Mobility for Students Must Begin with Addressing Teacher Beliefs

Yesterday, I scared a teacher halfway to retirement by merely mentioning the idea of technology in a student’s hand. Her reply, in what can only be described as complete and total disgust, was “You actually want me to allow them to have a cell phone in my class?” She then added that kids would be texting and “Facebooking” and she would not be okay with that. In response, I said…Absolutely YES! Her response…blank stare.

At #rscon4, my session, “Leveraging Mobile Devices to Develop Autonomy in Reluctant Learners” is all about utilizing mobile devices in such a way that kids leave your class continuing the learning process. It’s about instilling a sense of trust, ownership and access that students are often denied. Even in my school, where we encourage BYOT/BYOD, there are classes that thrive on the “red tech away” sign as opposed to empowering kids with them.

The problem stems from adult beliefs. Sometimes our beliefs hinder what we “allow” students to accomplish. We often, at times, believe that we have to know every piece of technology in order to use it. This could not be further from the truth. It’s not about the technology but how you frame the question along with your expectations.

When I work with teachers, I like to discuss what keeps us from using certain technologies first. When I posed this question to a group of math teachers, one teacher said that if she allowed mobile devices, students would have access to information that she did not know. Another said that students would just be taking pictures and texting. Another added..I just don’t see the point.

Access to Autonomy

My daughter, who was tech deprived in school, sat on the curb in tears while searching for a building during her first week of college. When I asked if she even bothered searching online for the information that she needed, she replied that she didn’t know that she could. As much as kids “google” things, it’s still surprising to them that they have access to information 24/7…even to college maps via their device. Information accessibility is a basic functionality of any smart phone yet it is the most often denied feature in a device-less setting. On my iphone, one my my favorite apps is iTunesU. I can literally take it out and enter any classroom that I choose. Students can learn on the go without being told to put it away. That is empowering. The fact is that information access is critical to student’s future lives. From a personal perspective, as my mother denies the need for a smart phone, I have to often remind her how my mobile access helped to save my dad’s life last year with one thing…ACCESS to the INFORMATION.

Embed Reflection with Pictures

Here is the assignment that I borrowed from the amazing Darren Kuropatwa, Have kids take a “selfie”, on purpose…at the beginning, during and at the conclusion of learning. They can post it to edmodo, padlet, instagram or whatever entity that your school allows. The caption of the image should describe where they are in their learning at that physical point. For the teacher that says only 20% of her kids do their work, this one will get you pretty close to 100%. By doing this you are taking something that seems to have limited value, the selfie, and reframing it so that it does. The selfie is now a reflection piece and if our goals include having students question themselves…this is a great start!

Getting the Point

Why mobile devices? To this, I say…Why not? When we think of all that we do with our devices now, I have to believe that we can empower kids to use theirs better. For me, my schedule runs my life. Simple tasks like adding information the the calendar can be the constant reminders that help kids meet their deadlines. The Google Drive app, available on every smartphone, gives students collaborative tools at their fingertips! If you clicked the Darren Kuropatwa link, it took you to his youtube video, created with an app called Social cam. The device in your student’s pockets, gives them the ability to create as well. Besides, what better way to demonstrate understanding than with your students communicating about their learning.

You can watch Darren’s video below.

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