I just read an article by Wesley Fryer titled Scissors and Cell Phones and found the article quite compelling. It appears that the most pressing issue in mobile learning is not whether a cell phone or an iPod can be used to enhance learning but whether educators are ready to change the way learning happens in their classrooms.
“Traditional teacher-to-student passive learning models have no place for new technologies like laptops or cell phones. As long as the identity of the teacher is defined as the source/fount of knowledge, and the students remain receptacles or sponges to “receive” that knowledge directly from the teacher, digital sources of expert knowledge (or just raw information) will be seen as a distraction, an annoyance, and even a threat by educators, parents, and educational leaders.”
It would appear, then, that electronic devices will make their way into mainstream classrooms when teachers begin to adopt a teaching/learning model that makes the use of electronic tools practical. In this model, students engage in activities of active discovery where they construct knowledge from research and through their experiences instead of receiving information from a lecturing teacher. Electronic devices provide a way for students to interact with the massive amounts of information in their various forms quickly and easily and an alternate way of creating content. The role of the teacher in this environment, then, is to facilitate learning by providing activities that require higher order thinking skills through discovery and active engagement. The teacher’s role is also to teach students research and eliteracy skills that help them locate information and decide what content is relevant and accurate and what content is not. Ultimately, engaging in the process of learning through the use of electronic tools will help students to construct the content of learning. This seems to be the best way students can achieve complex learning goals.
“Are students in your classroom permitted to use scissors? Don’t you realize the bad choices students could make with scissors to hurt themselves or hurt others? Of course you do. That is why as teachers, we enforce (and encourage the other learners in the classroom to help enforce) a culture which is intolerant of unsafe or hurtful uses of scissors.”
It’s not the object that causes the harm but the behaviour. With appropriate instruction, expectations and consequence structure, students can safely use cell phones for learning in the same way they safely use scissors for learning.
Take a look at the following article – “A Proposal For Banning Pencils” – a nice parody of these issues.