Voice from the Field
10 Biggest Barriers to Mobile Technology Adoption
Travis Allen, President and CEO, iSchool Initiative — Friday, March 28, 2014
For the past five years I have watched schools move toward mobile technology, and I often find schools recreating the wheel. There doesn’t seem to be enough collaboration, and as I visit schools in Finland, Sweden, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, and elsewhere, I find that not only do we make the same mistakes in deploying as other countries do but also that schools within a single district are making the same mistakes! It is important to share best practices and learn from other’s failures and successes. I have consistently seen the following 10 barriers to mobile technology adoption.
1. Lack of vision and leadership
It is vital to have buy-in from the top down. More importantly, if your vision is to put technology in the classroom, all you will end up with is a bunch of tablets sitting around. The vision should align with outcomes you want to see in your students. Then if that happens to be done with the assistance of a tablet, so be it!
2. “We don’t have money”
Money seems to be far less of a problem than people indicate, and there are many ways to find major cost savings. Find those and leverage them!
3. Curriculum hasn’t changed
If teachers are no longer to be “a sage on stage but a guide on the side,” we must change the way we teach. Using concepts like flipped learning, blended classrooms, and others are vital. Providing effective professional development to support new concepts is key.
4. Technology is only supplementing what was already there
Teachers don’t want a PDF copy of the textbook. They want content that comes to life and is engaging.
5. Technology infrastructure
I walked into a school district last year, and they were so proud of their 5,000-tablet rollout, but in one of their classrooms, I could not successfully connect to a good Wi-Fi connection. A tablet without internet access is similar to riding a bicycle with no wheels. It is important to prioritize investments and focus on a solid infrastructure before deploying.
6. Culture of the teachers, the administrators, and the students
This is by far the biggest challenge that has been overlooked. Many districts force a technology change on their teachers, their administrators, and their students rather than creating a desire for the individual to want to use the technology effectively. You cannot put the cart before the horse. Before you deploy, it is vital that you create a positive culture and seek buy-in first.
7. Parent and community culture
I have been surprised to find parents to be the most resistant to change. One time a parent came up to me, very angry, and said that she expected her child to learn how to read an old-fashioned map and explained that her child would not be dependent on technology. In my mind, evolution means constantly becoming more and more dependent on new technologies. If I was in a classroom and turned off all the lights, it would be difficult to teach, because we have grown to be dependent on that technology.
8. Takes too long for change
A school administrator told me they were working on their eight-year technology plan—eight years! Smartphones didn’t even exist eight years ago. Take baby steps but move forward quickly and build a plan that can easily adapt every year.
As a college student if I have to take another scanned, multiple-choice test to evaluate my ability to perform and my intellect, I might just go insane. Learning is no longer focused on cramming information and regurgitating. It is more about how we can find relevant information, filter it effectively, and then apply it to our everyday life.
10. Buying tablets and not a learning solution
This is a big one. Schools think they can just buy a tablet and they are good to go! However, it takes far more. You need to invest in Wi-Fi, casing, warranties, professional training, culture building, mobile device management, assessment software, virtual textbooks, and more. Your true cost to deploy a learning solution is closer to $800 per device, as opposed to $300 to $500.
Travis Allen is a young visionary for digital learning in the classroom. Before graduating high school, Travis created a viral YouTube video on revolutionizing America's education through mobile learning. Today, he is a senior at Kennesaw State University (KSU) where he operates his growing social enterprise, iSchool Initiative. He may be reached at email@example.com.