In preparation for the series of of workshops I’ll be sharing here in Oklahoma at both the OU K-20 Center’s Midwinter conference tomorrow, the Oklahoma Technology Association’s annual conference next week, as well as a district technology day in Yukon and NCCE later in the month, I reviewed the 26 minute film “Mobile Phones, Mobile Minds” from Teachers TV on Google Video. (Thanks to Karen Montgomery for this reference!) The video highlights students and teachers in the UK who have been experimenting with the use of mobile phones for learning, and the issues which are raised by so many mobile phones already in the hands of young people.
In my sessions, I may use an excerpt from the middle of the video where teachers as well as students talk about their own experiences using mobile phones for learning, and the impact the devices had on the learning culture overall. I think this clip is excellent because it is not simply theoretical: These are real teachers and students who have been using mobile phones to support learning, and their perspectives therefore carry greater credibility since they are not simply offering conjectures about “what if?”
One of the key issues to discuss relating to mobile phones in the classroom is WHY we should utilize them at all for learning. The two most persuasive reasons I understand at present for using cell phones for learning are:
- Students learn to make good decisions by MAKING DECISIONS. (This is something I heard Alfie Kohn cite recently on a podcast of a book talk he shared.) If we truly want students to develop traditional as well as digital citizenship skills, and we want them to develop their capacities for ethical decisionmaking, we have to provide them with opportunities to MAKE DECISIONS. Cell phones do NOT fit into a classroom which is organized traditionally as the teacher serving as the sole font of knowledge. If the classroom experience is 100% about “filling a pail” (the students’ brains with information) then cell phones have no place. If, on the other hand, we are interested in helping students not only learn content knowledge but also how to MAKE CONNECTIONS between knowledge domains (something James Sigler contends should be a hallmark of school 2.0) and develop their capacities and dispositions for ethical decision making, then utilizing cell phones for learning in appropriate ways makes a great deal of sense.
- Students learn best when they PARTICIPATE. This is the case for active instead of passive learning. Inviting students to thoughtfully and appropriately use cell phones to support their learning process is, in most cases, an inherently active process. (Watching a video on a cell phone might not be, but using the mobile device as a portable audio recorder, a digital camera for documentation of images taken “in the field,” or even to respond to a mobile poll all involve active participation.) If educators are interested in active (and therefore more effective) learning strategies, then I think the topic of ways cell phones can be used for learning will be viewed as relevant and timely.
I’m not sharing a session explicitly focused on “Cell Phones for Learning” till later this month in Yukon and at NCCE, but I will certainly touch on these ideas in my session “Balancing Access and Freedom with Safety and Liability Protection” tomorrow at OU and next week at OTA. Basic questions about learning goals, the purpose of schools, and and the role of technology keep coming up in my presentations and workshops with teachers as well as administrators, and I think this is a good pattern.
I’ll close with the following quotation from Alfie Kohn, on page 150 of his book “The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards.” He writes:
As one survey after another has confirmed, students are rarely invited to become active participants in their own education, whether they are in kindergarten or college. Indeed, the story of American schools is– and always has been– the story of doing things to students rather than working with them. The opposite of being controlled is to be able to make decisions, to have one’s voice heard.
I’m committed to the proposition that as moral educators and leaders in our communities, we need to equip students to become ethical decision-makers and constructively contributing citizens. It’s worthwhile to consider not just our “theoretical” support of that idea, but our OPERATIONAL implementation of it in our classrooms each day. We don’t have to use cell phones to help students cultivate their capacities for ethical decision-making and become actively engaged in their own learning journeys, but I think cell phones can be extremely useful tools if we want to pursue those pedagogic goals together.
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- Schools pretend this world of publish at will media doesn't exist - 2010
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- Oklahoma videoconferencing in USA Today - 2007