Transforming EDU Rise of the Mobile

2015-09-06_2251Highlights from “Transforming EDU Rise of the Mobile”: this session deals with “Mobility and the move of mobility into the K-12 space” and highlights of the session include the following participants’ contributions:



2015-09-06_2251_001John Ittelson (Professor: CSU Monterey Bay)

Mike Guerena (President: ThinkWrite; Director of instructional technology of a school district in California)

Kristin Townsend (National Program Director, Education: Veriozon Foundation)

Dr. Devin Vodicka (Superintendent: Vista Unified School District)

Brian OliverSmith (CEO and Co-Founder: Urban Plant Mobile)


Vista Unified School District

Desire to innovate at school district level. This led to a link with the Veriozon Foundation.

90% of the families in this Vista Unified School District had not connectivity at all at home.

Each student in two schools in that district received an iPad with built-in connectivity. Purpose is 1 to 1 device to learner. Also 7 by 24 connectivity so that learning can be extended beyond the school.


What is Veriozon’s interest and how did they find the school? Response to a $100 million Connected Commitment from ten companies towards education. This is part of The Digital Promise. This was authorised by Congress and is a non-profit with its focus on the intersection research, innovation, entrepreneurship and education, and how all of these pieces come together to improve the digital learning that is taking place in classrooms. Being led by Karen Cater who previously was the head of Educational Technology at the Department of Education.

Veriozen asked Digital Promise if they could help them identify eight schools across the country in order to outfit the schools with technology, tablets for each student in the middle schools, and all of the tablets have two years’ worth of 5 GB per month internet access. The goal was to place all students on the same playing field – they have eliminated the digital divide, any stigma or opportunity. They have two schools in California, two each outside of Chicago, Philadelphia, Ralley. All of the schools are in high-poverty areas.


ThinkWrite’s role is in putting machines in the hands of students. Challenges. You have to start with learning and learning goals. You cannot start with an iPad. We knew that technology can provide feedback, can provide teachers data; can scaffold creative applications for students – all that lead to the decision that the iPad is the best device. All students in his district K to 6 has an iPad. Challenges: technical issues, e.g. wireless issues; issues with some of the digital content providers. All curriculum content is digital and there’s no more textbooks – but when there’s technical issues with that, it freaks out teachers. You have to deal with that right away. Because teachers invest a lot of themselves in changing their own paradigms, they now rely on technology and you have to make sure that 100% of that technology’s working. Any issues with the technology leads to loss of instructional time. Our upper-grade kids fix everything. Once you have the technology out, you are no longer evaluating technology. Once you have the curriculum in place, you are no longer evaluating curriculum. Now it is about depth. Everyone has the resources now, now it is all about doing professional development, learning how these tools can transform the classroom, getting our teachers to talk less in the classroom, getting our learning more personalised. My role is not IT, but rather educational technology – my focus is all the learning that happens in the classroom. The teacher said, “Every morning I look at the data from the previous day and I can now restructure my classroom. Instead of having my lesson plan designed out for the week, I now have it individualised and modified so that I know what to hit, I know what my kids are learning, I know if they all got it, I am not going to spend much time on it.”

Urban Plant Mobile

You seem to have more of a relationship with the providers. Most of your stuff is done outside of schools, in the home, not in classroom settings? Yes, we have two product lines. Our mobile products are all done outside the classroom. UrbanEnglish, our mobile literacy we did in Uganda with a few thousand mothers, was all done with the mobile networks. Our philosophy is going back to the Greeks where learning is absolutely social, but it’s not tied to a place. Socrates was mobile. Wasn’t tied to a structure. Learning is social and personal. It reaches every mobile device worldwide. We have to work with the carriers. They solve connectivity problems.

Our other product is WritingPlanet go over web browsers. In school settings globally. We sponsored a national writing competition in Pakistan. We take a different approach than the US districts. They need to work on control. We don’t work on control – we work on the assumption that it’s going to be uneven and we cannot control that. We cannot solve what data plan or device someone’s on. We make sure that our product is in as many formats as possible to work on as many devices as possible. We focus more on strategy.

Big data? We have good data of our use worldwide. We consider UrbanEnglish not to do well if it doesn’t hit over 10 000 students with the first sixty days. We launched in Iraq and had 30 000 students within forty days.

We take the best that we can find in the US and see if we can innovate it for the international market. We also look at places like Singapore. We try to take the best practise. But I think of education a bit differently. The way we look at water – in the US we put stuff in it, – internationally they just need the water. They don’t need different styles. Our goal: how do we take the most scalable technology that we have at the moment, which is mobile, and look for new models. Those kids won’t go to school, but they will have a mobile phone.

We did an SATRemix, where you study vocabulary every day by audio – we gave it to all of the juniors in a specific district and did a study on the improvement. Interesting originally we had designed it to be in just two schools – we had parents meetings and so many parents said what about my son or daughter in the other schools. We stopped all conversations about whether they have a mobile phone or connectivity – we worry whether we should give it to all juniors as there was such a hunger.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s