Fall 2013by

Learning on the Move

Donors’ gift brings mobile technology into classrooms

Irwin and Joan Jacobs, longtime philanthropists and supporters of education, recently pledged $3 million to the Mobile Technology Learning Center (MTLC) at the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES).

The gift allows the center to hire a founding director, fund a scholarship, further technology-related research, and provide teaching and professional development for partnership schools in districts throughout the nation. The gift also funded a state-of-the-art teaching studio, construction of which began in the summer.

By the year 2015, it’s anticipated that 80 percent of people, including middle and high school students, will access the Internet via mobile devices. Students and parents expect schools to integrate mobile devices into the classroom and USD’s Mobile Technology Learning Center will assist schools, school leaders, and teachers through research and professional learning.

“We want to be a living laboratory for schools and educators, by collaborating with local districts, as well as institutions of higher learning, to test research findings and provide future teachers with unique teaching and research opportunities,” says Scott Himelstein, the MTLC’s interim director.

Over the next five years, the MTLC anticipates the creation of state and national policies that support mobile learning; an increase in the number of classrooms and schools that use mobile learning technologies; and the establishment of a clearinghouse for “best practices” in applying mobile learning technology in education.

Paula Cordeiro, dean of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, says the MTLC will investigate how technology might improve teaching and learning, how students will use technology in the classroom, what educators should expect to receive for their investment in technology and whether technology will give all students access to more rigorous learning opportunities.

“Schools are the harbinger of the future of a community. They are the canary in the mine,” Cordeiro says. “The success, or lack thereof, of our K-12 students will play a major role in determining the success of San Diego, the nation and the world.”

Irwin Jacobs, co-founder of Qualcomm, has seen the power of technology in classrooms. He recalled a pilot program in which Qualcomm gave high school students in some classes smart phones and said it led to a surprising outcome in students’ math scores.

“One teacher had a class with smart phones and a class without,” Jacobs explains. “In the class with smart phones, 100 percent of students passed their Algebra I exam. In the class without phones, only two-thirds passed. The magical aspect was that the kids with phones had Internet access 24/7. If they couldn’t solve a problem, they didn’t have to wait until the next day to ask their teacher for help. They reached out to other students. We began to see more peer-to-peer education and round-the-clock learning.”

President Mary E. Lyons says even the univeristy’s founders relied on the generosity of others to transform their vision into a reality.

“From that moment on, nothing really impactful has happened without generous benefactors and partners,” Lyons notes. “Dr. Irwin Jacobs and Mrs. Joan Jacobs have taken the fruits of their labor, and of their genius, and invested in our community in so many ways — in education and health care, and in the arts. Over and over again they have seen where there is a need, or an opportunity, and have created something better for us.”