Today, the buzz about mobile technology in the developing world is not limited to development and technology circles. As more and more US school districts aquire tablets for their classrooms, a wide audience is asking, “how could mobile technology help solve the global educational access and quality problems?”  How can mobile technology help where there is a dearth of teachers or where learning content is limited?
Sugta Mitra’s experiment with student-driven learning in India has gotten many excited about the “quantum leap” such technology could provide to self-motivated students in the developing world. Juarez Correa of Matamoros, Mexico similarly inspires with his innovative and successful pedagogy in a low-resource school.

Edify is implementating  TeacherMate, an application that focuses on English phonics and is tailored to the speed and progress of each student. Our model is to equip and empower English teachers to use student-centered-learning approaches and to engage students in the process of learning. As humble students ourselves, there are certain lessons learned that we hope can help others think about the larger picture of educational technology. What follows is an abbreviated summary of a few vital elements to involving technology in education.

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Environment. With gifted and dedicated teachers and acceptable conditions for learning, technology can be a powerful adjunct. But you have to get the right environment first. Having incredible amounts of noise, heat or outside distraction can turn technology from a learning tool into a distraction itself.

Teachers Who Love to Teach. Technology to aid in teaching has enormous potential as it can fill in where teachers have limitations. It allows students to go at an individualized pace and to engage in explorational learning.  In order to be innovative and allow students to discover, create and teach themselves, teachers need to both see their role as a facilitator of learning and love their proffession.

Commitment. With good reason, teachers are often skeptical about new ideas in their classroom. For any new program to work, especially technology, teachers need to be committed to the idea. Any new element in the classroom means lots of discipline for setting behaviors, troubleshooting and answering student questions. Once students and teacher grow accustomed to the activity, the gains can be significant. But this requires a lot of dedication, planning and patience on the teacher’s part.

Consistency. Disciplined teachers understand how important it is to communicate expectations to students. “It’s time to put away our iPads and rotate into our next activity.” Everyone is happiest when they know what is expected of them and what the current task is. Using technology as a reward can be a good motivator, but it can also backfire. The best implementation is when technology makes part of the greater learning strategy and is not seen as a toy.

We want to hear from you! What would you add to this list? What excites you about educational technology?