Mobile Revolution and Old Educational Methods

SHAILA on December 10, 2012

Tina Barseghian in her article published in the 'Mobile Learning Series' reflects that just a few years ago it was not uncommon for a teacher to ask the students to switch off their mobile phones before the class began. Many schools to this day ban students from bringing these devices to school. However, in just as many schools today you can hear an educator say, “Class, Turn on Your Cell Phones: It’s Time to Text.” This shows the spectacular attitudinal shift that is rapidly taking place; educational institutions are now changing their very policies to bring these once-banned devices back into classrooms.  

Tina speaks about the all-pervasive role played by mobile gadgets in education; quoting the 1.5 million iPads deployed in schools, not to mention the individual mobile phones that 80% of teens own anyway. A few common applications of mobile gadgets in K-12 education include: 

  • Kindergarteners using an iPad app for learning
  • Teachers replacing the traditional text books with apps featuring videos and interactive quizzes
  • Educators monitoring student progress on a dashboard to track test scores in real time 
  • Lecturers modifying lectures to suit student interest by gauging their comprehension levels
  • Students using their smart phones for  mapping, note taking, calculating, etc, relegating class room desktops to the background

This all-pervasive role played by mobile phones throws up a few questions that require deliberation

  • Are we just applying new technology to old teaching methods?
  • What is the ideal mode of implementing mobile gadgets to maximise learning?
  • What is the impact of mobile learning on education?
  • How do we prevent mechanisation of education?
  • How to use mobile devices to create the necessary social touch and its effect on education

Elliot Soloway, a professor at the School of Education at the University of Michigan who coaches schools on how to use mobile learning techniques, says, “People are talking about this being an inflection point. It feels like something major is about to happen. It went from a silly idea, to, of course it’s inevitable. I’m petrified that we’ll apply new technology to old pedagogy. Right now, the iPad craze is using the same content on a different device. Schools must change the pedagogy itself.”

Applying New Technology to Old Pedagogy

The very system of teaching has to change to adopt mobile learning gadgets. The old method of a teacher imparting knowledge to a room full of 30 students and later testing them on their successful memorisation of facts has to change. The basic system of education should be transformed, for the omnipresent risk of pupils losing interest in this fad and pushing these new technological devices to the corner is ever present.

Michael Levine, Executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which researches how media affects learning also feels that continuing the old system of schooling will prove to be a classic example of old wine in a new bottle. 

Soloway says that schools that cannot provide a take-home device to its students technology carts, taking iPads from one class room to the next. This is akin to a cart of laptops and similarly, its impact on students will be next to nothing. Soloway fears, schools will be disappointed over the lack of gains after a year. 

However, true mobile learning is making an impact. Kindergarteners in Maine who used iPad app performed about 2% better than those who did not and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt reported students who used an iPad app in algebra performed 20% better than the traditional text book learners.

Ideal Mode of Implementing Mobile Gadgets to Maximise Learning

It is up to the school to customize and analyse how a mobile device can add relevance to what their students learn. Mobile devices will constantly change, and ways of integrating it with our educational system will have to consequently change to keep pace. But educators know for sure that mobile devices will make a big impact on education.

Impact of Mobile Learning on Education

Michael Levine thinks that, “There’s something in the design of mobile that lends itself to a different way of learning and interacting,” further adding that, “It’s a way of developing a one-to-one personalized computer in the classroom. There’s a powerful notion that you can walk away with the world at your fingertips.”

Mobile phones create a personalized learning space in which the students own what they learn. Prof. Soloway explains this with the example of a child who can click the picture of a tree’s roots and share it with the teacher and other classmates and later discuss and learn about it. The same picture can be taken by a camera, but using a phone to take the picture helps the student to integrate the picture into an artifact which also contains a concept map, or import it to a drawing program and label it. 

Usage of technology increases student engagement in learning. The mere existence of apps on a smart phone will not make students any smarter. Teachers and students should know how to use it. For an effectual difference, mobile devices should be integrated in learning and not function as standalone devices.

Students at Catholic High School in New Iberia Louisiana have completely integrated mobile learning devices. They converted the historical information about their home town into QR codes to be used for a walking tour. Children learn when they go into their community, research about historical sites and understand their significance. They could have created individual print brochures about the historical features around their town; it would have been just as educational. But the impact of a mobile phone added to their learning was that

  • QR creation made learning more interesting
  • It was more relevant to their lives
  • Learning became more personal

The Social Quotient

Desk placement in most classrooms does not permit any social interaction. However, research on child and brain development proves that relationships in the context of learning and even the people who encourage children to learn have an impact. It’s vital not to mechanise teaching and bring back the missing social context.

Mobile devices are social interaction gadgets. Children connect to their family, friends, and important social network sites thus combining mobility, social interaction and simultaneously accessing every learning aspect.

We at Mobicip believe that mobile learning revolution is inevitable, but we need to focus on integrating it into our learning system.  We also endorse the fact that mobile devices not only make learning personal and relevant it also makes education more interesting and its impact everlasting.