The digital era is upon us and it is very safe to say that our generation is the one walking on the wall that divides the analog and digital eras. The more we walk this wall, the smaller the analog world becomes behind us. Sometimes, we are affected by nostalgia and end up buying an old vinyl or that old camera that looks good in your lounge; it no longer works, but nostalgia prevents us to leave it behind for the moment.
For most us, technology has changed our lives forever. We do banking faster, find information (good and bad) within seconds and make the most of social media, where everyone is an expert at something. Today mobile phones and other devices are everywhere, and not having one or two of them makes you a weirdo. How dare you not be on Facebook?, what’s wrong with you?. This “requirement” to have an online identity and presence puts pressure on our shoulders because now we not only have to deal with the physical world (work, study and do what people do during their lives), but also deal with what this author calls the “online dramas” that the connected life brings us everyday. Ok, we talked about the pressures faced by the grown ups here, but what about the people that grew up in a digital world and that see interconnectivity as the norm?.
This week’s discussion is somewhat a very provocative and intuitive, task called “De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats”. It is the opinion of this author that one of the many keys to promote thinking is to provoke the subject/student to a new, and sometimes different, perspective or path; this activity has simply done that in a very efficient way. Briefly, the de Bono process broke down our thinking process into six components, which provided the respondents with a variety of approaches within thinking and problem solving. In summary, it seems reasonable to expect that the respondents would see the issue of mobile phones inside a classroom from a variety of angles. This activity could be used for a number of sensitive subjects, and it is vital that people answering the questions are true to their beliefs and open minded enough to respect people’s answers. I couldn’t help but to ask myself after I finished the activity, “what would kids between 12 and 18 years of age answer during this activity?”.
I realised that issues such as mobile phones inside classrooms will always spark controversy, since people have very personal answers for this issue. That is significant in itself, since my position as an educator requires me to follow and enforce a number of rules, but also to understand how such rules might look weird, useless, and a pain to students. It is the view of the one who writes to you that mobile phones have a place inside a classroom as long as they are used for designed lessons. For example, they should be reserved for times where they provide an opportunity for students to engage in ‘modification’ and ‘transformational’ activities that enhance higher order thinking in the classroom.
We could use mobile devices, such as tablets and phones, to engage students within a Connectivistic framework (using my right to use artistic freedom with this term). For example, a teacher could create a downloadable app (Fig. 2) where students could check their grades, assignment due dates, weekly agenda and so forth (Blue Hat), in an exercise that would empower the students whilst also giving the individuals involved the chance to manage their time and expectations, and realise their weaknesses and obstacles they face in the case they realise they are struggling with algebra for example (Black Hat). The possibilities are endless in this case study, since this same teacher could also create a reward system embedded in this app, where students are awarded “virtual coins” when tasks and homework are graded or finished. This case study demonstrates how connectivism and behaviourism could be successfully used with ICT to enhance students’ engagement, whilst encouraging to think about time management, big picture, focus, agenda, summary (Blue Hat), and risk, weaknesses, consequences, obstacles and potential issues (Black Hat).
Fig. 2. ClassDojo By Class Twist Inc. Source: iTunes Store.
These devices should not necessarily replace ‘traditional’ tools for the sake of ‘substitution’, perhaps for the purpose of superficially labelling ourselves as ‘progressive’ because we can pepper some ICT throughout our courses. The key question here is ‘how can ICT be used as a ‘tool’ in the classroom to enhance and transform teaching and learning?’. Depending on the purpose, mobile phones may do this. Sometimes.
It looks rather unrealistic to make the use of mobile devices generally acceptable given that some students will gravitate towards anything but their work. Finally, like the different answers given by different respondents, the best approach to avoid conflict with such a topic is to view the situation from a variety of angles, because the issue is not the mobile device, the issue is the individual and how the individual uses it inside or outside the class.