Potential of mobile devices to improve education

This was originally written as a think piece for the DfE for the http://schoolstech.org.uk/ site, think pieces weren’t used in the end so here it is!

Our young learners inhabit a world where communication and access to knowledge is being transformed by mobile devices. A world in which we as adults would be lost and frustrated without our own mobile devices. There are 81 million mobile devices connected to major mobile operators in the UK. 60% of 9-16 year olds in the UK access the Web from a mobile device. More than 1 for every man, woman and child in the UK. This excludes iPod Touches, Wifi iPads, Nintendo DSs etc.. 

I own a smartphone, tablet and tiny laptop. I have 24/7 access to tools, knowledge and people that was unimaginable even just a few years ago. I have learnt more through applying ideas picked up in discussion with colleagues all around the World via Twitter and their thoughts and experiences recorded on individual blogs than I ever did during my PGCE or any school-based CPD

Are we allowing our learners access to this amazing pool of knowledge and opportunities? Many schools need to re-align their thinking in three key areas if we are to make the most of this revolution:

  1. Student owned devices:  Schools are actively encouraging the use of student owned devices. With clear and consistent expectations they can be used to support learning and supplement school devices.
  2. Internet filtering: Schools that have prioritised wireless coverage and fast Internet connections can allow students access to the majority of the Web, including the likes of Youtube and Facebook. Allowing student owned devices onto your network means you can continue to filter and monitor.
  1. IT provision and procurement: The days of the Computer Lab are numbered. Is your school still investing in desktop PCs? Or have they investigated mobile devices, perhaps funded by parental contribution models?

What would learning look like if your students had increased access to learning opportunities through mobile devices? A pedagogical shift is needed to make the best use of the opportunities that are provided. My personal experiments have shown promise new pedagogical models such as Minimally Invasive Education and student led 20% time. Opportunities abound to collaborate with learners worldwide, revolutionise assessment, and to tap in to the 80% of learner’s lives spent outside of school, but alongside their mobile devices. 

What are your experiences of using mobile technology and connectivity for learning? Where do you see the biggest opportunities and barriers?

I’ll leave you with words from Lord Puttnam at The Schools Network National Conference 2011:

“Technology has not as yet been able to make anything like the significant impact as has proved possible in most of the other fields of human activity”

“We need to develop a far better sense of the challenges [our students] face and we need to engage far more effectively with their world… to see the digital environment as they do, as transformative… as something that’s already changed the nature of how they go about their daily lives and indeed the way that they learn and can be helped to respond to learning.“

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