Mobile Teacher: Offline app for educators to exchange video tips aimed at closing gaps & optimizing learning globally
By DR. KATHERINE GUEVARA
Making Educator Professional Development More Accessible and Inclusive with Mobile Teacher
A global community of practice founded in appreciative inquiry
The Mobile Teacher app provides a unique global community platform (that even works offline without Internet) to better democratize access to more inclusive, representative, and localized professional development content via teachers’ own phones.
Educators engage with each other via Mobile Teacher by
- watching short videos of colleagues’ effective and practical teaching practices,
- trying out the practices with their students, and in turn
- sharing videos describing or demonstrating their own proven techniques.
Often underestimated and overlooked international educators in developing countries (aka the majority world), who are primarily non-native English speakers, BIPOC, and women, excel at finding creative solutions to historically under-resourced schools, overcrowding, hungry students, etc.
Similarly under-resourced educators in so-called developed countries, like teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), have realized how much they have in common with international colleagues especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has only revealed existing inequities like U.S. students’ lack of Internet/devices to continue learning.
Wouldn’t it be great to connect with an international colleague for whom such challenges are nothing new?
The majority world educators, turned Mobile Teacher coaches, provide time-saving, cost-effective, equitable, engaging strategies to keep quality learning going and provide solutions for overcoming common constraints like teaching without textbooks/supplies, multilingual teaching, teaching excluded topics like indigenous history, fostering socio-emotional resilience upon return to school, supporting migrant/refugee students, and teaching hungry students, to provide quality education to learners without barriers.
It’s proven teachers matter more than any other aspect of schooling for impacting student achievement. Teacher effectiveness directly relates to student test scores, and influences longer-term outcomes like graduation, college attendance, and earnings. The conceptual framework for Mobile Teacher comes from the field of organizational change, and is known as the Appreciative Inquiry Model–a strengths-based approach to bring about positive change, in this case, a positive change in teaching to effect a positive change in learning. Therefore, teachers focus on what works, on their effective teaching practices and what makes them effective, and how to co-design with other colleagues their future teaching in order to do more of what works well.
Join it. Grow it. Watch. Teach. Share.
Global teachers’ ideas will help improve local learning. Mobile Teacher provides a platform where all teachers can share and leverage best teaching practices to provide quality education to learners without barriers. This mission stems from a vision for the future, picturing an inspirational ideal world–a world where all students benefit from a quality education (per Sustainable Development Goal #4: Quality Education). This vision is rooted in its three core values, highlighting the strength and lifting the voices of teachers globally, the importance of contextualization, and the belief in the possibility of never letting technological barriers limit opportunity. Mobile Teacher believes
- Teachers know best–They can provide context-specific, best practices and should be recognized for this expertise;
- Access is a fundamental right–Available existing technology can be leveraged to overcome the digital divide and democratize opportunity;
- There is power in community–Learning from each other highlights the importance and values of sharing as one world.
Mobile Teacher is an early-stage startup with published Android/iOS apps with ~100 downloads, 20 teacher videos submitted; 2 U.S. State Department grants for successful user-testing/feedback with 88 teachers in Ecuador with resulting short documentary of experience (see attached video file or view on YouTube); partnering sponsor Little Justice Leaders for monthly prize contests including a live April 2021 contest for video submissions on the topic of teaching environmentalism; selected Fellow for Blackstone Launchpad Techstars and Rossier EdVentures accelerators; made it to semi-finals rounds in several recent competitions including New Venture Seed and Social Venture Coaching Competition.
Mobile Teacher will measure both traditional (easier) and social (harder) impact. Traditional: subscriptions, new video-content plus views, paid amount to coaches, partnering sponsors. Social: number of international teachers becoming paid coaches, survey responses to improved teaching/learning, new/revised lessons, students reached, teacher development hours completed, and using the IRIS standard for education metrics. Founder/CEO Dr. Katherine Guevara teaches for USC’s Rossier School of Education, advises UNICEF on education for vulnerable learners, and has a forthcoming book chapter on Mobile Teacher published in a new teaching praxis. Founder also trained in measuring social impact (through USC’s Marshall School of Business Master in Social Entrepreneurship).
Adopt & Adapt
What resources does it require?
Mobile Teacher uses teachers’ existing mobile phones. It works like a regular app for those with Internet, and for those without, it still works to play and download the videos offline. Teachers motivated to record and submit videos can do so directly right from their phones. Mobile Teacher is currently free but to remain sustainable plans to move to a subscription-based model. Using a flexible plan, U.S. teachers would subscribe to watch international teachers’ video tips related to overcoming challenges, and/or be matched with an international colleague for peer-coaching. A school or district could cover the subscription for a whole group of teachers, or donors can cover a teacher’s subscription. International teachers are incentivized to submit video content through monthly prize contests on certain topics and receive payment as a peer coach which helps supplement their income.
How long would it take to implement?
Mobile Teacher is already up and running as a global community of practice, and available for download in both the Google Play and App Stores. Quick implementation could be at the individual teacher level (immediate with no approval needed) whole school, or whole district (depending on the speed of approval). Teachers are encouraged to watch and submit videos right now! In fact, they could win a prize for doing so during the April contest!
Does it align with existing policies and/or curricula?
Mobile Teacher already aligns/easily fits into existing policies for voluntary and mandated teacher professional development/continuing education hours and teacher participation/use of Mobile Teacher could be used to complete such hours.
- Aside from assigning pre-service teachers to watch videos of senior teachers on Mobile Teacher, pre-service teachers can also submit videos such as offering tips about performing class observations and working with host or co-teachers, or submitting their final capstone or practicum video to Mobile Teacher.
- In-service teachers can use Mobile Teacher to get fresh ideas, to analyze videos together in their own local communities of practice, or even to promote friendly competition of posting the most or most popular tips.
- Mobile Teacher can also be used for rapid training provided to volunteers in organizations such as the U.S. Peace Corps when volunteers receive short-term yet intensive crash courses once in-country; videos would be specific enough to sort by host country and local Peace Corps trainers could post their own videos showing country-specific effective practices.
- For other traditional and non-traditional subjects, Mobile Teacher can host videos for teaching virtually anything such as health skills from midwifery to CPR.
Does it generate buy-in and interest?
The teaching tips available on Mobile Teacher generate buy-in and interest because they address today’s challenges and concerns that affect teachers most and target their desire to do whatever it takes to provide the best learning experience possible for their students despite constraints. The Mobile Teacher community of educators address timely topics such as:
- no/limited supplies
- teacher spending on materials
- equitable access to devices and other resources
- teaching indigenous history
- hungry students
- large, multi-lingual classes
- migrant learners
- social-emotional resilience, and more.
Teachers notoriously spend their own money improving learning when constrained budgets can’t. California public school teachers spent $664 average/year of their own money to improve their teaching/student learning with 9/10 not reimbursed. Only 4.9% of teachers nationally reported not spending their own money, while 631k teachers have received donations on DonorsChoose. Clearly, U.S. teachers want to both reduce the amount they spend (which international teacher colleagues’ can uniquely and definitely help them do) and when they do spend, want it to be on something that does good/gives back (like paying an international colleague with similar challenges who actually has answers on how to handle them).