Tablets and smart phones are quickly replacing desktops and laptops as the device of choice to access information and conduct business. It is just a matter of time before mobile devices are the predominant tools we use to perform our work. So, are school districts prepared to deal with this? And where is this all heading?
Lets start by taking a look at some realities. Today, 56% of K-12 School Districts allow students to use personal mobile devices on campus.1 And some 85% of K-12 faculty and staff bring a personal mobile device to work with them that they use to access their school or college’s network.2 And 74% of IT leaders believe BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) can help employees be more productive.3
Surveys conducted in city and county government support the fact that we are trending toward mobile. In a 2012 Center for Digital Government survey 77% of cities responded that they have measures in place to keep up with the use of mobile devices for government business, 71% have measures in place to integrate mobile computing with smart phones and tablets, and 56% currently have policies on BYOD.4
Now that we see the trend, what can we look for? Schools should expect to see two types of changes in the software they use to manage operations; apps specifically designed to work on tablets and smart phones, and software that recognizes whether you are using a mobile device or a laptop/desktop.
Apps designed for tablets and smartphones would include functions that require use of the device’s camera, GPS or voice recognition functionality. They may also be designed for employees who require limited access to functions or for parent and student use. Examples include apps that can show the location of a school bus and estimated arrival time at a stop, that allow remote employees to enter time into the payroll system, that take payments for pay-to-ride districts, that allow pickers to scan QR codes to update inventory, and that provide notifications and workflow tasks such as approval of requisitions. There are and will be more.
Software that recognizes whether you are using a mobile device or not should do one very important thing – it should change the user interface to make the screens less cluttered and make the space between functions larger, making it easier to use your fingers for touch screens.
While the use of mobile devices can help us work the way we live – on the go – there are some drawbacks. For one, not every function we perform makes sense on a mobile device, particularly those that require large volumes of data entry. Security becomes more of an issue, especially if we embrace BYOD. And BYOD is more cost-effective than purchasing mobile devices, however it also means that technology administrators are dealing with multiple devices that may be more difficult to support.
While we can’t predict the future, we can speculate on where this is headed with technology that exists today. What about Google® Glass for instance? What if we used this mobile device to allow our teachers to enter attendance or a bus driver to receive pick-up and drop-off instructions simply by looking at a student.
I for one think that the benefits far outweigh the challenges. And I can’t wait to see what comes next.
1 2011-2012 Center for Digital Education Digital School Districts Survey
2 Center for Digital Education Research Survey, 2013 for Education’s Changing Landscape in 2013 Q1 Special Report: Smart Infrastructure
3 “BYOD By the Numbers,” Infographic. http://www.govtech.com/infographics/BYOD-By-the-Numbers-Infographic.html
4 Center for Digital Government, 12th Annual Digital Cities Survey – 2012 Results