Monday, June 21, 2010

Anywhere, Anytime

Recently, I was reminded of the changes in information access, which was either not easily unavailable or clean access online than what exists today. While driving my kids to school, my daughter realized she’d left her notes on the three Laws of Motion on the kitchen table. Her test was that morning, and the trip to school was an opportunity for study. Hmmm, no time to turn around as we were 10 minutes into a 30 minute drive.

After a moment’s thought, she took my smartphone and used a website with the information to review for her test. Cellular and wireless technology has come a long way. While internet access via phone has been around for awhile, the speed and page view quality are recent improvements. My son routinely asks for the computer, my phone, during drives for research or to find his favorite program online. Video streaming isn’t too bad, depending on cell tower proximity. iPads, e-Book readers like the Nook and Kindle, are just some of the gadgets available that offer excellent portability and internet access anywhere, anytime.

Outside of schools, adults and children are plugged in using these tools. Information, both acquired and created, are so integrated into our culture because of widely available access, schools must seek ways to incorporate them into the students’ academic world far more pervasively than currently exists. Universities and post secondary institutions have heeded the call several years ago. There are k-12 schools that have also made the shift, fully embracing the possibilities such as High Tech High, New Tech High, and Holland Christian Schools. Yet the trend in k-12 continues to be slow. Either schools maintain a comprehensive ban on students bringing phones and other electronics into classrooms, or if allowed, the usage is held to a minimum.

Bans exist because of fear that students “might” commit serious abuses from academic dishonesty to not paying attention to instruction. The former happens regardless of such tools and the latter is an indication that instructional practices may need to be restructured for engagement. In either case, how can students learn responsible use when they are denied the opportunity?

Minimal use of such tools in the classroom is often due to an educator’s lack of experience with using the tool in the educational world. One solution is to recognize that students are an important resource to channel their expertise with the tools. Provide clear academic criteria for work, and allow students to innovate ways to use their gadgets to accomplish the learning targets. Students are amazing creative people when given the chance to use what they understand. A second solution is for educators not to dismiss their own innate strengths with these tools. More adults use social networking sites, research online, and use such tools as digital multimedia, e-Readers, and cell phones. How can communication, research, collaboration, and critical thinking be incorporated into an academic assignment or unit? Then embed the gadgets.

K-12 needs to get on the bus, and then drive it to newer innovations, and not be left at the corner or sitting firmly in the back. The tools continue to evolve. As I sit on a plane more than 10000 feet up, the airlines provides wireless internet access, truly,

Anywhere, Anytime...