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Mobile Learning and Worldwide Connectivity in Paris

Around the world, CUE continues to lead the way in 1:1 learning environments. Earlier this month, as TUSD Senior Director of Technology, I took time out from eating pan-a-chocolat, baguettes, and drinking cappuccinos to present at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Annual Mobile Learning Week Symposium held March 8-11 in Paris, France. I was invited to speak on the policies, procedures, and logistics behind 1:1 deployments.

My session covered CUE’s work over the last 4 months in collaboration with CETPA, Tustin Unified School District, and other California school districts in developing a 1:1 Mobile Learning Guidebook. This guidebook outlines the policies, practices, regulations, and documents required for a school district to implement a successful 1:1 program. Similar to the CASBO-published guide for school district Chief Business Officers, this guide aims to provide the information needed by Chief Technology Officers to expand mobile learning initiatives. The guide draft is set to be completed in the spring and made available to districts everywhere at no cost.

Through my work leading the project, I was asked to present the session representing CUE. Over 40 participants spanning the globe from Pakistan, India, China, Africa, Europe, and the Americas attended the presentation. After the session, noted educational technology leader, University of Michigan Professor Elliot Soloway praised the massive amount of detailed work completed through TUSD Connect.

IMG_3412The 2016 Mobile Learning Symposium focused upon the methods through which mobile technology can be leveraged to foster innovation in the education sector and ensure high-quality learning opportunities for all people. One interesting takeaway from the conference is that the conversations occurring throughout California around equity, connectivity outside of school, teacher professional development, and increasing educational opportunities for girls in STEM courses were prevalent topics in nearly every presentation regardless of global location.

While responses to questions of equity, connectivity, and educational opportunities for girls varied widely depending upon the country, a common thread emerged around teacher professional development. Coaching programs similar to the TUSD Digital Literacy Coaching model are benefiting students around the world. Multiple speakers discussed how the technology coaching model empowers teachers, fights professional development fatigue, leads to greater technology use, more engaging curriculum, and improved use of data. Kimberly Smith, from the International Relief Fund, discussed using the coaching model to improve student learning outcomes by providing coaching with content and social-emotional curriculum to Syrian refugee teachers, thus preparing them to meet the learning and social-emotional needs of Syrian refugee children. Dr. Imran Zualkernan spoke about his work with Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) in schools throughout Pakistan; in real-time the program utilized student ERGA and demographic data to provide targeted just-in-time coaching training to teachers to meet the learning needs of their students.

The questions as to, “what constitutes a quality, equitable, education for all in a digital world?” and, “how do schools get girls involved in STEM Education?” both were central to wonderful, rich conversations, but unfortunantly there was no consensus on movement towards solutions.

Some of the most fascinating and varied conversations took place around connectivity. While there is no doubt everyone needs additional connectivity both inside as well as outside classrooms the means to achieve that were as varied as the methods discussed. Some countries, such as Costa Rica, are able to quickly connect 95% of schools with robust connections while others such as Nicaragua struggle to provide even minimal connectivity in 25% of the national schools. Beyond the economics at play, national infrastructure is a major component enabling some countries to move rapidly. In China for instance, the goals to connect 100% of urban schools with greater than 10 GB of connectivity and 50% of rural schools with 1 GB of connectivity over the next few years is possible as the legacy infrastructure is able to be skipped entirely, allowing new technologies to quickly be deployed. Other countries, including the United States, are unable to move as rapidly due to legacy systems that providers continue to build on top of, competing bandwidth ranges, or geographic inhibitors. A clear takeaway from the conversation was that students today are clearly learning in a connected world utilizing similar technologies.

There are days one is reminded of just how fortunate they are. While we in California are not dealing with the ravages of war and a refugee crisis, or seeing students risk their lives by travelling 3 hours each way to school through remote areas, or delivering Internet to a one-room school in the jungle, it is just as important for us to influence the educational equity within our own geographic area for the students we serve and work. Each is still facing their own, albeit different, challenges just like their counterparts around the world.


IMG_3375Robert EM Craven is an educator with a technology obsession. An educator for nearly 20 years, Robert quickly realized the impact technology made on both his teaching and student learning; this discovery started him on his endless journey into the integration, development and practice of technology and curricular integration. Robert is an Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Certified Teacher, and was recognized as one of the 5 “Best of NECC” presenters in 2007, 2009 and 2010. From 2009-2016, he has served on the Computer Using Educators (CUE) Board of Directors, including the last three as Board President.

Robert is the Senior Director of Technology for the Tustin Unified School District. In this role Robert oversees 1:1 Laptop and iPad deployments, professional development training, network infrastructure, repair facilities and much more for a 14,000 students K-8 school district.

When not presenting, Robert can be found at the local coffee shop, airport, soccer pitch or baseball field plugged into the grid as @digitalroberto.

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Robert Craven

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