Posts Tagged ‘Cell Phones in Education’

The link below will take you to the September 28th, 2010 podcast episode from TVO’s Search engine where host Jesse Brown interview’s Royan Lee, a teacher with the York District School Board in Ontario, Canada.  The discussion is around a project that Lee has participated in where students in his class use their cell phones and other mobile devices for learning.

Click here to begin playing the audio podcast

Link to the episode on TVO’s website


Click the link below to listen to the March 17, 2010 episode of CBC’s Spark where Nora Young interviews Marie Bjerede on how several North Carolina schools are working to incorporate cell phones into daily classroom instruction to increase student engagement and collaboration:

Link to the episode on CBC’s Spark website:

Direct link to the audio file:

Full Interview: Marie Bjerede on cell phones in the classroom

Here is a follow-up to the first two mobile learning reading lists:  The first one is here and the second one is here.

1) 7 Things You Should Know About Augmented Reality – An EDUCASE learning article about this newest of learning technologies and the implications of Augmented Reality to teaching and learning.

2) Augmented Reality Reaveals Histroy to Tourists: A short article demonstrating what is possible with mobile devices and what the future has in store.

3) Smartphones: The Ultimate Conversation Killer – A Globe and Mail newspaper article arguing that smartphones, rather than connecting people, actually kill conversation.

4) Teens and Mobile Over the Past Five Years – A PEW Internet article looking how mobile use amoung teens had evolved over the past five years.

5) How to Create Rapid and Cheap Mobile Learning – Text Messaging – A blog post filled with practical ideas in using text messaging to enhance learning.

6) Back to School: 10 iPhone Apps for Students–  A Mashable blog post.  The title says it all.

7) 100 Free iPhone Apps That Will Make You Smarter – This truly is a subjective list but I present it here as it is a long list and you will likely be able to find a few jems.

8) 50 Fun iPhone Apps to Get Kids Reading and Learning – The iPhone and iPod Touch can be both a entertainment and learning device.  This list provides a list of apps to help support and encourage reading and learning.

9) Why Cloud Computing is the Future of Mobile – A ReadWriteWeb article delving into how continuous connection to the Internet through a mobile device will lead to more reliance and acceptance of web apps.

10) Are Cellphones the Next Paper and Pencil – a user forum where educators and other interested parties discuss the implications and the future of cell phones in learning.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Addressing Some Critiques of Mobile Learning“.  In that blog post, I attempted to debunk three of the most common critiques educators and education stakeholder have on the concept of mobile learning: students use mobile devices (such as cell phones) to bully other students, students use mobile devices to cheat, students use the Internet far too much and don’t know how to filter high quality information from biases, unsubstantiated opinions and falsehoods.  While the above are likely the most common critiques of mobile learning, there are many more critiques and other issues that need to be addressed.  In this blog post, I will continue addressing these critiques and issues by looking at the root causes of the perceived problems with using allowing mobile devices into the classroom.

Fact: Mobile Devices Are not the Only Things that Distract Students

Many argue that mobile devices are far too distracting as students focus using their devices for sending SMS messages or surfing the internet during lessons rather than pay attention to lessons.  I can attest to this first hand as I myself am guilty of  accessing my mobile device when I am attending conference presentations or other instructional settings. The Tapping a Pencilultimate question is why one is doing what one is doing?  In my case, I often use my mobile device to communicate the ideas that I am learning to others in my online PLN through services such as Twitter but the true underlying cause of such distraction is lack of engagement.  What mobile devices are doing is amplifying a reality.  As this reality comes to our direct attention through mobile devices, we point to these devices as being the true cause of the reality when it is not.  Allow me to be more specific.  If a student is in a classroom and is not engaged with the lesson, they will find other things to do to engage themselves.  This is not a new phenomena.  Countless educators around the world and throughout the years have spoken to countless parents about the fact that their child is not paying attention in class.  They may be doodling, day dreaming, making paper airplanes, bothering other students, sleeping misbehaving, etc. We’ve always blamed the students and it is true that they must be held accountable for their actions.  However, I think that we educators also have to take some responsibility to make lessons engaging for our students in ways that THEY find engaging.  Just because we believe that our lessons and the delivery of our lessons are engaging, it doesn’t mean they are engaging to our students.  So what do students do when they are not engaged? They do other things to engage themselves whether it’s the actions I mentioned above or use their mobile devices.  Mobile devices are so engaging in fact, that we should harness that engagement instead of trying to squash it.  Do you think what I’m saying is rubbish?  Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourselves.  Begin designing lesson around the use of a mobile device using any of the ideas mentioned in this blog and watch to see whether or not your students are still using the devices inappropriately or behaving inappropriately.

Fact: Mobile Devices can be used as Assistive Technology and Used to Differentiate Instruction

Traditionally in education, resources were scarce.  When information sharing was difficult, access to information expensive and tools to support students with special needs oppressively expensive, educators used whatever they could to manage.  They used dated textbooks, accessed world maps on atlases that were often more like historical documents than geographical ones, and addressed individualized student needs with a little more personal attention.  Technology has changed our world significantly.  Information sharing is now easy, access to information is cheap and students already bring devices with them that can help support their individual needs.  Despite this new reality of abundance, we in the education system still run our classrooms using the ideology of scarcity.  By abundance, I don’t mean abundance of traditional resources, but an adequate supply of certain physical resources that allows easy and cheap access to an abundant of information and places to collaborate and communicate.  For example, how many computers do you have in your classroom that are either underutilized or never turned on?  Students can be using those machines throughout the day everyday to research, communicate, post ideas and create. You don’t need a computer lab with 30 minutes/per week.  Even one – to – three computers over the span of 6-7 hours per day can be utilized to engage students and teach them online skills. Another example is the mobile devices that students bring with them.  Why not allow students to use their iPod to listen to an audiobook or to use their cell phone to either access the web or to access their productivity tools? Devices that students bring with them everyday, with the right instruction and  direction, can be used as assistive technology to help differentiate instruction which ultimately saves the school and the system massive amounts of money that can be used to further outfit schools with more and updated technology.

Fact: Using Mobile Devices Prepares Students for the Real World

As educators, we are called to educate students, develop their skills and to communicate ideas all for personal development and preparation for the real world. We proudly listen to parents talk about how they want their children to some day be lawyers, doctors, journalists, scientists or successful in business enterprise.  We want to be a part of that development and help children live their dreams and become that successful professional.  Well, in today’s world, these Multitaskingprofessionals all use mobile devices to assist them in their work.  In some cases, as in journalism, having access to, and using, a mobile device actually gives them a competitive advantage as they have access to resources and an audience that those without mobile devices to not.  Yes, even doctors use mobile devices to have reference information handy or to print out prescriptions using PDA’s.  So if mobile communication is so important to a successful lawyer or business person, if a scientist’s work is based on technology tools and if mobile technology offers competitive workplace advantages, doesn’t it follow that we should be allowing students to use these devices while they learn and to develop the competitive advantages they need when they enter the ‘real world’?

Thus, it may be time for the system, both at the top administrative levels and from the grassroots, to begin shifting our resources and our thinking, away from the idea that information and access to that information is scarce to one of abundance.  This is especially the case today as more and more children are bringing in the technology tools they need. The real world that they will enter will not be like the current world that they are growing up in.  Abundance and flux will be the more common themes than scarcity and stability.

Throughout the many posts on this blog, I have mainly focused on trends and ideas in how mobile devices can be CHAINSintegrated into teaching and learning.  I’ve stayed away from the whole discussion on the social side of mobile learning because it is so emotionally charged.  I figured that by posting ideas on how mobile devices can help students learn, it would encourage, rather than discourage, readers that the mobile devices we use everyday in our mobile lives have a place in classrooms too.

However, I feel the need to speak about this social side of mobile learning after attending an Edublogs PD session where we discussed mobile learning and after reading this blog post by Scott McLeod along with the comments (especially the comment by Larry Ferlazzo).  Many focused on critiques of mobile learning rather than on the benefits and I feel that I need to address some of them.  I know that I am entering emotionally charges waters here as there are strong feelings on both sides of this debate but here we go. While there are many criticisms I can address, for brevity’s sake, I’m going to focus on three.

Fact: Students bully other students with and or without a cell phone

One of the strongest criticisms about introducing cell phones in classrooms is that students use the devices to bully others or to organize fights via text messaging.  While there is no doubt that this occurs, there is also no doubt that it’s not the cell phone that creates this behaviour.  A cell phone is a communication tool and students are using it to communicate.  By banning cell phone, we don’t stop the bullying nor do we stop the negative type of communication amoung students.  We just encourage them to continue their conversation is a less conspicuous way.  Personally, I feel that cell phones have helped to bring these issues to the surface and I can’t help but feel that by banning the phones, we are trying the sweep the issues back under the rug again so that we don’t have to deal with them.  Instead of using energy to ban cell phones, and then policing the ban, we should be teaching student how to live responsibly in the world and how to treat others with respect – basic social skills.  Then, we can focus on using mobile tools for productive communication between peers.  While there needs to be rules around acceptable use the devices when they are used in class, acceptable use rules is not the same as banning.

Fact: Students cheat with and or without a cell phone

This is another common criticism.  Students use their devices to find answers on their internet or to text answers to friends.  I don’t disagree that this occurs, but we need to find the underlying cause and the underlying cause is not the cell phone.  In the days before digital technology, learning was about remembering as much as one could.  This was a time when access to information was scare and expensive so students needed to learn as many facts as they possibly could in order to be able to access that information if they needed it in the future: just-in-case learning (memorize the information just in case a student needed it later).  As a result, instruction revolved around information.  Today, not only is access to information widely available, but it’s free as well.  No longer is access to information scarce as we can access whatever we need to know from wherever we are whenever we need it.  It’s just-in-time learning so to speak.  Generally speaking, teaching models still revolve around information and students understand that in this environment, they need to show that they know the necessary information in order to get a good grade. As a result, they employ whatever means they can to demonstrate their understanding.  Some call that cheating.  I would call that being resourceful under the current models of teaching and learning.  Personally, I feel it’s time to modernize teaching and learning models where the emphasis is on skill development and where information is a resource to skills attainment.  Looking up an answer is something that adults do in their lives in order to help them accomplish a task.  Using this framework, we should be encouraging students to create using information that they find online and through collaboration with peers.  This way, we evaluate students on what they can do, not on the information they know and we eliminate information-based cheating.

Fact: Mobile devices offer access to the most recent information available

Lastly, we claim the students use information from the Internet far too much and don’t rely enough on books.  We bemoan the fact that the information is riddled with false information and that students don’t know how to filter it.  As a web.2.0result, we encourage the use of dated information in static books.  This argument is not restricted to mobile devices but applies to technology in general but as mobile devices now provide the user with access to the Internet, it applies to them as well.  If we are concerned that students don’t know how to filter information on the Internet, why are we not teaching them how to filter it?  The Internet is the largest database of information the world has ever seen and contains the most up-to-date information. I know for a fact that many schools still use books that refer to Pluto as a planet or atlases that still have Yugoslavia as a country or refer to the Soviet Union as if it is still in existence.  Doesn’t it seem strange that we constantly encourage students to use information in books that is dated (and sometime incorrect) by the time they arrive at the school rather than teach students how to filter information from the Internet to be able to decifer legitimate information from falsehoods?  What ever happened to teaching search skills that students used to be taught when it came to searching for information in a library?  Why don’t we do the same for the Internet?

There are many, many more issue that need to be addressed: differentiated instruction, assistive technology, Internet filtering, etc. but addressing them now would result in a very long blog post. I guess they can be reserved for future blog posts.  For now, let’s be a little more democratic in our allowance of learning tools and not ban mobile devices because they are a disruptive technology.  The disruptive nature of mobile devices may actually serve to help us evolve our teaching practices for the good of student learning.

Just imagine it. Students are outside of their classroom on a field study. During the field study, they see something that really captures the essence of what they are learning. It could be a leaf on a plant during a biology field study. It could be the design of a building during an architecture/visual arts field study. It could be an object of visual inspiration for a poem or digital story. It could be the ideas of a expert during a museum or art gallery visit. How do students capture that moment, that object, that learning opportunity?

Just imagine a science class where students are conducting experiments. How do they capture their observations? Imagine students conducting a brief interview for a school news story or for an article for a journalism course. How do they capture the content of their interview?

For students, the essence of learning is not only to understand the workings of the world, but to also demonstrate their learning through some activity or the creation of some product. Often educators encourage students to use a variety of evidence in a variety of formats. We encourage students to include dialogue or illustrations in their work and not to necessarily rely only on written expression. Then, we limit the tools that they can use to accomplish their tasks.

Camera phoneEven today’s basic cell phones come with cameras and voice recorders with some models even having decent video recorders. Students can use the multimedia tools already built into today’s cell phone to gather a variety of evidence in a variety of forms for their school work.

The beauty of allowing students to use these digital tools is that an educator is not dictating how learning is to happen or specifying too strictly how students are to demonstrate their learning. If a student doesn’t have a cell phone or doesn’t want to use it, that’s OK. They can record their observations using more traditional mediums.  If a student does have a cell phone and wants to leverage it’s multimedia features to demonstrate their learning, then that’s OK too.

This is the essence of differentiated instruction.

We’ve talked a lot in academic circles about the varying needs of kids. First there was talk of multiple intelligences and learning styles. Now there is talk of differentiated instruction and universal design for learning. At the centre of all this talk is a need to change teaching environments and teaching styles to allow students to be more creative and to use the appropriate tools they need to help them learn. Today’s cell phones are no longer just talk and text devices. They can also be used as simple voice recorders, cameras and camcorders that can be used to capture environmental evidence and evidence of learning when it happens and where it happens. With these digital devices, students can ‘capture the moment’ so to speak. All of this at no extra cost to student or parent as the choice to use the devices left to the student and not the teacher and using the multimedia features on the phone do not require expensive data plans as today’s cell phones can all be connected to a computer for the purposes of downloading the content that the student created or captured.

Therefore, as we move forward on our classroom designs to create more inclusive environments and a increased student choice in learning, let not forget the power technology has to enable those who learn differently to learn and express their learning in new and unique ways that technology generally, and cell phones specifically, can allow.

Based on the popularity of my previous mobile learning reading list blog post, I decided to post another reading list with some of the more recent items I’ve read or seen around the topic of mobile learning.  All of these articles and more can be found under the mobile learning tag in my bookmarks.

1. Mobile Phones and Computers Debate: Educational Technology Debate exploring ICT and learning in developing countries.  The debate is relevant to teaching and learning in developed countries as well.

2. iTouch Learning: iPhone and iPod Touch: A compilation of articles posted by the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies on using Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPod Touch in learning.

3. School Matters: Mobile Phones, Mobile Minds: A video series on young people, their mobile phones, and the impacts on their schools and education.

4. 10 Disruptions that Could Transform your Classroom: A Dean Shareski presentation.  The CoolIris browser plug-in is required to view the presentation.

5. 8 Mobile Technologies to Watch in 2009, 2010: A ReadWriteWeb article on future trends in the continued development of mobile technologies.

6. 20 Best Websites to Download Free eBooks: This is pretty self-explanatory.

7. Personalized Learning With the iPod Touch – iPod Touch Apps: A list of apps that an Australian teacher/blogger uses with students to personalize their learning experiences.  The entire blog is definitely worth perusing as well.

8. Are You Ready for Mobile Learning?: An Educase article investigating the readiness of both students and teachers in using mobile devices in learning.

9. Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training: A book of articles published by Athabasca University.  While the physical book can be purchased, the eBook can be downloaded for free.

10. Opera Reports Explosive Mobile Web Growth Worldwide: Another ReadWriteWeb article.  This one links to and summarizes a report by Opera, the maker of the Opera, Opera Mobile and Opera Mini web browsers, on the explosive growth of mobile web browsing worldwide.