Transforming the Way We Learn - Mobile Learning
On September 22nd, the New York Times will be holding the inaugural “Schools for Tomorrow” conference, bringing together preeminent leaders in education, business, politics, and philanthropy to discuss how schools can better harness technology to prepare children for life in the 21st century.
Influential thought leaders from around the world will be attending the conference, including K12 founder and CEO Ron Packard. In addition to attending, Ron will be participating in various panel discussions alongside other distinguished professionals and leaders who are helping shape and transform the way we learn.
In a series of thinktanK12 blog posts, I’ll be taking a look at some trends we can expect to see in education in the near future, as well as introducing you to some of the influential people scheduled to speak at the conference, and how they are helping revolutionize education.
While K12 students have long embraced the “learning happens everywhere” philosophy, students in traditional schools increasingly want to be able to learn anywhere and anytime. And with mobile devices becoming more affordable and powerful, they can.
According to one study, 90% of teenagers have cell phones, with the numbers for their tween counterparts not far behind. Likewise, the number of students with access to a smart phone continues to grow dramatically; currently 35% of all adults own a smart phone and that number is rising. Mobile internet usage is also growing by leaps and bounds, with a recent study estimating that within the next few years, 80% of people accessing the internet would be doing so on a mobile device.
As a result, educators are finding creative ways to harness mobile technology. A growing numbers of schools, which once banned personal devices, are now encouraging students to use their own devices in the classroom, incorporating them in class discussions via Twitter, or having students answer poll questions. Currently, there are thousands of educational iPhone and Android apps available, from games to graphing calculators.
The K12 curriculum and online school are becoming more mobile friendly, with an attendance app, math and science study and review apps, and learning games like the “What’s Sid Thinking” series. In total, we currently have a12 mobile apps available for iPhone, and two available for Android devices, with more on the way. The K12 Product Development team has some cool stuff in store for later in the school year. We can expect to see additional packs available for our “What’s Sid Thinking” series, mobile versions of some of our popular desktop games, and more apps for Android phones.
On the horizon for the future, we can expect to see educational applications that take advantage of increasingly sophisticated technology. MIT recently announced it was launching a center devoted entirely to developing educational mobile technology and apps. In particular, they’re investigating making use of technology like augmented reality and GPS for the purposes of learning. Pretty cool stuff, especially when it fits in the palm of your hand!
Take a look at some of the other innovative and educational uses for mobile phones that I’ve come across recently:
- QR codes –Those funky black and white squares that are popping up all over the place, in store windows, billboards, and on websites also have some pretty cool educational possibilities. QR (quick response) codes are multidimensional bar codes that when scanned with a free QR reader app on your phone, direct you to content - a URL, video, email address, etc. The codes are super easy to make and people are finding some creative educational uses for them. QR codes in textbooks or worksheets can direct a student to a video that enriches their understanding of the content. Or a QR code in sheet music can link to an mp3 of the song. Some teachers create educational QR scavenger hunts for kids (a parent could just as easily do so). Searching for QR ‘clues’ gets kids up and moving while they learn.
- Understanding Shakespeare - Usually the first thing you’re told when you enter a theatre is to turn off your phone – not vibrate – off. Last year, Abilene Christian University did the opposite with its production of Shakespeare’s Othello, welcoming mobile phones. The crew created a blog which audience members were encouraged to access during the production to look up unfamiliar words and interact with cast and audience members. Check out the video here. The actors didn’t find the phones overly distracting, and being able to better follow the dialogue made it more enjoyable for audience members. I’ll be interested to see if any other theatre groups decide to try this.
- Conducting research - Wildlab is built on the premise that “the future of science education is mobile and participatory.” Students use the free app to track and gather data about GPS-tagged birds, learning to identify different species and making observations about their habitats. Students’ findings also have real-world value, as the data they gather aids research at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology. Wildlab has a similar app, still in the beta stage, which will help researchers collect data on horseshoe crabs.
- Bridging the “digital divide” for low-income and underserved students – low-income students who may not have home internet access are more likely to access the internet via their phones. Mobile learning is also being used to reach underserved populations in developing nations, with recent initiatives in India and South Africa of teaching through mobile phones showing a lot of promise.
- Learn a language - Andrew Cohen, a guest at Schools for Tomorrow, is the founder of Brainscape - a suite of 22 iPhone apps that uses digital flashcards to aid language learning, test prep and general knowledge. Students can use the database of flashcards, or create their own. It’s interesting to note that these aren’t just digital versions of traditional flashcards. Users apply active recall and rate their confidence in their answers, rather than selecting from multiple choice answers.
How do you use your phone to augment yours or your child’s education?
What educational apps do you like?
What would you like to see in the future?
thinktanK12 blog: Transforming the Way We Learn - Game Based Learning
New York Times: Schools For Tomorrow