There continues to be a lot of conversation in the education community about mobile learning and providing students with a mobile device, as m-learning programs make their way into an increasing number of district and campus budgets.  Planning discussions among educators and administrators often involve identifying what (single) device type will be deployed as part of an upcoming m-learning initiative.  This is as if to say that one form factor – netbook, laptop, tablet, or smartphone – is ideal for every student.  Is this actually the case?

Personalized learning through multiple devices

Recently, I heard a unique perspective about how one student was using her mobile devices to maximize productivity.  That’s right, I said mobile devices – plural.

This student talked of the productivity boost she realizes from using her laptop, her iPhone, and her iPad – at the same time.  While building a presentation on her laptop, the student explained that she can quickly grab her phone to call or IM a classmate to clarify points covered during a recent class lecture.  And while chatting with classmates, she often reaches for her iPad to tap in a quick Web search for an important quote or statistic.

For students like her, the benefits of a mobile device can be great – but the most significant gains come from the ability to freely select whichever device accomplishes a task most quickly, with the fewest keystrokes.  Multiple devices allow her to move swiftly and accomplish several tasks in parallel, without the limitation of having to suspend one app and then open another, as is often required when using a single device.

It’s personal — BYOD for students and faculty

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are an economical way institutions can support  end users’ desire to use multiple mobile devices.  Even on campuses where an official device model or form factor has been provided by the institution as part of a broad-scale m-learning program, BYOD programs can still play a supporting role.

Allowing students and employees to supplement an officially-provided device with one or more from their personal portfolio can ensure maximum productivity at an individualized level.   And today’s flexible, per-user pricing models for mobile device management applications provide institutions with an effective and affordable way to maintain network security while supporting personal choice and individual productivity demands.

Bundling for flexibility

Mobile devices in education aren’t just about enabling students and educators to work while they’re on the go.  They’re about working smarter, making it easier to accomplish more within a fixed amount of time – and making sure everyone has access to the best tool for the job along the way.

Mobile carriers are responding to the needs of multiple device customers, with the introduction of rate plans offering shared bundles of data which follow all of a user’s devices – no matter which  is preferred for any given task.  These new plans support the notion that building the best mobile program isn’t a device-centric, one time effort. Rather, it’s about developing a platform that provides the flexibility to use all your devices, when and how you need them.

Do you use more than one mobile device at the same time? Do you think BYOD policies or shared data plans will change the way students or employees use mobile devices – perhaps carrying more than one to become more productive?