Controversy over allowing students to bring their own devices into the classroom continues to brew with strong arguments on either side of the issue. But in a world where technology is increasingly being integrated into everything we do, the breach between traditional learning settings and the meaningful integration of technology into classrooms must be closed if our children are going to be prepared to embrace the full range of possibilities that lie ahead of them.
In a recent article, Terry Heick, director of curriculum at TeachThought, offered 50 compelling reasons why it is time for smartphones in every classroom. While he points out that poorly-integrated technology can certainly stifle learning and that concerns about issues such as privacy, equity, bandwitdth, lesson design and classroom management are legitimate, he warns that we must find ways to fix the gap between schools and communities—“the system and the humans it serves.”
The issue, he says, is less about “digital literacy” and being “connected” than it is about mobility. Soon, the argument won’t even be about smartphones any more. It will expand to contact lenses that record and wearable mobile hardware with haptic (tactile feedback technology activated by the sense of touch) that will guide students through research and information and connect them with social media.
Heick argues that education must “finally take a position of leadership in the use of technology to support how we make sense of the world around us.” Here are some of his compelling reasons that it’s time for smartphones in every classroom:
- Students could Google anything–just like you do
- Used Smartphones are very affordable
- That affordability can reduce rather than increase equity and access
- Learning will increasingly be self-directed. This means utilizing technology, and the most mobile, affordable, and accessible kind of technology is a used smartphone
- Mobility will be another core tenet of learning, which requires mobile technology
- Texting in class is a classroom is not a technology problem. It is a management problem, or, perhaps a matter of instructional design
- Smartphones are already dated technology, but they can serve as a bridge to related gadgets like wearable technology, which is already here
- Workflow in classrooms is now based primarily on physical media, which often means “shoehorning in technology.” Heick says it’s time to reverse that
- Students can create their own workflows
- The hardware isn’t overwhelming. Technology isn’t the point of learning, and should not overwhelm awareness, curiosity, interaction, or critical analysis in favor of mass publishing and communication
- They’re easy to turn off or put into airplane mode.
- Push and location-specific notifications have tremendous potential for personalizing learning
- Reverse the security issue—think about how helpful a smartphone can be to a teenager under certain conditions
- Geo-tagging, game-based learning, and apps with adaptive learning algorithms can differentiate for students
- Tumblr–easy grab-and-go blogging
- Students can create their own IT department or tech support teams
In another of his points, Heick warns, “students continuing to learn without access to the hardware and software they’re accustomed to using on a daily basis only further alienates and discredits schools rather than ‘cleaning them of distraction.’”
Long Island high school English teacher Sharon Holzman sums it up this way:
“Technology, now more than ever, is key in the classroom. With projectors, laptops, and SMARTboards in the classroom, teachers and students must be tech savvy. Smartphones are a distraction when students believe they need to text, tweet, and instagram 24/7. But smartphones and other technological devices can be used for good. It can be utilized in anonymous live surveys or question answering in class. My students are required to use GoogleDrive for all their papers and presentations which get saved to the cloud and easily shared with me or help them present by having notes on their smartphones. My student forgot to share a presentation, so they went on their smartphone and shared it right in front of me. There is no limits with the technology!
Another part of the picture is the communication with parents. Email has changed the face of teacher/student and teacher/parent communication. In addition, it adds another lesson for my students: writing professional emails.
This is the new face to the real world and schools are beginning to help students approach technology in a professional and constructive manner.”
In yet another of his 50 reasons, Heick said, “Yes, it very well may be that we are becoming addicted to technology as a culture. Banning them in schools while pretending that your classroom is the last bastion for humanity is lunacy.”