Download Report: Mobile learning for teachers in North America | More on UNESCO Working Paper Series on Mobile Learning

May 16, 2012


Teachers in the United States and Canada participate in professional development (PD) to expand their knowledge and understanding of pedagogy and content. In recent years, the prevalence of technology in schools and the increased availability of digital content and resources have resulted in more PD opportunities focused on the use of technology. While PD often occurs in an online environment, teachers in North America rarely use mobile devices to access online PD, and they are just beginning to participate in PD geared toward using mobile technologies in the classroom. Though mobile learning is still an emergent field, educators are starting to recognize the potential of mobile technologies to deliver PD that is job-embedded, ongoing, sustainable, flexible, personalized and available anywhere at any time.

This paper examines and provides examples of three distinct approaches to mobile learning in PD. First, mobile technologies are used to deliver and enhance PD for teachers. Examples of this type of mobile learning include online courses, mentoring via mobile devices, and participation in online professional communities. Second, mobile technologies can be used to support teachers by streamlining administrative tasks, enhancing classroom instruction, and facilitating communication with parents, colleagues and students. Finally, PD may be focused on teaching educators how to integrate mobile technologies into their classroom instruction. While mobile learning in North America is by no means widespread, a number of schools and districts have implemented innovative PD programmes using mobile technologies, which may serve as a model for future efforts. Based on these examples and a review of the relevant literature, this paper offers several recommendations for developing PD focused on mobile learning or using mobile devices to deliver PD. These include moving from one-size-fits-all to personalized PD; focusing PD on changing pedagogy rather than training teachers to use new technologies; using mobile technologies to make PD accessible during teachers’ naturally occurring downtime; and setting aside time for collaboration among teachers in a school or district.

Mobile learning represents an exciting opportunity for educators in North America to expand their professional learning through increased access to instructors, mentors, supervisors and peers, as well as online content and resources. Also, PD specifically focused on using mobile technologies for instruction can help teachers increase student achievement and better meet their students’ needs. Through careful planning and implementation, schools and districts in the United States and Canada can develop mobile learning PD programmes that support teachers, improve practice and enhance learning for students and teachers alike.

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