The school where students MUST have a mobile device

Mike Searson is the President of The Society for Technology in Education (SITE) and the Executive Director of the School for Global Education & Innovation at Kean University in the USA. I met him in Paris the day before the EDUsummit 2011 conference which took place there. He headed up our small, intrepid band of social media folk.

Something Mike related really made me think. He was working with teachers in one country when the internet went down. That would be pretty frustrating anywhere – I recall turning up to a school once to run a day’s training on the worldwide web, only to discover that the internet had decided to go on strike.

Fortunately, the problem was all sorted out by the time the teachers filed into the computer lab, and so I was able to go ahead with the training with few people being any the wiser about the professional development that almost never was. But in Mike’s case, the internet went down for two days. TWO Mike SearsonDAYS! As if that wasn’t bad enough, apparently that was pretty normal. So, here’s a question: how do you plan for professional development or anything else in a situation in which the internet connection, or even electricity in general, cannot be taken for granted?

Mike said that in SITE colleagues learn a lot about the practices across the world, and takes the view that all countries can learn from each other. As he said, countries are on a continuum when it comes to the digital divide, and there are differences even within countries – a theme that will be discussed in an article about global awareness and the digital divide.

Mike also described a project in which students were equipped with mobile devices and charged with the task of going out into the community to talk to people in order to document their World War 2 experiences. As he said, when you ask students to become historians and documentarians, rich learning occurs.

Interestingly enough, a similar project took place in London, some 25 or so years ago. Of course, in those days the mobile device was a cassette tape recorder, but the learning was still rich, because the resultant tapes made for a rich resource that all schools in the area could draw upon. What was lacking, of course, was the ability to share and collaborate easily, and the facility for commenting on others’ work, or even responding in kind, that we have these days.

More recently, I was involved in a multimedia project in which pupils from 6 primary (elementary) schools were equipped with, and trained in the use of, digital voice recorders, digicams and pocket camcorders (see Managing Change: Engaging The Teachers). Believe me: it works.

Mike reckons mobile technology is a game-changer – so much so that all his students have to have a mobile device at all times. Imagine that: a school where you’re castigated for not having a phone or an mp3 player!

Mike has agreed to give a talk in a forthcoming Teachshare session. These are online talks and discussions run under the auspices of Vital. The session will take place on Tuesday 21st June at 7pm British Summer Time. Could Mike’s approach and attitude work in other schools? Are there any subjects for which mobile technology is particularly well-suited? Join us by clicking on that link! Use this world clock time converter to find out what the time will be where you are.

Related articles

Reimagining schools: The potential of virtual education -- from the British Journal of Educational Technology. Link provided by Mike, who says:

Although the article is ostensibly about virtual education (in K-12), it argues that, today, such work must be coupled with mobile devices.