Digital Directions - Spring/Summer 2012 - (Page 48)

Opinion Making RooM foR Mobiles instead of banning or ignoring mobile technologies, educators should seek ways to leverage them for teaching and learning by_Mark West & steven Vosloo f or most people, the words “mobile phone” and “learning” are antonyms. if shakespeare’s plays and proust’s novels are at one end of a spectrum tracing intellectual rigor, mobile phones—brimming with moronic twitter feeds, emoticon-stained text messages, and absurd games—are on the other, or so the thinking goes. Despite the fact that mobile phones have become increasingly central to our day-to-day lives, we continue to maintain that far from facilitating learning, the devices tucked in our pockets actually thwart the development of analytical thinking skills. as a result, schools often ban mobile phones. in developed and developing countries alike, a person is as likely to find a “no cellphone” sign taped to a school wall as a “no smoking” sign. and the similar design of the signs—an image of a phone or cigarette with a red slash through the middle—is hardly an accident. they both communicate an unambiguous message: cellphones, like cigarettes, provide a quick fix, but ultimately they will hurt you and, therefore, have no place in centers of education. research collected at Unesco indicates that phones are strictly prohibited in many schools around the world. fortunately, a small but growing number of school leaders have realized that mobile phones, far from being a marlboro encased beneath an LcD screen, are devices of dizzying utility, and that they carry enormous potential to empower learning, not only in schools but also beyond them. today, who among us has not used a mobile phone to solve a problem, learn something about the world, or cooperate with others? whether it be reading a newspaper, geo-tagging photos, checking the pronunciation of a word, translating one language into another, exploring new music and videos, or composing something artful in an email or, yes, even a text message, we are all already learning with mobile devices. to pretend that people cannot or will not leverage technology to improve their productivity is naive and ultimately selfdefeating. we do not ask students to forgo word processors in favor of typewriters, calculators in favor of slide rules, or internet databases in favor of card catalogs, and even if we did, students would ignore us. the benefits of having instant access to communication and the largest cache of information civilization has ever known are simply too great to ignore. Just ask the people of africa: on that continent, people spend, on average, 17 percent of their monthly income on mobile phones and connectivity plans. people in western europe and north america spend under 2 percent. why are africans willing to spend so much? because the cost of not having a mobile device is greater. mobile phones have become an essential ingredient of everyday life; they are more appendage than tool, often the first thing we look at in the morning and the last thing we see before going to bed. today, the question is not whether schools will engage with mobile technologies, but when and how. to borrow a (perhaps crude) analogy, the relentless push to enhance our 48 >> www.digitaldirections.org istockphoto_sean Locke http://www.digitaldirections.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Digital Directions - Spring/Summer 2012

Digital Directions - Spring/Summer 2012
Contents
Editor's Note
DD Site Visit
Bits & Bytes
Game On
Applicable Knowledge
Digital Badges
Lessons From Higher Education
Competitive Edge
Recognizing Online PD
Ready or Not
Q&A
Opinion
Data Delivery

Digital Directions - Spring/Summer 2012

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