Laptops, computers, communication centers, cell phones and tablets have all been discussed as technologies that have promising applications with regards to education. Even so, cell phones stand alone in a pivotal way. In US high schools, 98 percent of the students have a smartphone, according to a Blackboard and Project Tomorrow and Blackboard report.
UN’s “International Telecommunication Union’s” estimate reveals that there are 5.3 billion worldwide cell phone subscriptions— and that 90% of the global population can now access a cell phone network. On the contrary, merely around 2 billion people can access Internet.
Students all over the world are bringing their devices to classrooms and are using cell phone technology as a means of learning. Whether this results in an unwanted distraction or a learning boon is of course debatable, but the four cell phone uses in education — among countless others — can help prove fruitfulness of the technology.
1. Learning based on Inquiry
ACU “Abilene Christian University” started to equip students with iPhones and iPods back in 2008 and now the students also have access to iPads.
The faculty at ACU have utilized phones in their classes in many creative ways. The department of theater showed interactive production of Othello, the newspaper of the students launched a version of iPad and the teachers used cell phones to aid discussions, especially on controversial issues. No one thought smartphone apps and similar tools would be helping augment the quality of education at any point, but lo and behold here we are.
The cell phones have also aided in the creation of a style of teaching that the faculty call “mobile-enhanced inquiry-based learning” — an assortment of cell phones and a theory of learning that involved questioning and experimentation in teaching.
Teachers use cell phones for the delivery of information, key words, flashcards and other fundamental info that students require for them to come to class prepared for experimentation and discussion.
2. Flipping the Classroom
In many classes in ACU, a mobile implementation component is lecture podcasts, which permit students to take information that is normally delivered in the classroom, according to their own time preference and in dorm rooms.
The basic idea is to ensure that the teachers are freed up during class hours for interaction with students, solving problems, a concept that is called “flipping the classroom.”
This allows students to pause or repeat info as well, especially the one that is confusing, and they can also work at the pace that suits them.
3. Textbook Reinvention
A project aiming to transform textbooks so that it falls in line with ‘How People Learn’ (the name is inspired by a book of the same title). The result is BioBook, which is a “device-agnostic”, node-driven, peer-written text. In simple words, it’s akin to Wikipedia, but maybe on steroids.
In his lectures, Macosko asks students to scribble down nodes that are “one-concept”, which are then linked to other same subject nodes. After a student opens their book, they can click around said nodes to learn any subject in any order that they want.
As a part of the book’s pilot project, students chose the book instead of the traditional textbooks. The final book version includes multimedia, analytics, quizzes among other options for teachers for student interaction.
4. Teaching Communities that are Hard to Reach
Cell phone prevalence has resulted in many educational efforts to reach the same conclusion as Michael Trucano, who is World Bank’s ‘senior ICT and education policy specialist’
He believes that Broadband would come, but not soon enough. He is also very clear in his stance when he says that computers would come, but again not soon enough. And with phones being already there is a veritable exploration opportunity.
He however, cautions that there aren’t many cell phone educational initiatives in the developing countries; even so, there are various promising projects.
Like for instance in Pakistan an educator group began sending quizzes to students via SMS. Other initiatives like Philippine’s text2teach and Tanzania’s BridgeIT, use cell phones to send educational content to classrooms via videos.
At a time when a lot of countries are mulling over purchasing tons upon tons of computers to cram their schools education ministries need to consider pocket computers as a part of broader investment decisions.