Yes, it has been a while since I have posted to my blog. End of the school year, a trip to Japan with my students, some graduate classes, and a few relaxing weeks later, I am ready to start putting some of my ideas out into the ether again. I had originally intended this post to be about some of the things I've been working on for the upcoming school year (I will post on that later this week), but todays Edchat on Twitter got me thinking in a new direction.
The discussion focused on the use of smartphones in the classroom. There were many views on how to best implement such programs, the benefits and drawbacks, and how curriculum would need to be adapted. Some really great discussions developed during the hour over these issues and more and it was awesome to see educators thinking about, discussing, and debating their craft. As a result, I also came across some great resources at http://cellularlearning.org/, http://www.cellphonesinlearning.com/ and http://chrismayoh.blogspot.com/.
Now, I come to my personal situation. Last year, I allowed a limited number of students to use their smartphones, iPhones, and iPod Touches (wifi-enabled) to do research work in our class. For this, we usually go to the lab or use the class set of wifi-enabled netbooks. But, the lab isn't always available and we only have about a dozen netbooks (getting a few more this year), so we needed more ways of connecting online. This was generally pretty successful. Getting the right to use their mobile devices in the classroom (something they are not usually allowed to do during school hours) gave students a sense of empowerment and responsibility. As far as I could tell, no one abused the privilege by texting their friends or visiting inappropriate sites (things they likely do anyway when teachers aren't looking). The students were treated as adults, and they became better learners as a result.
This year I am planning on challenging my school to rethink mobile device use in the classroom. This needs to involve a reevaluation of our phone and mobile device policy. Also, it needs to involve teachers who are willing to pilot the use of such devices in the classroom (I plan on expanding my use of it, but one voice can get drowned out pretty easily). I will post more on this effort as it develops in the coming weeks. These devices are here, and they are here to stay. We should learn to make use of their enormous educational potential instead of treating them like a dangerous and unwelcome item.