A recent USA survey has shown that the use of cellphones in the classroom is at a tipping point – click here to read about it.
According to the Developing Telecoms website 90% of all telephone lines in Africa are mobile and market penetration is expected to reach more than 50% this year – representing a total of more than 500 million people in Africa owning a cellphone, several countries have broken the 100% market penetration threshold and some countries’ cellphone markets are growing at more than 100% per annum.
A 2008 research project which tracked cellphone usage among school children in South Africa, specifically in a township school, showed that when pupils used a cellphone for learning purposes they achieved better results than those who did not. When one considers the incredible market penetration of MXit, the popular mobile messaging service with 27-million subscribers, and the pervasiveness of mobile phones in the youth market, it is surprising that most schools still maintain draconian no-phone policies. Pupils are told that mobile phones are not welcome in the classroom or on the school premises at all. They are told that the one device with which they communicate and share information is not welcome in the place in which they spend 8 hours a day learning to communicate and share information!
It seems to me that a more open approach is required. I recently heard cellphones referred to as “mobile learning devices”. I like this as it sets the tone right from the outset. It says to the student that if you want to use your cellphone for learning it is welcome but if you intend to use it in inappropriate ways and in a manner which will distract you from learning then you had best keep it at home. If our teachers are willing to use mobile phones in their teaching and pupils know what is expected from them, I believe the temptation to abuse this everyday piece of technology at school will be greatly reduced.
Imagine if your pupils could use cellphones in the classroom to record science experiments on video or through a series of still photographs and then upload these to an online sharing site complete with all the necessary notes, observations and conclusions. Imagine allowing your pupils to take their mobile phones on a field trip to interview experts, celebrities, museum staff, curators of national monuments and so on and then using that audio record to produce a piece of primary research or use as part of a report-back session. Imagine your pupils using Twitter from the mobile phones with a class specific hashtag to produce an ongoing backchannel to your lessons. Imagine your class using their mobile phones to record the planting of seeds and tracking their growth for tabulation in a Natural Science module.
The possibilities are endless if only we are brave enough to venture into waters many of our colleagues find frightening. Are you brave enough? Will you take that first step into a brave new world where your students can use the technology with which they are most familiar to learn about that which they are not?
Innovative usage of mobile learning in schools is starting to take hold, with
forward-thinking educators understanding that today’s students don’t just want mobile learning — they actually need it.
I am now on mid-year break and am finally catching up on all my outstanding admin – including this blog!
Does your school use social media? Do you have a social media policy for pupils and/or staff? What role does social media play in your marketing plans? Is there someone on staff assigned to social media? Should you concern yourself with this “fad”?
These questions are extremely relevant to schools today and it is shocking to me to find that most schools have only given social media a cursory glance. In a world where interacting on social media has overtaken pornography as the number one online activity and where reputations (both personal and corporate) are made and broken through the power of collaborative discussion, schools cannot, dare not, think that they can shut themselves off from the power and omnipresence of social media.
Not only are parents and community members on social networks, pupils are as well. Are we teaching them the skills needed to be responsible and safe while using these tools or do we simply ban their use at school and blindly assume that they will be alright while accessing them at home?
Digital literacy and digital lifeskills should be compulsory components in school curricula. I don’t see that at present in many school and I believe one of the biggest reasons is the lack of a suitably interested or qualified teacher. I also believe that it many cases the school principal is also blissfully unaware of the need for education in this sphere.
With all this in mind, Tim and I are in the process of setting up a consultancy to work with schools in the fields of social media and helping teachers utilise the power of technology to teach in more effective and creative ways. There is more to Google than searching for information…
If you would like us to speak at your school or would simply like to know more, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
We cannot afford to ignore this … what are you doing about social media in your school? Leave a comment and share your thoughts…
Update – see presentation here