Douglas Crets


Giving Credibility to the Shadow Education System

Learning Can’t Be Turned Off, so Incorporate Mobile into Pedagogy

Are administrative rules that ban the use of mobile phones harming the social and academic interests of the children who want to use them in school? What are they doing to the future of students who get most of their daily information from a mobile phone, and who feel they need phones to make their lives more efficient? I normally defend the use of mobile phones, because I believe that technology tools make our lives easier, and because I believe it’s perfectly natural to use tools to make life more meaningful.

When I read comments from a student on Quora about how mobile phone rules actually inhibit his learning, it makes me crazy. Using a phone is about as second nature as being able to ride a bike to kids. Yet, rules that govern their use in school seem to be built around a paranoid assumption that students get distracted easily because they find school boring. They would rather learn and talk to their friends. Wait a minute!

mobile phones learning ed tech

image courtesy of Brandon Hall

I don’t know if the student who writes in Quora about his school’s inane anti-mobile phone rules is really a student, but he makes some great points about how anti-phone rules distract him and keep him from learning. Read here what student Gavin Brown says about phones:

In my English class, I am not allowed to read my copies of literary classics such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Treasure Island. The reason: they are on my phone since I downloaded them for free as they are works in the public domain. True, I could get these books for free from a library. Limitations with that are: I can not annotate or search library copies easily, and it can be a bit of an inconvenience to carry around yet another book.

My school spent $10/student on planners, which are not used by 90% of the students. They are old, clunky, and inefficient in my opinion. For me, recording assignments on my phone is much easier and better. That is true for a large number of other students as well.

Cell phones are banned because people believe that, if allowed, people would be text messaging constantly, updating Facebook, and playing games. However, this activity still goes on, even with the ban. I do not think it would get much worse if cell phones were allowed. It may even get better.

And then a teacher named David Read chimes in with what I think is a great point:

It seems to me that it isn’t a question of whether or not mobile phones are useful for learning, everything is ‘useful’ for learning, we are always learning, learning can’t be turned off.

The question is more of pedagogy and of getting kids to learn the things we want them to. Cell phones are not useful in school when pedagogy does not use them to support the kind of learning wanted. While the kids in a class are ‘distracted’ by their phones, they are learning an enormous amount, just not what the teacher intends. The easy answer is to ban the technology, the more difficult but far richer answer is to develop pedagogy that exploits it.

Kids fluency and engagement with mobile devices should be viewed as a wonderful resource and indication of their engagement in things they want to learn, not as a distraction that has to be silenced to make lessons easier.


Filed under: Work, , , , , , ,

Game Change: Video Gaming that Supports Education Innovation

Is the K12 education system a system we could define as demand with no supply? Michael Horn thinks so, and in personal conversations and in some of his recent writing, he has shown this with a focus on disruptive thinking.

There is more pressure now in higher ed to make college more affordable, and this is leading to changes in the delivery model of education. If these changes happen, they need to eventually get down to secondary level, or K12, education.

How do you get these best ideas, which tend to incubate and deliver innovation in for-profit sectors, into a system that not only is built around a non-profit government-fed model, but also actively resists any kind of for-profit thinking?

That’s not the easy one to solve. For now, the most we can do is build it. There’s nobody to sell to inside the system. The selling and the delivery will happen outside of the system. In fact, it already is happening.

One way to get there is by listening to people like Thomas Vaidhyan, who is CEO of IT firm Aten. He gave a great interview recently to the guy who runs Science in the Triangle. Here’s a segment:

Vaidhyan’s noticed the change in perception toward gaming, even in his daily life. After taking his son to a golf camp, he was surprised to learn the instructor rarely had to teach the complicated method of scoring anymore — his classes were already veterans of the fairways featured on Wii Sports.

“Five years ago when we were talking about it, people asked, ‘Are you crazy?’ But now everybody is understanding games can be a very effective tool,” he said.

The prevalence of devices like the iPad and smartphones is also expanding the potential playing field for educational games beyond the console and computer.

“You will see us moving more and more away from books and using devices like the iPhone and the iPad, where not only do you read, but that translates to a more visual and interactive experience,” Vaidhyan said.

Filed under: Gaming, , , , , , , ,

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