I’ve been thinking about Mark Anderson’s three questions for a little while now and have pinned down a few thoughts. Whilst he kindly published them on his blog, I never put them up here… until now!
1. What place, if any, has technology got in education?
Some people think of wires and machines when they think of technology. It is so much more. Technology is the beating heart of progress in education. It is richness and depth of experience. It is power that comes from unbridled access to knowledge. It is openness and engagement across cultural, geographical and financial divides. It is the leveraging of social capital and the flattening of hierarchies. It is the questioning of habits and the challenging of status quos.
2. What’s your favourite edtech tool for learning and why?
I am a bit of a bore on this front as I never give the newest, shiniest tools any airtime. Evernote is my learning workhorse, my memory bank, my brainstorming scrapyard, my web browser post-it notes, my strategic drawing-board, my lesson planner, my file-of-things-I-must-not-lose, and my digital answer to Michael McIntyre’s ‘Man Drawer’ (http://youtu.be/RgUpDGAIdds). I would be lost without it.
3. What are your thoughts on students using mobile devices in the classroom?
I’ve been an advocate for mobile devices for about five years, after it became increasingly apparent to me that in the mid to late 2000s, “more technology” in schools seemed to mean “more IT rooms”. Despite being a bit of a geek, I never liked seeing my students with their backs to me, facing the wall, trying to reconcile the cramped, solitary, awkward learning space at the computer with the classroom learning experience. Building rapport, maintaining eye contact, managing behaviour and attention: these basic elements of dealing with a class of little or not-so-little humans are nearly impossible in such environments, and too often IT room lessons became synonymous with Friday afternoon dossing about, time-filling busywork and building trite little PowerPoint presentations where far more attention went into the choice of WordArt in the title than anything else. As an ambitious linguist who was supposed to be teaching youngsters to communicate in another language, battling with the basic concepts of what good IT room practice looked like was quite the challenge, and I quickly became convinced that teaching outstanding lessons in IT rooms was a really big ask.
Mobile devices are the way forward, in my view. I championed a project four years ago at my school bringing banks of iPads into MFL classrooms, which allowed students to access a new world of information and resources, as well as making fantastic tools for creative work and collaboration available to them. With mobile devices, flexibility is returned to the hands of teachers about how the classroom is configured and how the work is blended. Students can easily and comfortably switch between digital and analogue resources, or combine the two. The digital world is at the students’ fingertips and the school spaces function exactly as they always have. If I believed in that sort of thing, I might say that the educational feng shui is restored.
A future in which mobile devices do not play a major part is now so distant from likelihood it seems ridiculous. The first and last interactions in many of our days is via a mobile device and their integration into so many aspects of our lives is inarguable. I believe schools have as much responsibility to teach students about digital literacy, safety and citizenship as we do their analogue counterparts. To hide our heads in the sand and pretend that the speed of change in the outside world doesn’t affect how we educate our young people is to do them and their future potential a profound disservice. Access to mobile devices in schools encourages our students to develop resourcefulness, critical thinking, mental agility and problem solving. Show me an exercise book and a blue biro that can top that.