This entry is being written during a break in the STEM education conference in Indianapolis put on each year by the League for Innovation.  The audience is mostly community college folks committed to improving education for all.

Not surprisingly, mobile technologies are a hot topic with the majority of college students using smart phones these days.  The consensus is that we are at the cusp of a revolution – a position with which I am in full agreement.

The question is what to do about it.  Unlike traditional educational technologies (clickers, smartboards, etc.) the mobile revolution is customer driven, not school driven.  This means that it is unstoppable, especially in colleges.  If students are not allowed (and encouraged) to use the tools they carry every day, they are likely to vote with their feet and transfer to a more understanding institution.

The unfortunate thing I’m starting to see is the desire to co-opt the revolution by using these new tools to do old things differently, rather than using them to do completely new things.  For example, moving textbooks to mobiles might have some benefits, but this assumes that this 16th century technology is still the best we have to offer.  In my mind, the rich interactivity that can be manifested by these new technologies opens new doors for learning, but only with the active support of educators.  Several colleges have already asked if we can work with their teachers to help them build bridges to this new world.  (We can, of course, and would love to talk with anyone facing a similar challenge.)

As for myself, I am carrying my Levono tablet instead of my laptop, and using it for everything (including writing this blog.)  I will always want a full-function computer for elaborate tasks (writing books, creating multimedia presentations, etc.) but for taking notes, posting blogs, grading students, or watching the Two Dogs Dining video on YouTube, this tool fits the bill quite nicely.  Not only is it much lighter than my laptop, but the battery lasts all day – and my days are long.

Step one (in my view) is for teachers to start using these tools themselves.  They will soon discover why they are so compelling to our students.

Advertisements