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Learn how to drive learning with mobile tech

By Team ISTE
March 20, 2015
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As an Algebra II teacher at Pittsburgh Perry High School, Kalpana Ramgopal wanted to integrate technology into her classroom. But she didn’t know which devices and apps would be a good fit for her students, much less how to use them in ways that were pedagogically sound.

After taking an intensive mobile technology course with a team of colleagues, Ramgopal is now on her way to preparing her students for the digital world and making her own teaching more manageable and efficient.

Ramgopal and eight of her peers from Pittsburgh Perry High completed the Verizon Mobile Learning Academy (VMLA) in December. In addition to completing online modules, the team met regularly after school to discuss their assignments and share their own experiences with technology in the classroom.

As schools look at implementing all sorts of devices in their classrooms, they often overlook a key component: making sure teachers know how to effectively use these technologies to enhance learning.

VMLA-quote-4-7Take Pittsburgh Perry High School. The school bought 450 iPads for students, but the hardware wasn’t enough. School leaders knew they had to train the teachers first. In came VMLA to the rescue.

ISTE is partnering with the Verizon Foundation and Johns Hopkins University Center for Technology in Education to offer the five-module academy to teams of educators for free. But it’s not a cake walk.

Teams of teachers and school leaders commit to 10 weeks of assignments and are expected to complete projects along the way. On top of that, teams must meet regularly to discuss the lessons and collaborate on action plans. Each team also works with an instructional consultant who provides support throughout the academy.

Participants use the learning management system Canvas for their coursework and Google+ to interact with each other and peers from other participating schools. The goal is create an educational environment where mobile technology plays a vital role in improving student achievement.

Steve Monihan, a social studies teacher at Barnstable High School in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, said the training was worth the time and effort.

“If you’re committed to improving yourself as a professional educator, you’ll make the time to be part of the academy experience,” he said. “It’s a chance to learn from people who have different levels of technology experience and from educators who have experimented with innovative ways to bring mobile technology into the classroom environment.”

For many teachers, the time required for VMLA is no more than what they spend on lesson planning. Eventually, learning to use mobile technology effectively will streamline teaching and save time.

For example, Monihan learned how to simplify homework grading. He used to bring mountains of papers home to grade and correct every evening, only to haul them back to school the next day to return to students. He now stores all the work in the cloud and uses his iPad to read assignments and provide feedback.

Monihan and Ramgopal agree that VMLA has transformed the way they teach and the way they interact with their students. It’s also changed the way they work with their colleagues, which in turn has made them better teachers.

“The collaboration I have experienced with teachers on the team has allowed me to reflect and study my classroom practices, and has enabled revision and refinement to my lessons to increase student engagement,” Ramgopal said. “If it were not for the academy, this would not have been possible.”

Is your school ready to transform learning and teaching by going mobile? The next Verizon Mobile Learning Academy begins July 20. Gather a team of 5-10 educators from your school and apply by July 6 to be considered for this free professional learning. Each team must have one administrator, one tech coach (or equivalent) and 3-8 teachers.