be affected by iPads this year,” she says. She envisions students downloading books to their iPads and using Evernote, a note-taking program that syncs notes, photos, and voice memos with their computers. “But we are just beginning. We will have more stories to tell later.”

And Boyle bristles when she hears the iPad referred to as a gadget. “Nothing drives me crazier,” she says. “We think of it as a critical learning tool that will complement other tools that students use. We wouldn’t have made this type of investment in a gadget.”

But she insists she is not starry-eyed about the iPad. “We have said to Apple we will drop you in a minute if something better comes along,” Boyle says. “We are not wed to the iPad forever. We are wed to the idea of using the best technology we can find.”

Duke’s Belanger would approve such sentiment and offers a bit of cautionary guidance. “We don’t always know which direction to go to keep pushing the envelope,” she says. “But these schools that are taking the leap now with iPads need to know that faculty and students will expect them to keep it up and stay on the cutting edge.”


Technology Can Be a Tool for Student Success, and a Distraction at Home

Smartphones, laptops and Internet access are becoming so ubiquitous that places without them, such as some U.S. grade schools, seem backward by comparison.

Much fanfare has been made about the digital divide — the gap between those who have access to IT and those who have very little access or none at all.

Researchers study this divide, often at the grade-school level, to see how technology — or a lack thereof — affects student performance. The focus often is on how broadband access and computers impact students’ work on campus, although recent research incorporates the digital divide’s impacts in students’ after-school and home lives.

Surprisingly some researchers are finding that the digital divide’s impact at home may not be as great as is commonly assumed.

“The problem that kids are facing is that when high-speed Internet service comes into their home, it’s leading them to do things like play games online, and chat or Facebook with their friends — and it’s actually leading them to spend less time on their homework,” said Jacob Vigdor, professor of public policy and economics at Duke University.

“We see that when broadband Internet service comes into a student’s ZIP code, the amount of time they report spending using their computers for school work actually declined,” he said.

Vigdor and his colleague, professor Helen Ladd, wrote a paper on the subject, Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement, that was published in June on behalf of the National Bureau of Economic Research. They studied the results of surveys conducted by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, analyzing what happens to children when they go from no computer at home to an environment where technology is accessible.

Vigdor and Ladd discovered that technology can be a distraction when there’s studying and homework to do. “The basic thing that we want to figure out is, when you gain computer access as a child, what does it do? What are the impacts of that?” Vigdor said.

Digital Distractions

The professors examined the test scores of surveyed students in fifth through eighth grades before and after they reported obtaining home computers.

They wrote that there was very little evidence in existing research to support a positive relationship between computer access at home and academic outcomes. In addition, Vigdor and Ladd analyzed North Carolina public school students’ access to broadband between 2000 and 2005. At the beginning of the surveyed period, 58,000 households had a broadband subscription; by the end, 1.1 million had broadband subscriptions. The researchers didn’t find a positive relationship between the expansion and the time students spent studying at home.

In fact, the opposite might be true: School performance seems to decrease. The introduction of high-speed Internet service was associated with lower math and reading test scores in middle grades, and also less frequent self-reported computer use for homework. The researchers wrote in the report that broadband Internet access “appears to crowd out studying effort, presumably by introducing new options for recreational use by students and other family members.”

And there are arguments going either way, Vigdor said. “In theory, you could use the Internet to help do homework or to help do your term papers, or something like that,” he said. “On the other hand, the Internet enables you to do a lot of things that more or less waste time and distract from your schoolwork. We weren’t sure which horse was going to win that race.”

The goal of many digital divide research projects is to analyze those who have computers and broadband access and those who don’t. Since wealthier families usually have the most technology, it often boils down to an analysis of rich versus poor. By zeroing in on kids before and after their families acquired the technology, Vigdor and Ladd planned to find a unique sampling of subjects.

After researching the topic, Vigdor believes that the correlation between income and the digital divide isn’t the whole story, although it may be an indicator of other crucial factors that affect the relationship between students and technology. For example, the children who have computers at home tend to be wealthier. “They’re more likely to have books at home,” he said. “They’re more likely to have parents who can help them with their homework.”

A Holistic Approach

Another factor is parental supervision, or other forms of guidance and support, in students’ lives. That can make a huge difference in how digital tools are applied, as researchers in the United Kingdom discovered a few years ago. The Information Communication Technology (ICT) Test Bed project ran from 2002 to 2006, and was funded by the British government to explore how ICT could support education reform. The government invested 34 million pounds (US $53 million) to supply computer equipment to 28 schools in relatively poor communities. But the project leaders didn’t just blindly fork over hardware and software — the funding supported technical support and training for school staff.

In some cases, the support also extended to households. “Our schools in the northeast of England had a laptop loan policy. This was to aid more financially disadvantaged households. However, several schools went beyond loans and had parent and child technology classes,” said professor Jean Underwood, an educator in Nottingham Trent University’s Division of Psychology. Underwood was one of the lead researchers on the project, which was published in a June 2007 report.

“This proved an effective model in many ways,” she said. “It increased parental engagement with the schools; it reduced technology damage.”

Not everything has gone smoothly since the project’s inception. Rolling out loaned computers was time consuming and cost prohibitive, and the planning was tough. They spent more money than they wanted to on software licenses and provisioning loaned equipment for Internet access, especially in homes that lacked land line phones. As time has passed, however, the emergent ubiquity of Internet connectivity and computer use in industrialized society has made many efforts to bridge the digital divide redundant. More than 90 percent of the test bed students now have ICT access at home, and students at all grade levels reported some use of home computing for homework. The percentage of students’ parents in the test bed project who had a computer at home has increased steadily over three years — from 79 percent in 2003, to 85 percent in 2004, to 92 percent in 2005.

Underwood said those students made time for both school work and play time on the computers.

“There may have been some overreporting, but two to three hours of homework is the norm in English secondary schools,” she said. “And teachers were placing homework on the Net using the schools’ virtual learning environment.”

In some setups, students could send work to the school electronically instead of having to carry it with them, so convenience was a motivating factor. “Of course the kids goofed around as well,” Underwood said. “But if you have to do the work, having it professionally presented and being able to find stuff fast encourages technology use.”


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