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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Should Mobile Devices be Allowed in Class?

One of the findings from the survey I referred to yesterday (Speak Up 2010 Survey - "The 3 New E's of Education" - U.S.) states that:

53 percent of middle and high school students (United States) reported that the inability to use cell phones, smart phones or MP3 players was the largest obstacle when using technology in school.

There is certainly a disconnect between what many teachers/administrators think and conversely what many students/parents think on the issue of using technology in our schools and classrooms. Some of the issues that pose a risk in allowing these devices (e.g. smart phones, mp3 players, ipads) in the classroom center on liability, privacy, discipline policies and equity.

In the minds of many administrators and teachers, students will become more distracted, disruptive and difficult, if mobile devices are allowed to enter our teaching space. Phones that are cameras will take photos of students who haven't given their consent (or parent consent). Devices that have wireless internet will constantly check Facebook and use Twitter. MP3 devices will play inappropriate and offensive songs that have no place within school walls. There are many concerns that have implications both on teaching and running a school.

But what if we used all of these devices in a way that promotes and drives learning? What if students looked forward to our lessons as a time to collaborate wirelessly? What if our classes employed instant messaging to hold "silent" debates or share ideas? What if we had the students design their ideal learning path by proposing how their preferred wireless devices and online applications could be used to achieve curriculum goals and target key learning expectations? If they can dream it, we just might let them try it.

Teaching is one of the most versatile and flexible professions out there. We need to re-examine it and make the necessary changes. Aligning these changes with current technologies and student engagement strategies will serve to bring our educational model up to speed. In fact, we stand to lose nothing as teachers, if we take the risk and try something new. We will be modelling risk-taking by showing our vulnerability and commitment to our jobs.

For those of you that have already adopted these technological changes into your practice - your colleagues need your support and expertise. They might be weathering the storm at the moment, but don't allow them to fall behind and become overwhelmed when the system is re-written.


Azhar Y said...

Hi Neil,

I like this post very much. Yes, you are right about adminstrators, teachers and parents' views about using mobiles in our classrooms. They are afraid of thinking of this innovation.

May be they are a little bit right. However, if we use these devices in something useful like improving students' speaking and listening skills, ...etc, they will engage in trying out this tool in a meaningful way.

For example,
In one of my projects "Welcome Back Egypt", I wanted to create a podcast with my students. As I have no time in my school. Instead of using audacity program for recording, I have asked them to use their mobiles to record their experiences about the project and send it to my e-mail.

When I asked them about their opinions concening the use of mobiles, they said that it is a little bit easier than using audacity program.

At last, I just want to say that find the objective and the appropriate way and try! Then, you can argue those who are masters in creating obstacles.


nfinney said...

Thanks for the personal connection to a critical topic. If the push forward to integrate technology is dependent only on school funds and government money - it will be a long and laboured journey. Using student devices (with the proper expectations and guidelines) brings in both their equipment and their motivation - especially since it belongs to them and they already have the knowledge base to use it effectively.

I appreciate your interest and your link to this blog on your blog page. Thanks Azhar!

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