The mobile technology in schools debate

This morning I followed a link in Facebook to a new article in “Education Nation” by Professor Chris Dede called “Give Students Mobile Devices to Maximize Their Learning Time“.

In the article Professor Dede states that mobile devices have six senses:

1. Knowing where you are

2. Interacting with networks

3. Sensing local content and services

4. Discovering relevant things

5. Enhancing your surroundings with information and simulation

6. Learning your interests, as well as how and with whom you like to learn

Using these “senses” the student has the ability to interact with the world of information, with each other and to do so seamlessly on a 24/7 basis. He contrasts this availability with the traditional “industrial model” of school where everything comes from teacher-led discussion, using the old “chalk and talk” and where the blackboard is the main illustrative device.

Professor Dede sits at one end of the mobile devices in schools debate. They are great, they will transform education and they should be adopted now.

At the other end sits a school which was highlighted in another “Education Nation” article: “A Silicon Valley School Eschews Technology

In this article  The Waldorf School Of The Peninsula is looked at. This is a school where the use of technology is  largely shunned in favour of a traditional “chalk and talk” approach. The fact that the school is in Silicon Valley and many of the pupils parents work in the forefront of developing new technology makes it an interesting case.

To quote the article ”

Despite being in the heart of Silicon Valley, Waldorf students are not caught up in the gadget frenzy that has consumed so many other school children nationwide. Computers are not used in the elementary school and they are used sparingly at the high school level. Teachers say they’re not anti-technology, but, as they put it, they’re just in favor of healthy education.

“I’m concerned that if we say we need technology to engage students we’re missing the fact that what engages students is good teachers and good teaching,” said Lisa Babinet, a Waldorf math teacher.”

These two articles show the two arguments in the “mobile technology use in schools” debate. I would strongly recommend that you read them both and try to think of where you stand in this important debate.

For myself, it will not surprise any of my readers to know that I am very much in the Chris Dede camp. I have written a blog post called “10 Reasons We Should Allow Mobile Phones Into Schools” which is, to date, the most read of any blog posting that I have done.

I would welcome any comments on where you stand on this question or just where we’re at in terms of progress (or lack of it) at the moment.

Adam Bellow’s #140 Conference talk

This talk is an absolute gem. In 15  minutes Adam delivers a great talk at speed about the state of technology in education.

It is funny, informative, hard-hitting and perceptive and the sort of talk that administrators, teachers and politicians should be watching.

I especially liked his comments on the use of mobile technology in schools. I have been going on about this myself for quite a while yet Adam is able to make the argument forcefully and well in just a few minutes.

This is truly a talk to enjoy and would have graced any of the similarly timed “TED” talks (maybe they will be looking at it for future reference).

Can I also take this opportunity to once again recommend Adam’s excellent website called “EduTecher” which has some excellent videos and reviews of many great free and downloadable programs.


10 reasons we should allow mobile phones into schools

1. They are powerful tools
2. They are easy to use
3. The children do not need to be trained in their use they know it already…. they can show you!
4. They can be used for immediate access to information
5. If they take pictures or videos they can provide children with a means to get visual data immediately
6. They have a recording facility which will promote oracy in the classroom and can be used for podcasts or for incorporation into blogs
7. They have calculator facilities which will promote calculator use in investigation or just in ordinary day to day mathematics work
8. They have a messaging facility which comes in handy for communication  (in a disciplined way within the school day).
9. They have really good organisers that can provide information about dates, events and as reminders of when assignments, homework or coursework needs to be handed in and is a good life skill for the children to practise and learn to use effectively.
10. Media can be saved and used in groupwork (videos, music tracks)

These are just some of the things that most mobile phones can do today. If you look at the power of the iphone or the Android phones with their amazing Apps then you can extend this list almost endlessly.
I know there will be arguments against their use… that they can lead to bullying, that the children will spend all their time texting or playing games. All I can say is that the school sets the groundrules and the majority of children will obey them. Some will lose their valuable phones and some will have them stolen… some will bully others but that cannot be used as an excuse to cut every child off from a powerful tool that can really add to their learning and change the way that their school lets them learn.

Some schools have already made the bold step of allowing the phones in. I think in ten years time we will look back and ask what all the fuss was about and why we had all the discussion about something that will really help our children learn better.

A 21st Century Education

The title of my blog post is the title of a series of videos made by The Mobile Learning Institute.

The videos can be found at

This is a superb series of videos. The Institute has managed to get together a number of powerful leading figures who have the vision to have transformed their practice as teachers or administrators and  academics who are teaching the next generation of educators to be aware of the changed world that we live in.

I was particularly impressed by Larry Rosenstock’s video “Project Based Learning at High tech High” where I saw how Larry has mixed academic and so-called “vocational” learning and has emphasised the aspects of creativity that lead to the skills that students will need in order to survive in the 21st century.

I was impressed, as I have always been, by Stephen Heppell’s excellent video “Enpowering Young Learners” where he takes a taxi ride across London (where I was born) and discusses the opportunities of world class 21st century learning and the problems of the factory approach inherited from Victorian Britain.

Alan November is always worth listening to and watching. I would though recommend you to watch Professor Yong Zhao’s video “No Child Left Behind and Global Competitiveness”. This was a powerful video where the power of creativity and the new skills for the “flat world” of the 21st century are talked about in a backdrop of the University of Michigan where he teaches the innovative approaches to teaching and learning for tomorrow’s educators.

All of these educators have one thing in common..a belief that education has to adapt and change to the changed world that we live in and that at the end of the day we are educating children for a world that we can hardly imagine that demands creativity and flexibility.

Professor Zhao cautions us about the dangers of universal testing and the way that China (where he comes from) Japan and Singapore are now beginning to encourage diversity and flexibility. He contrasts this to the U.S.A. where No Child Left Behind and the obsession with standardisation is narrowing the curriculum at a time where it needs to be widening and deepening.

I really feel that you would benefit from seeing these videos and would like to congratulate the Mobile learning Institute for having made these videos… which are beautifully shot with clever cinematography and excellent use of music… a real find for me and hopefully for the readers of this blog.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

In praise of Diigo

I have been fortunate to have had a headstart in my learning about new technology. I have a brother who is a university librarian.One of the first sites that he pointed out to me as a useful site for bookmarking what I found when searching the internet was Delicious

At that time I didn’t really make the best use of the facilities to bookmark and share my bookmarks with others that Delicious gave me. When I discovered a new zest for learning about new technology and its applications to education I soon found out how useful it is to bookmark a page when I come to it so that I can return to it later for deeper reading or to take from it specific quotes which could be highlighted.

I was fortunate in finding a lot of my earliest contacts through “The Educator’s PLN” , a Ning site that acts a social network for educators interested in the use of web 2.0 tools in education. Many of the educators had a Diigo reference that led me to look up this particular program.

I found Diigo absolutely brilliant and easy to use from the very beginning. I could highlight things and save the highlights (which I could then include as quotes in future blog postings such as these!) I could save bookmarked pages to my library and also, I could actually share my library with others and receive their updates and bookmarks.

As those of you who are regular followers of this blog (and I believe there are a few) will know, I am a great admirer of Elementary and High Schools in Van Meter Iowa, which has a superb technologically aware group of leaders and an excellent librarian who is amazingly up-to-date in her skills in accessing and publishing new links (seemingly every day) to the amazing potential for education of web 2.0. Her name is Shannon Miller and I have written about her and her school’s wonderful library site earlier in this blog

Today I received my usual daily update from the Van Meter Library Diigo site which I am a follower of. This is where I really get excited by Diigo’s potential. This link is shared with all of the followers of the site and therefore, for students, it allows them to keep in touch and then look up these sites for themselves. This opens up the world of learning and means that discoveries of brilliant sites, videos, recordings etc., can be shared.

Today’s posting got me to look up a video from ABC News in Chicago and a brilliant resource called “Edmodo” which I shall be writing about in my next blog posting. Thanks to Shannon for the links and to Diigo for making it work so well.

Incidentally, Diigo allows teachers to open a site which they can share with their students. If you get the chance look into this… it really has great potential for you and your students.

Pranav Mistry and augmented reality

My usual source of information (i.e. Twitter links) has led me to two exciting and interesting developments in mobile technology recently.

As I pointed out in my last post, I believe that mobile technology will be the real development of the next decade. That mobile phones with immense power will eventually break down the barriers that schools have put up against them.

I have already seen this start to happen when I saw a recent video which showed children using the ipod touch in a school This showed the potential of the new mobile technology that we have now, no mind what we might achieve by the year 2020.

Another fascinating example of the augmentation of reality was seeing a brilliant talk on TED by an amazing young inventor and engineer called Pranav Mistry. This is his development of what is being called “Sixth sense”.

To get a real feel for what this is about you will need to see the TEd talk which I have put in my list of personal top 10 TED Talks elsewhere in this blog. The talk can be seen here:

I would also suggest reading Pranav’s own web-site s i x t h s e n s e – a wearable gestural interface (MIT Media Lab)

I feel that these two developments will really have an impact on education in the next ten years. When I first saw Mistry’s Sixth Sense gear it looked very much like science fiction but then I thought, if I could go back to January 1st 2000 would i have conceived of a small handheld instrument that had internet capacity and pupils  could communicate with other and with pupils throughout the world, could access information from so many different sources, could use it to calculate and interpret data.

The key issue here was the foresight of the school’s Principal to let this powerful technology into the school and give the pupils the chance to use it. As he said in the B.B.C. interview “the pupils deserve to have the very latest technology so as they can compete in this world”.

I feel he is the sort of person who will use the Sixth Sense technology in his school as well as make use of whatever other powerful developments come our way in the coming decade.