Posts Tagged ‘mobilelearning’

Apps are the foundation of all mobile platforms.  The explosion in the use of mobile devices, especially smart phones, is the direct result of two factors.  The first factor is the design and manufacture of hand held devices that are small, yet powerful enough to act as mini computers.  The second is the design and development of applications that run on these devices that allow users to access information and accomplish tasks on the go.  With regards to learning, the discussion around the use of mobile devices has often been around app use and the use of mobile devices as a device of consumption.  There are endless learning apps available in app stores that focus on information access or reinforcement of skill through consumption.  While using apps specifically, and mobile devices in general, in this way has a place, when we focus the use of mobile devices to develop skills, we need to use mobile devices differently.

The discussion in education circles regarding inquiry based learning and knowledge construction applies when discussing mobile learning.  It is only by using mobile devices to collaboratively interact with others, construct knowledge and publish learning that mobile use begins to move to a new and higher level. Using apps on mobile devices to reinforce learning at the end of the learning cycle is not a transformative use of the technology. Transformative use includes using apps to learn and develop new skills at the beginning and throughout the learning process.

It is difficult to provide examples using specific apps due to the various platforms available. However, if we use social networking sites and apps as an example, one can see how mobile devices can be used by students to discuss questions, formulate solutions to inquiries, and to collaborate. It could be discussions using Twitter, collaborating on presentations using Google docs and sharing presenting findings on a blog or wiki. The crucial part is the apps, like devices themselves, are tools to learning thus play a subservient role. We need to focus on expectations and learning skills first and then find apps that support the learning. We should not be getting apps because “it’s a great way to reinforce math skills” but because it “help students develop math skills”. Apps, like devices, need to provide students with the ability to engage in learning in ways that are impossible without them. Apps that replicate flash cards do not support higher level learning. Apps that allow students to communicate, collaborate, share ideas and construct knowledge with others across distances and time do support higher level learning.

What are your thoughts here? What specific examples do you have of apps that support higher level learning?

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Having one device per child in a learning environment is a luxury dreamed about for decades. With the growing ubiquity of handheld devices in the hands of school aged children and the prevalence of BYOD policies, 1:1 is now attainable. Now that 1:1 is really possible, the question arises, “Is 1:1 really necessary?”

In my current school, we are making slow but steady investments in mobile technology through the purchases of iPad minis. As with any expensive technology purchase, we are purchasing small quantities at a time and trying to maximize their use. The approach some teachers have taken is experimenting with engaging students with the devices is through a learning centre approach. Within their learning centres, one centre makes the iPad minis available for research, discovery or reinforcement of curricular concepts. This didn’t result from an application of a grand theoretical plan but out of necessary. When we only have 4 iPad minis to use, this seemed like the best way to start.

After observing this learning centre approach in action, I am seeing 1:1 in a new light. True, those students engaged in the centre with the iPads are in a 1:1 setting, but that is only one of several learning stations with each station focusing on a different skill. The approach seems to work so well that I have started questioning in my own mind whether it is really necessary for all students in a given class to have mobile technology in their hands at the same time.

To add a bit is context: the above observations are mainly from Kindergarten and early primary classrooms. However, I’ve also seen the technology being used successfully in this format in a junior level grade.

Here are some of the benefits that I have noticed thus far:

Less Distraction:: students are focused on the planned activity as the tool is being used in a really focused way;

Focus on Skill Development: the centre uses the iPad to develop a particular Skill;

Increase in Application: the various centres focus on different skills and the centre with the iPad is often used to reinforce and/or apply learning in the other centres;

Learning Centres Bring Increased Student Engagement: while this benefit mainly comes from using a learning centre approach, utilizing technology further reinforces the appeal to learning for students;

Fostering Inquiry: with an increased focus on the implementation of inquiry-based learning, learning centres naturally support inquiry and the use of mobile technology in one centre provide diversity in opportunity and access.

As a support tool, mobile devices seem to be a natural fit when the teacher uses a learning centre format to engage students in inquiry. Of all the benefits listed above, the one that really surprised me was the lack of distraction. This has always been one of the criticisms of incorporating any form of technology – the technology distracts students from the learning goal as they use the technology for activities not related to the learning. I can see this happening in a whole class 1:1 situation. However, when utilizing a smaller number, in our case 4 iPad minis, in a learning centre where students are rotating between centres, students tended to be more focused and teachers, who now naturally fall into the role of facilitator, are able to observe student activities more directly and provide that timely descriptive feedback that everyone is talking about these days.

To conclude, more observation and reflection is needed before any sort of definitive statement can be made about 1:1. For me, time and slow immersion of this learning format into more grade levels would allow a broader look at the strategy of using mobile devices in a learning centre format. In the meantime, necessity had created an environment that has challenged my thinking about 1:1 and the best way to utilize mobile devices to support learning in classrooms.

I’ve been quiet on the blog for a while. It’s not that I have nothing to write about. Educational and societal changes happen so rapidly these days that there is always something to reflect on. However, in a strange way, this is the same reason for my silence – with such a rapid pace to change in western society, it’s so easy to get caught in superficial discussion and surface level analysis. I haven’t written for a while because I am considering what mLearning looks like as we head into 2014.

Back in 2007, when I began this blog, the posts often focused on ways educators and students could utilize mobile devices for learning in an attempt to make it’s use ubiquitous. Now, a mere six years later, use of mobile devices is becoming ubiquitous and soon their use will be common place. Considering this new reality, I’ve been asking myself the following question: “What does mLearning look like when use if mobile devices is ubiquitous?”

It has come to the point now where neither the device nor the platform matters. All one needs is a mobile tool and access becomes instant. In this environment of multimodal devices and BYOD, what are next steps for mLearning?

The more I think about this, the clearer the answer becomes. Now more than ever, mLearning is about skill development. It’s not that skills didn’t matter six years ago, it’s that six years ago, I looked more at the viability of using mobile devices. The tool itself is now moving to the background and some would argue that is where a tool belongs – in the background supporting skill development.

So what skills can be supported by mLearning? Platforms, apps and tools exist on all mobile devices to support collaboration. They also exist to support knowledge construction, research skills and problem solving. In addition to all this, one skill that mobile learning devices really offer possibilities is with skill development in communication.

It’s not Twitter that matters but how using Twitter can be used to develop collaboration skills. It’s not blogs that matter but how using blogs can help develop communication skills. It’s not mobile access to the Internet that matters but how mobile access can help develop research skills which in turn helps to develop skills in knowledge construction.

This blog post is a turning point for me. While I have discussed skill development using mobile devices before, I am now looking to move away from superficial posts and to think deeper on this topic.

Before the dawn of the Internet, who would have ever dreamed that the supremacy of network television would ever be challenged? The impact of television on our society has been so pronounced that it changed our communication habits, social habits, and even house design and organization. Today, the Internet has, and continues to be, changing this prior revolution and changing it rapidly.

TVWhile the Internet has been mainstream for around 20 years, only recently have we had the infrastructure in place to support the type of communication needed to challenge the dominance of the network television framework. What changes have resulted? Internet and mobile use has skyrocketed. This Infographic is just one example of how the use of the internet is expanding quickly. Of note for this blog is the section in the Infographic on online video consumption. Another consequence: the once mighty Blockbuster video has gone the way of the dodo thanks to online streaming services such as iTunes and Netflix. These same services are also putting massive pressure on cable service providers as many people begin to cut their cable and rely solely on steaming media.

While I myself have not yet cut the cord on cable, I have been investigating alternative sources and starting to reorganize the way I consume media for an eventual cord cut on cable. I have found that while solutions are available, cutting the cord on cable is not a seamless feat yet for one major reason: limited access to live feeds or live video events.

Allow me to elaborate. In terms of watching movies or TV shows, there are services such as YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and iTunes – much of what one needs is there and no cable service can match the selection nor the convenience provided by those services. When it comes to news feeds, I have noticed that some TV networks have begun to stream their live news feeds or morning shows online. Once can access these streams on a television using available tools such as a simple iPhone and Apple TV connection. We can stream those shows on our TV as if the feed were coming from a cable line. What is currently problematic is live sports or other live events broadcast on TV. I have yet to find a legal solution to this problem and is what has kept me from cutting cable. However, even as I write this, this scenario is starting to change as some sporting leagues, such as the NFL and NHL, are providing access to games by purchasing online streaming packages.

While not yet as elegant and smooth as simply ordering a TV package from a cable provider, online solutions are catching up. This will benefit consumers as cable packages are not cheap. With shows broadcast at inconvenient times (PVRs have helped with this point but are not cheap) and with so many channels that we pay for that go unwatched, paying for cable service is no longer an efficient model of content delivery. The Internet is changing media consumption because it allows us to watch video on demand, either without cost or very cheaply, and the quality of bandwidth and streaming video is improving quickly.

web browsersImplications for our education systems: With the increase of cheap or free videos on the web, access to video materials to support learning needs is becoming an important resources – mainly because of the on-demand nature of the videos. Of course, educators need to ensure that copyright and licensing agreements are adhered to – this will be dependent on local laws and school district policies. Nevertheless, the need to spend valuable school monetary resources purchasing video content that quickly becomes obsolete (if not the content, then the format it’s viewed on) is no longer necessary.

Due to the fact that it still takes some effort to access online video, especially as a cable replacement, cord cutting is not happening as quickly as it could be. However, in time, even network TV will realize that effectiveness and efficiency of online streaming for the consumer. When that day arrives, cable companies who have not yet diversifies into other businesses will also go the way of the dodo.

Back in 2007 when I began this blog, the main thrust was sharing ideas about why mobile devices can improve teaching and learning. Now in 2013, not only has the use of mobile devices become much more widespread both in schools and society at large, but the attitudes toward the use of mobile devices for learning has changed. Many in the education system are much more willing to accept mobile devices as learning tools. Where in 2007 school districts were banning cell phones in schools, in 2013, they are being embraced with the goal of creating new and rich learning environments for students.

As a result, I’ve decided to shift my focus a bit on this blog from the why of mobile learning to the how. By how I mean ‘how can mobile learning be used to develop 21st century skills?’ I hope to answer this question in a series of blog posts that look at various 21st century skills and ways mobile devices can be used to support their development.

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We begin with the most basic of human skills – communication. It is this skill that allowed individual humans to band together into groups. It is this skill that allowed those groups to form civilizations. It is this skill that allowed ideas to be shared, be it through oral language or the written word, between civilization both across expanses of space and time. As technology has charged, so has access to information and as a result, communication needs in the 21 century are different. In no other time in human history has anyone able to communicate with anyone else anywhere in the world and with groups of people in the millions. This new ability to tweet a statement that can be read by millions instantaneously requires a new skill set.

How Do We Develop Communication Skills in the 21st Century?

1) Incorporating Multimedia: Audiences consume information in a variety of ways. Where ideas were once shared via direct oral communication or through the written word, audiences can now share ideas by listening to audiobooks, watch them portrayed in online video or look at them expressed in imagery. Students today need to be able to communicate ideas that include multiple forms of media. Asking students to create a blog or wiki that may or may not be written on their mobile devices is not enough. They need to augment their ideas. One way can be by posting images or video taken from their mobile devices and upload it to their blog or wiki alongside text not to regurgitate the same information but to express an idea in different ways.

2) Know Your Audience: This is an indispensable job skill today. Communicating ideas that are relevant to the target audience is not a new concept – businesses and the marketing industry have done this for generations. The difference today is that being able to access anyone and everyone on the globe through communication technologies now means that we must all now frame our communication to an audience. In order to communicate to our target audience, we must know something about them and that is where mobile devices come in. One can use online tools such as Google Forms to poll one’s audience or use Twitter to engage in conversation with them. The better one knows an audience, the better one can frame communication for them.

3) Connecting Ideas and Supporting Ideas with Evidence: Today’s civilization is extremely connected to information. At our finger tips, we have access to the largest library humans have ever created, the Internet, and the starting point is often one of the largest single source of information on the Internet – Wikipedia. As a result, communication needs to incorporate and connect with other supporting ideas and these ideas need to be supported with evidence. While it is easy today to tweet a 140 character message to a large audience, that audience will not pay much attention if that is the extent of the substance if the ideas shared. Social media is great at connecting people to ideas, but those ideas need to be flushed out, developed, connected to other ideas and supported with facts for anyone to pay attention. Having access to all this information make our communication more about making sense of what’s out there instead of just stating it. Mobile devices can be used to help students research their ideas on the web, use social media to discuss ideas with peers in order to better make sense of them, and the use the mobile device to create a blog or wiki sharing their ideas to a target audience.

In sum, by using multimedia, knowing your audience and connecting and supporting ideas, students can begin to develop the communication skills they need for the 21st century. Mobile devices are support tools that students can utilize to record data (including pictures and video), communicate with audiences and research information.

I have just recently been appointed to the role of principal and began my new leadership role the first day back from the Christmas break in January. After blogging about the use of mobile devices from the perspective of classroom instruction and student learning for over five years, I now find myself considering how these same tools that can be used to help students learn can also be used to strengthen the home-school connection.

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In experimenting with new ideas and practices, I have turned to two of my most trusted tools – my iPhone and Twitter. Immediately after beginning in my new role, I set up a school Twitter account and started tweeting; tweeting images of some of the work our students have produced; tweeting links to resources for parents and community members; tweeting reminders about upcoming school and board events; tweeting updates about bus cancelations after the most recent snow storm. In discussing the purpose of this account with staff, parents and admin colleagues, I have described my use of a school Twitter account as a daily newsfeed between monthly newsletters. I’ve also mentioned that the best part is that I update the Twitter feed from my mobile device so that I can really tweet updates from anywhere.

As Twitter doesn’t compile statistics as a blog would, it’s hard to say just how many people are accessing these tweets. One could look at follower counts but I have expressly stated to the parent community in other communications that the profile is public and one does not need a Twitter account to access tweets. This makes it difficult to know what the depth and breadth of use is after only 5 weeks of tweeting. I would definitely be open to ideas on how I could track traffic.

The other consideration is that this type of use of a social media tool is still really new for schools. While using Twitter as a school communication tool may seem obvious to those who are already engaged in these tools, it may not be so obvious the the wider community who so not use social media tools as often. Building community capacity is part of the work that needs to be done in order to really make the use of social media tools a viable way to communicate with the wider school community. What does help is that Twitter is now a well known tool used by celebrities and traditional media so the task of explaining what Twitter itself is has mostly been taken care of already.

I believe that using Twitter as a school communication tool helps to inspire public confidence in the work that we do everyday with their children. It opens up the school in a way where the community can be updated on a daily basis on the dynamic work that teaching and support staff do with their children that has typically not been communicated well enough in the past.

When I sense that the account has started to become an entrenched tool, I would like to experiment with other communication ideas that use other web tools. What could those be? One idea could be conducting surveys to gauge community sentiment using Google Drive. I know there are many ideas and examples on the web and I look to my PLN on Twitter to point me to interesting examples and ideas.

I am interested in your thoughts and ideas on using mobile tools to increase parent engagement in the school community. Please use the comment box to share. If you are interested in seeing what I am doing with Twitter to communicate with my school community, you can see/follow the school Twitter account here.

On December 7th, my employer school board used a PA Day to organize and connect all education staff of the board from their remote locations via an internet stream to watch two speakers discuss the issue of 21st century fluencies. It was a mammoth undertaking I am sure but one I found successful as it used communication technology to demonstrate the power of communication technology as staff listened to two speakers talking about the power of communication technology.

The two speakers, Ian Jukes and Will Richardson, both discussed how education systems in general, and schools in particular, need to do things differently because of the nature of new technology and how it’s transforming society as a whole. One of the ideas that really struck me was the idea of ‘digital bombardment’. Presented by Ian Jukes, it is the idea that all of us, including kids, have this pervasive exposure to digital technology.

When Jukes first mentioned it, the first idea that came to my mind was that this was a new and novel way of discussing the mature topic of information overload. Upon further reflection, however, I’m seeing that digital bombardment is about more that just information overload. It is the fact that all day, everyday, we are interacting with a multitude of different devices exposing us to content in many forms and that this exposure is nonstop. Another striking element to this notion is that unlike information overload, digital bombardment may not be just a phenomena in western society. With cell phones and smart phones connecting people to the Internet in less privileged countries in a way computers have never been able to accomplish, for the first time ever, we may be seeing a global social shift brought about by mainly mobile devices.

We could go on and on here about stats. We could discuss the amount of content being uploaded to the Internet on a daily basis or how many internet-connected cell phones there are globally and how this is connecting people in areas that were previously unconnected. We won’t do that here because I think you know this already. It’s really the implications of this that I find interesting.

One implication is how this social shift is being driven but mobile devices. I have stated many times that I often write my blog posts from my phone. I listen to music from my phone (both purchased music and streamed music). I listen to radio programs and podcasts from my phone. I watch, read and listen to news stories and books from my phone. I communicate with others and stay current from my phone. I get directions and ask for directions from my phone. I can even control my TV now from my phone. I’ve been doing all this for some time now so none of this even phases me anymore. What has struck me now is that many of these activities and more can be done by anyone with a smart phone and these are becoming ubiquitous in geographic areas never seen before. The lower entry costs of mobile devices vs. computers is truly connecting and bombarding people globally.

Another implication is how we are connecting with each other. While I am definitely and advocate of the wider use if mobile devices, I sometimes can’t help but to feel that this constant screen watching is creating this Orwellian world of external social control through information dissipation through technology and its only getting worse. Everywhere we look, we see screens – the mall, the doctor’s office, schools, the gym, etc. and we bring our own screen to fill in the void in those public and private places that may not have one. Access to unlimited information is a good thing but what happens if access and exposure to information is directed maliciously by some external source?

Bring it back to education, Juke’s point was essentially that we have to adapt and do things differently in a world where digital technology and screens invade every space that we all inhabit – kids and adults alike. Rather than bemoan the state of affairs which are beyond our control, let’s work on what we can control and leverage what kids bring with them to help them learn. This is what this blog has always been about – leveraging technology to improve learning. It continues to be relevant and becoming more important as the years go on. The key piece, however, is not just leveraging technology, but leveraging technology to improve learning.  If technology use is not planned around specific learning goals aimed at meeting specific curriculum expectations and is only used by children to surf the web or Youtube with no real learning aim, then it would be better not to integrate technology at all.  Technological tools need to help students learn if they are going to be relevant and useful.

Children entering kindergarten this year will graduate from high school in 2026 and the oldest mobile technology they will know is a first generation iPad or an iPhone 3. Given this reality, what do our schools need to become in order to meet the needs of these children graduating in 2026?