Saturday, 23 July 2016

Why should a teacher be prepared to allow or require students to use mobile devices to achieve learning objectives?

Activity 1: Mobile Learning
Unit 5: Digital Skills for Instruction, Part II
Module 3: The Learner and Learning in a Digital Age

Why should a teacher be prepared to allow or require students to use mobile devices to achieve learning objectives?

When I was a student, smartphones did not exist. Some students, but not all, had cell phones they could use for basic texting and phone calls. I had friends who would sneak Nintendo Gameboys into class in their backpacks to play during study hall. If you wanted to access the internet, you either went to the library computers or went home. Now, every adult has a computer in their pocket, with access to the internet and the world at large. That same access is becoming more and more prevalent in schools as parents buy smartphones for their children. So why shouldn’t we teachers allow students to use these mobile devices when learning?

There are pitfalls, of course. Most students would rather surf the net than listen to a lecture. You cannot keep an eye on each student’s screen at all times. As mentioned in Tom Daccord’s article, it is more beneficial to use mobile devices--such as smartphones and tablets--as learning aides to foster creativity than plugging students into pre-made content that does not fit the scope of their lessons. ‘On average, children are 12.1 when they receive their first mobile device’ (Growing Wireless). This shows that, from a young age, many students have access to mobile devices. Comprehension of basic functionality is a necessity.

One example of a mobile activity that could be done with smartphones or tablets would be a game based around sharing information in a variety of ways. In a Project-based Learning experience, students could be granted the agency to share information with a number of peers. Giving students the freedom to choose what information they share, and how they share it--either through apps, or via email, even photographs--could reveal interesting results about the student body and the way students choose to communicate with one another. I executed an activity similar to Daniel Roggenkamp’s ESL activity, and found my students used the tablets they were given to explore the environment in completely different ways, and even went above and beyond the goals of the activity due to high interest levels.

Another example of mobile activities could be geocaching. The overview mentions this: ‘Using the GPS or the phone measurement tools on a school field trip such as to the zoo or a camping trip to gather data and complete specific project activities.’ Similar in nature, this type of activity involves using a mobile device’s GPS to locate a container placed at specific coordinates somewhere around the globe. Students are encouraged to use navigational tools in a familiar (or unfamiliar) environment to complete a task. Popular activities using geocaching are games like hide and seek and scavenger hunts. This type of activity can be augmented through collaborative teamwork and alteration of tasks and goals. The same type of activity could incorporate other aspects of mobile devices, like taking photos to show successful completion of objectives, or relaying additional information to other groups to help them meet their own goals.

The reality is that mobile devices are here to stay, and have been integrated into daily life. Preparing students to use them outside of school means allowing them to experiment in school, even at the cost of some disruptions. Finding teaching and learning strategies that compel students to use these mobile devices properly and successfully will take time, and trial and error. Ultimately, it will yield positive results, and students will be able to translate what they have learned through their mobile devices into challenges they face in the real world.


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