Posts Tagged ‘emerging technologies’
Digital badges appear to becoming the next, “new” thing in education. What follows is a description of digital badges as described by Digital Media and Learning:
A digital badge is an online record of achievements, the work required, and information about the organization, individual or other entity that issued the badge. Badges make the accomplishments and experiences of individuals, in online and offline spaces, visible to anyone and everyone, including potential employers, teachers, and peer communities.
In addition to representing a wide range of skills, competencies, and achievements, badges can play a critical role in supporting participation in a community, encouraging broader learning goals, and enabling identity and reputation building. For a learner, a sequence of badges can be a path to gaining expertise and new competencies. Badges can capture and display that path, providing information about, and visualizations of, needed skills and competencies. They can acknowledge achievement, and encourage collaboration and teamwork. Finally, badges can foster kinship and mentorship, encourage persistence, and provide access to ever-higher levels of challenge and reward (http://dmlcompetition.net/Competition/4/badges-about.php).
The proposed benefits of such a system would be a broader and deeper picture of skill sets acquired both in formal and informal settings.
Advocates of this vision for K-12 contend that such badges could help bridge educational experiences that happen in and out of school, as well as provide a way to recognize “soft skills” such as leadership and collaboration. Badges could paint a more granular and meaningful picture of what a student actually knows than a standardized-test score or a letter grade, they say (http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/06/13/03badges.h05.html).
The Functions of Badges
Daniel Hickey proposed four functions of badges in Intended Purposes Versus Actual Function of Digital Badges:
- Recognizing Learning. David Wiley has argued cogently that this should be the primary purpose of badges. If we focus only on purposes, then he may well be right. His point is that badges are credentials and not assessments.
- Assessing Learning. Nearly every application of digital badges includes some form of assessment. These assessments have either formative or summative functions and likely have both.
- Motivating Learning. If we use badges to recognize and assess learning, they are likely to impact motivation. So, we might as well harness this crucial function of badges and study these functions carefully while searching for both their positive and negative consequences for motivation.
- Evaluating Learning. Digital badges have tremendous potential for helping teachers, schools, and programs evaluate and study learning. At the minimum, just having a system for tracking all of the information included in all of the badges that a program awards might be very valuable.
As good playground and game designers understand, it really does not matter what the intended purposes are of the adult designers. Children and young people will approach and interact with the apparatus in ways that fit their own development and sensibilities. Based on past history, such as stickers in class or at home for good behavior; badges in scouts for accomplishments, I have a hunch kids will approach the gathering of badges as a form of rewards.
Badges As Rewards/As a Means for Motivation
It’s a fine line between working for the reward of the badges (think badge of honor or bragging rights) and for demonstrating a skill set. Although digital badges are being touted as a means of documenting one’s achievements, we cannot get away from the notion that learners will work towards getting badges for the rewards.
Many point to research that suggests rewarding students, with a badge for instance, for activities they would have otherwise completed out of personal interest or intellectual curiosity actually decreases their motivation to do those tasks (http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/06/13/03badges.h05.html).
The problems of using rewards for motivation have been discussed by Alfie Kohn and Daniel Pink. Alfie Kohn, an outspoken anti-reward proponent, notes that they can actual achieve outcomes in direct opposition of desired results.
Rewards are no more helpful at enhancing achievement than they are at fostering good values. At least two dozen studies have shown that people expecting to receive a reward for completing a task (or for doing it successfully) simply do not perform as well as those who expect nothing (Kohn, 1993). This effect is robust for young children, older children, and adults; for males and females; for rewards of all kinds; and for tasks ranging from memorizing facts to designing collages to solving problems. In general, the more cognitive sophistication and open-ended thinking that is required for a task, the worse people tend to do when they have been led to perform that task for a reward (http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/ror.htm).
Daniel Pink discusses a similar occurance in organizational settings:
We’re not mice on treadmills with little carrots being dangled in front of us all the time. What’s frustrating, or ought to be frustrating, to individuals in companies and shareholders as well is that when we see these carrot-and-stick motivators demonstrably fail before our eyes – when we see them fail in organizations right before our very eyes – our response isn’t to say: “Man, those carrot-and-stick motivators failed again. Let’s try something new.” It’s “Man, those carrot-and-stick motivators failed again. Looks like we need more carrots. Looks like we need sharper sticks.” And it’s taking us down a fundamentally misguided path.
Digital Badges as a Form of Gamification
There is an argument that digital badges will be successful due to their similarity to game mechanics. Terry Hick in How Gamification Uncovers Nuance In The Learning Process stated that:
A digital trophy system–if well-designed–offers the ability to make transparent not just success and failure, accolades and demerits, but every single step in the learning process that the gamification designer chooses to highlight. Every due date missed, peer collaborated with, sentence revised, story revisited, every step of the scientific process and long-division, every original analogy, tightly-designed thesis statement, or exploration of push-pull factors–every single time these ideas and more can be highlighted for the purposes of assessment, accountability, and student self-awareness.
But comparing the digital badge system to gaming behaviors is a weak one. Bron Stuckey, Quest Atlantis research fellow, succinctly puts it as “slapping a layer of badges over learning isn’t gamifying learning.”
There are several significant differences:
- The user is self-motivated. Gamers choose the games they play and their goals for using that game. They are mainly drive by intrinsic motivators. The leveling-up becomes the symbols of their personal achievements. In other words, the leveling up badge of recognition is a result of performance not the primary goal of playing the game (subtle but significant difference).
- Gaming provides continuous feedback about personal performance. Although claims have been made that digital badges can provide this type of formative assessment, most appear to be designed as a summative assessment – learners meet a set of pre-established criteria to earn a digital badge.
Another possible flaw in and potential downfall of this system revolves the difficulties and dilemmas of deciding what the badges represent, how one earns the badges, and how badges will be standardized for recognition of “institutions” of learning and of employment. This lack of consensus about the meaning of badges will create further problems once the learner leaves that learning platform. What value will the badges have in unrelated institutions?
A purpose or rationale given for the use of digital badges is to provide evidence of specific skills sets that goes beyond courses taken and degrees earned. Randy Nelson of Pixar states that when choosing potential employees, he wants to see the proof of a portfolio not the promise of a resume (http://www.edutopia.org/randy-nelson-school-to-career-video). Digital badges have the potential to become a type resume on steroids – showing that skill sets have been achieved but not providing specific evidence and artifacts that demonstrate those skill sets. Given this age of personal websites, blogs, photo and video sharing sites, learners can easily leave a trail of competencies and skills via an aggregate of their achievements via some form of electronic portfolios. Here is a question to all of those who are considering developing or using digital badges for learning: If you wanted to evaluate someone for competency (e.g., for progressing to the next level of learning or for employment), would you prefer to see a digital badge or artifacts that provide evidence of that learning?
It is important to hack digital badges to explore potential intended and non-intended consequences of their implementation. Technology has sadly produced a learning society that easily gets seduced by each brand new shiny toy.
Design Thinking is trending is some educational circles. Edutopia recently ran a design thinking for educators workshop and I attended two great workshops at SXSWedu 2013 on Design Thinking:
Design Thinking is a great skill for students to acquire as part of their education. But it is one process like the problem-solving model or the scientific method. As a step-by-step process, it becomes type of box. Sometimes we need to go beyond that box; step outside of the box. This post provides an overview of design thinking, the problems with design thinking, and suggestions to hacking the world to go beyond design thinking.
Design thinking is an approach to learning that includes considering real-world problems, research, analysis, conceiving original ideas, lots of experimentation, and sometimes building things by hand (http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/03/what-does-design-thinking-look-like-in-school). The following graphic was developed by Design Thinking for Educators to explain the process of design thinking:
As a further explanation of this process, here is an exercise by the d.School about how to re-design a wallet using the design process.
Here is another take on the design thinking process as applied to learning within a community setting:
“What does it take to create education in this age of imagination?” was the theme of the following Ted talk. Imagination, play, and social interaction become important to the learning process.
To further learn about design thinking, visit:
- The d.school’s Virtual Crash Course of Design Thinking
- d.School at Standford University
- The Third Teacher+
Problems with Design Thinking
Bruce Nussenbaum, in a Fast Company article, Design Thinking Is A Failed Experiment. So What’s Next?, discussed the benefits of design thinking but also noted it has become a type of flavor of the month for corporations.
Design Thinking broke design out of its specialized, narrow, and limited base and connected it to more important issues and a wider universe of profit and non-profit organizations. The contributions of Design Thinking to the field of design and to society at large are immense. By formalizing the tacit values and behaviors of design, Design Thinking was able to move designers and the power of design from a focus on artifact and aesthetics within a narrow consumerist marketplace to the much wider social space of systems and society. We face huge forces of disruption, the rise and fall of generations, the spread of social media technologies, the urbanization of the planet, the rise and fall of nations, global warming, and overpopulation. Design Thinking made design system-conscious at a key moment in time.
There were many successes, but far too many more failures in this endeavor. Why? Companies absorbed the process of Design Thinking all to well, turning it into a linear, gated, by-the-book methodology that delivered, at best, incremental change and innovation. CEOs in particular, took to the process side of Design Thinking, implementing it like Six Sigma and other efficiency-based processes (http://www.fastcodesign.com/1663558/design-thinking-is-a-failed-experiment-so-whats-next).
I fear a similar outcome for design thinking within educational settings. As I stated in the introduction, design thinking, being a type of problem-solving model, is it’s own type of box. It attempts to solve problems via a specific process in order to come up with a new solution or product. John Media, in If Design’s No Longer the Killer Differentiator, What Is?, emphasizes the limited perspective that design thinking can create:
Designers create solutions. But artists create questions — the deep probing of purpose and meaning that sometimes takes us backward and sideways to reveal which way “forward” actually is. The questions that artists make are often enigmatic, answering a why with another why. Because of this, understanding art is difficult: I like to say that if you’re having difficulty “getting” art, then it’s doing its job.
Paul Pangaro, a technology executive, who combines technical depth, marketing and business acumen, and passion for designing products that serve the cognitive and social needs of human beings, further critiques design thinking in his video, The Limitations of Design Thinking.
If we stop with design thinking we won’t solve those problems that those in design thinking say they want to solve. Paul Pangaro
Hacking the World
All of this leads to the question of what types of learning in today’s classroom would help students acquire knowledge, skills, passions, and attitudes for living, working, and playing in today’s world. Design thinking is one process for creative problem solving, but to really survive and thrive in a world of such constant and rapid change, kids need to go beyond design thinking and be able to hack their world. Not only is it important to be able to use a creative process to solve problems, it is equally important to be able to identify problems to solve. As humans living within systems that are safe and comfortable for them using the tools and strategies that are familiar to them, it becomes difficult for many to step outside of that comfort zone to critically analyze these systems to identify problems and to discover better ways of living for themselves and for others.
Hacking is a way to do so. Hacking can be defined as:
Hacking is research. Have you ever tried something again and again in different ways to get it to do what you wanted? Have you ever opened up a machine or a device to see how it works, research what the components are, and then make adjustments to see what now worked differently? That’s hacking. You are hacking whenever you deeply examine how something really works in order to creatively manipulate it into doing what you want.
The real reason to be a hacker is because it’s really powerful. You can do some very cool things when you have strong hacking skills. Any deep knowledge gives you great power. If you know how something works to the point that you can take control of it, you have serious power in your hands. Most of all, you have the power to protect yourself and those you care about (Hacker High School).
In an NPR article, At This Camp, Kids Learn To Question Authority (And Hack It), Michael Garrison Stuber, whose daughter participated in the camp, stated:
“Why would I do this?” he asks, while laughing. “Fundamentally the world is about systems. And we work within systems all the time, but sometimes systems are broken, and we need to be able to subvert them. And that is a life skill I absolutely want her to be able to have.”
In developing hacking as a skill, an attitude, and/or as an approach to construct and de-construct the world, it is more than just hacking in terms of computer science. In order to hack the world, we need to tear it apart, deconstruct it and analyze its components parts and how they operate in relation to one another within various systems. This is a mental, social, emotional, and whenever possible, a physical process.
The following icebreakers are designed for web design, but they could also be used to establish a climate of thinking outside of preexisting mindsets which, in turn, becomes a goal of hacking: to develop alternative mindsets.
To get a broader perspective on helping young people become white hat hackers (folks who enjoy thinking of innovative new ways to make, break and use anything to create a better world), see:
- DEFCON kids 2012 conference schedule -http://www.defconkids.org/?page_id=406
DEFCON Kids: Hacking roller coasters and the power grid with cell phones – http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/defcon-kids-hacking-roller-coasters-and-power-grid-cell-phones
Although I am currently looking towards hacking as a way to facilitate creative thinking and positive (world) change, it also has the potential to become a more standardized process as is the issue with design thinking. Hacking, but its very nature, should force learners and learning to the limits, but attempts to scale any movement can inadvertently and unintentional create the type of standardized, procedural system it is trying to avoid.
Here are some of the materials and resources I am using for my Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture presentations:
Available via a Google Presentation: http://goo.gl/AkBcn
The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture ebook on Amazon for Kindle and iPad.
This ebook is an aggregate of all my blog posts available as a download for $1.99 at Amazon. It is an estimated 88 pages and is available at http://www.amazon.com/The-Flipped-Classroom-Picture-ebook/dp/B008ENPEP6/ref=pd_ybh_8. Chapters are:
- What is the Flipped Classroom
- Problems and Issues with the Flipped Classroom
- The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture
- How The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture Supports Universal Design for Learning
- The Flipped Classroom in Higher Education
- Mobile Learning and the Flipped Classroom; An Example Lesson
- The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Tinkering and Maker Education
- Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture Professional Development Workshop description: http://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/the-flipped-classroom-professional-development-workshop/
- Curated Scoopit of Flipped Classroom resources can be found at: http://www.scoop.it/t/the-flipped-classroom
This is a post about connectedness and its importance for human growth and learning. Prior to this discussion, though, it is important to note that many educational institutions are silos of isolation (thanks to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach for this term). Learners are often isolated from one another – told to pay attention to the teacher, not interact with one another during class time. Their connectedness often comes through recess, lunch, and secret texting to one another. Teachers and classes are often isolated from one another – remaining closed and isolated within the four walls of the classroom. Schools are often isolated from other educational and community organizations – “safe” within the confines of literal and figuratively self-built walls – done so under the auspices that learners must be kept inside and strangers kept from entering. These walls include firewalls that prevent the entering or exiting of social media and Internet content.
To continue to exist, a system must be able to import energy across its boundary or have a capacity to create new sources of energy. A system that is able to import and export energy is called an open system. One that cannot import energy is called a closed system. A closed system that cannot generate a sufficient amount of energy internally to replace what is lost to entropy will die.
The improvement of quality involves the design of an educational system that not only optimizes the relationship among the elements but also between the educational system and its environment. In general, this means designing a system that is more open, organic, pluralistic, and complex. Frank Betts http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov92/vol50/num03/How-Systems-Thinking-Applies-to-Education.aspx
Openness and connectedness has morphed into something qualitatively different due to the Internet, Web 2.0, and social media. In an interesting re-mix of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs in this age of social media, Pamela Rutledge proposed that connectedness is at the core of all other needs.
Needs are not hierarchical. Life is messier than that. Needs are, like most other things in nature, an interactive, dynamic system, but they are anchored in our ability to make social connections.
Social networks allow us to see, as never before, the interrelated nature of society and the palpable development of social capital from the emerging and intricate patterns of interpersonal relationships and collaboration. The strength of our networks and our bonds improve our agency and effectiveness in the environment. Our need for survival through connection plays out through every successful social technology.
- Collaboration and teamwork allow us control our environment
- Reciprocal and trusting relationships create effective collaboration
- Social comparison establishes organizational structure, leadership and order
- Social validation and social identity maintain emotional engagement and enhance attachment to our mates and our group
- Competence contributes to the survival of our group and our sense of security and safety http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/positively-media/201203/rethinking-maslows-hierarchy-implications-socially-connected-world
The Connected Learning Research Network introduced the Connected Learning initiative. It advocates for broadened access to learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity.
This week (January 2013), the Connected Learning Research Network released a report entitled, Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design:
Connected learning taps the opportunities provided by digital media to more easily link home, school, community and peer contexts of learning; support peer and intergenerational connections based on shared interests; and create more connections with non-dominant youth, drawing from capacities of diverse communities.
Connected learning environments have the following characteristics:
- Equitable: Connected learning environments ideally embody values of equity, social belonging, and participation.
- Production-centered: Digital tools provide opportunities for producing and creating a wide variety of media, knowledge, and cultural content in experimental and active ways.
- Shared purpose: Social media and web-based communities provide unprecedented opportunities for cross-generational and cross-cultural learning and connection to unfold and thrive around common goals and interests.
- Openly networked: Online platforms and digital tools can make learning resources abundant, accessible, and visible across all learner settings. (See my related post: Information Abundance and Its Implications for Education.)
The benefits of connected learning cannot be overstated. Not only are learning objectives and content-area standards more likely to be achieved as students become more excited and engage in learning; but their social-emotional needs have a greater potential to be met. Schools are doing learners a disservice (verging on being unethical in my perspective) by putting up all of those walls that prevent connection.
I developed a mission statement as an educator several decades ago. It is simply, “To provide students with the knowledge, skills, and passion to become lifelong learners.” I have never swayed from that mission, but as I say in my Twitter profile, “I don’t do education for a living, I live education as my doing . . . and technology has amplified my passion for doing so.” Technology makes possible 24/7, interested-driven learning. I teach online so I get the opportunity to learn everyday all day long due to the Internet and social networks. Students of all ages and settings should also be given the skills, tools, and time to engage in this type of self-directed, passion-based learning.
Higher education and high school teachers have stubbornly kept lectures as the primary mode of instruction. Most students in these venues report boredom as a result. I discuss this more in Who Would Choose a Lecture as Their Primary Mode of Learning. An opposing state of being passionate is being bored, a contradiction to my mission statement . . . and I believe that most educators would report that do not wish to elicit a state of boredom in their students. This is why I am confused that in these amazing times of the abundance of information, mobile devices, and free technologies, educators are not leveraging them in the classroom.
Where, when, how, and even what we are learning is changing. Teachers need to consider how to engage learners with content by connecting to their current interests as well as their technological habits and dependencies. http://learningthroughdigitalmedia.net/introduction-learning-through-digital-media
Reports continue to be disseminated about how young people are using technology. These devices, tools, and strategies can be integrated into existing lessons to enhance the learning activities and create more engagement, excitement, and possibly some passion among the students.
What follows are the results of some recent research and surveys about how young people are using technology along with suggestions how educators can
A nationally representative phone survey of 1,005 adults (ages 18+) was taken August 2-5, 2012. The sample contained 799 internet users, who were asked questions about their online activities. Based on the results of the survey, recommendations are made how these online activities can be leveraged in the classroom.
Have Students Show Their Learning Visually with Photos and/or Videos
Taking photos and videos are commonplace for many young people. Students can demonstrate their learning through some form of visual media. Using visual media in the classroom is congruent with brain research about the power of vision in learning (as per neuroscientist, John Medina) and supports research that visuals enhance learning.
Have Students Curate
As instructors, we are all information curators. How do you collect and share currently relevant content with your students? How do your students research and share information that they find with the rest of class? What tools do you use to manage or facilitate presentation of resources? Is it public? Can students access it at other times? In groups? Modern web tools make it easy for both students and instructors to contribute online discoveries to class conversations. Using free online content curation software, we can easily integrate new content in a variety of ways. http://iteachu.uaf.edu/grow-skills/filelink-management/content-curation-tools/
. . . and as Bill Ferriter notes:
While there are a ton of essential skills that today’s students need in order to succeed in tomorrow’s world, learning to efficiently manage — and to evaluate the reliability of — the information that they stumble across online HAS to land somewhere near the top of the “Muy Importante” list. http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2012/12/curating-a-content-collection-activity.html
- How can I use Content Curation in My Class?
- Teaching With Content Curation
- Students Becoming Curators of Information?
- Content Curation for Online Education
- Teaching Kids to Curate Content Collections
- How Educators Are Using Pinterest for Showcasing, Curation
Have Students Connect to Other Students, Teachers, and Experts Via Their Social Networks
By utilizing a technological channel that is popular with users, professors are increasing participation among students and seeing the results. Due to the real-time format of these outlets, students can contact peers, faculty and other authorities anywhere in the world, and usually elicit a prompt response. Despite its reputation, social media platforms allow professors to approach curricula in ways that are more creative and engaging to students. The College Bound Network has said of social learning, “Despite what you may have thought, technology doesn’t hinder learning—it fuels it.” http://www.business2community.com/trends-news/the-modern-student-the-rise-of-online-schools-social-media-and-institutionalized-understanding-0356321#tosmQAvUcXUAKmbU.99
- How teachers use social media in the classroom to beef up instruction
- Social Media Belongs in the Classroom
- 50 Reasons to Invite Facebook Into Your Classroom
- 100 Ways To Use Facebook In Your Classroom
- 50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom
- 10 ways to help students develop a PLN…
Have Students Use Their Own Devices During Class Time
Two reports/infographics support this strategy:
There are limitless ways to use student devices during class time. I recommend to educators to take what they are already doing well in the classroom and brainstorm how these learning activities can be enhanced using their mobile devices.
We have come to a time when we need to accept the fact that the concept of 21st century skills is no longer a progressive phase to latch onto but a reality that we need to instill into our school systems. When students bring their own devices it literally transforms the conversations that take place in the classroom. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2012/08/are_schools_prepared_to_let_students_byod.html
For several semesters, I taught an undergraduate course on interpersonal relations. It was at a vocational-driven local college with most of the students being between the ages of 17 to 22 (some high school students) and a handful of students in their thirties and forties. I took learning activities I had developed and taught in the past and enhanced them with technology. Reflections about these activities can be read at:
- Cell Sharing: An Ice Breaker Using Mobile-Devices (BYOD)
- Communication Activities Using Mobile Devices
- The Equity Game: A Mobile Device-QR Code Driven Activity
- QR Coded Student Videos: Classifying Activity
For more resources, see my curated Scoop.it of articles and resources related to Mobile Devices with Bring Your Own Devices
Pockets of institutions, administrators, and educators are successfully integrating the tools and strategies discussed above into their setting. More blog posts, case studies, journal articles, and news pieces about these initiatives can give permission and suggestions to those who are willing but scared or a bit reluctant.
Guest Post by Jennifer Fargo
The following is a paper written by one of my graduate students at American InterContinental University. Jennifer Fargo is a middle school teacher. Due to her passion for educational technology, I am encouraging her to start blogging and join social networks like Twitter. Because this is such a good paper I am (1) posting it as a guest post on my blog, and (2) hoping this will motivate Jennifer to begin her own blog.
Emerging technologies have the potential to transform learning in the middle school classroom across the curriculum. When properly applied in a student-centered classroom, mobile apps, tablet computing, game-based learning, personal learning environments, and natural user interfaces can improve instruction and learning, especially for students who need better motivation in school.
Some older, more traditional educational researchers like professor emeritus of Stanford University Larry Cuban do not see evidence that technology in the classroom improves instruction. He would rather invest in teacher training than in devices in the classroom (Hu, 2011). What these educators do not realize is that the very nature of student interaction with their world has changed drastically and permanently. The information shift is as drastic as the move from handwritten texts to books from the printing press (Rankin, 2010). Information and knowledge are no longer held by the few in select repositories waiting to be disseminated to the masses by a master teacher. Information, both accurate and inaccurate, is free and available for use instantly over the Internet.
Just as the students’ relationship to information has changed, the relationship of the teacher to the student must change. With the advent of the printing press, education changed. Mass access to information in printed books changed the roll of the teacher from facilitating individualized hand-written texts and informational storage for a few wealthy students to standardized classification of data and facts for masses of students who could read (Rankin, 2010). In this digital age, the role of the teacher is no longer to disseminate facts and data to students because students cannot get that information easily anywhere else. Because students can easily retrieve information, the role of the teacher becomes as a guide to the learner to take readily available information to evaluate and use it, to see the interconnectedness of information and provide context. Students construct their own understanding of the world and they do so using technology. The average middle school student has direct access to this information on a daily basis and interacts with others around the world using interactive video games, social media, and mobile technology. Technologies that students use daily at home can become the tools that educators use to guide students in constructing knowledge in the 21st century and beyond.
Emerging Technologies: The Next Five Years
The New Media Consortium, or NMC, is a professional organization of educators dedicated to the study and application of technology in the classroom. The NMC’s mission is to promote a “…collective understanding of emerging technologies and their applications for teaching, learning, and creative inquiry” (Johnson, Adams, & Cummins, 2012, preface). The NMC’s annual Horizon Project describes in detail six emerging technologies and their probable impact over the next five years in several learning environments. The K-12 edition describes the possible applications of these technologies in elementary and secondary classrooms. Several seem particularly applicable to a learner-centered, middle school classroom.
As mobile devices have become more accessible to middle school students, so has their potential to be resources in the classroom. Mobile devices are small, portable computing devices that usually contain WI-FI, Bluetooth technology, and GPS capabilities. They can be cell phones, smartphones, portable game consoles, tablets, or small computers. These computing devices can use apps for various functions. The mobile device most often talked about for possible classroom use is the cell phone or smartphone. As of 2010, 75% of 12-17 year olds own a cell phone according to a Pew Research Center study (cited in Koebler, 2011). With so many students daily engaged in the use of mobile devices, the creation of apps for sale and use on these devices aimed at this demographic has skyrocketed (Johnson et al., 2012). These apps can be used in the classroom with appropriate supervision and have many benefits. Mobile devices like cell phones are always capable of connecting to the Internet using 3G or 4G wireless networks. Mobile apps can be used both inside and outside of the classroom making them easy conduits for communication between students and teachers as well as facilitating collaborative learning with peers. This connectivity and portability also has the potential to create global connections through instruction making the world the classroom (Mangukiya, 2012). All of these benefits are facilitated by technology already familiar to students in daily life.
Because most students already own a cell phone or other mobile device, some educators are suggesting a program for instruction where students bring their own devices for use at school, called BYOD programs. Some of the obstacles to a BYOD program include not all students having the same device, some students not being able to afford the necessary devices, and devices as possible distractions when not in use for instruction (Nielsen, 2011). Some of these obstacles are overcome by the tenacity of teachers who see how engaged students become when using them and the innovation of the new booming mobile app industry. With these changes some schools are adopting a BYOD program as a cost effective way to integrate this prevalent technology into the classroom.
Tablets, like cell phones, are mobile computing devices. However, tablets have larger screens with sharper displays for using more powerful and educationally specific apps. In fact, tablets can run apps similar to software for computers making them a cheaper and more portable option for school based one-to-one programs. Tablet touch screens make them easy to use, and the portability of the mobile device makes them easy to share in a school environment. Tablets can also connect to the Internet to expand instruction.
In addition, tablets can be used as digital reading devices. Tablets provide a much more interactive experience than a traditional textbook (Watters, 2012). With options like a built-in dictionary, digital annotation, or read-aloud capabilities, reading with a tablet is more active than reading a traditional textbook. Although not all books and textbooks are available digitally, publishers are expanding their digital libraries.
Video games are pervasive in the United States, especially among adolescents. According to Robert Torres (2011) of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 97% of Americans between the ages of 8 and 18 play video games. For middle school students, video games are a way of life. Torres (2011) posited that video games are so important to students because they offer a sense of relevance and context, are active, provide social interaction, and offer emotional engagement. With student-centered instruction, teachers seek to incorporate these elements into instruction as well to fully engage the student and allow each to construct knowledge by ensuring relevant, active, and collaborative learning. Game-based learning can facilitate such instruction in a format that highly motivates students to learn.
Game-based learning can be approached in many ways. It can be as simple as a single player app for a mobile device or as complicated as a global multi-player virtual world accessed through the Internet. Many games require collaboration with peers and facilitate problem- solving skills with real-world applications.
Personal Learning Environments
Personal learning environments, or PLE’s, are a digital method of individualizing instruction. Each PLE is unique to each student. For educators who believe that a learner-centered approach is the best way to reach every student, PLE’s provide a platform for success. For some educators, this kind of transformational technology signals a change in teaching. “By marrying the principles of personalized learning with the tools of technology, some educators believe that they have a chance to create the kind of customized learning environment that can finally break schools out of the industrial-age model of education to bring about true 21st century school reform” (Demski, 2012). PLE’s can be in the form of wiki pages, personal blogs, e-portfolios of work, or websites that teachers or students can create themselves. PLE’s facilitate learner-centered instruction, which can be closely monitored by the instructor but is controlled by the student through a digital space. PLE’s can also promote collaboration when they are shared with others. For example, a wiki page or other shared document can facilitate group work. The wiki or document would be dedicated to that assignment and accessed by all members. PLE’s require a device to connect students to their constructed environment, which can be a computer, tablet, or mobile device.
Natural User Interfaces
Many educators believe that a more immersive teaching style leads to more fully engaged students and therefore better learning. Natural user interfaces provide a teaching tool that engages all the senses and promotes active learning in the classroom, meeting the instructional needs of all types of learners (Center for Digital Education, 2012). Natural user interfaces change the way that students interact with technology devices. The traditional keyboard and mouse are replaced by sensors that detect voice commands, gestures, and touches by the user to manipulate the given technology device. “Natural user interfaces allow users to engage in virtual activities with movements similar to what they would use in the real world, manipulating content intuitively” (Johnson et al., 2012, p. 32). Although already used with special needs students who have difficulty manipulating traditional interfaces, natural user interfaces have not translated generally to the regular classroom. Examples of natural user interfaces are the touch screen and surfaces, used on smartphones, tablets, and interactive whiteboards; gesture-based sensors, used with devices like the Xbox Kinect and Wii; and voice activated technology, used with the iPhone’s Siri virtual assistant and Nuance’s Dragon speech recognition software.
Applications Across the Curriculum
All of the technologies discussed have applications in a middle school classroom. However, it is not the technological tool that is important, but the instructional approach. According to Dr. Brenner, a school superintendent from Long Island, New York, “It’s not about a cool application…We are talking about changing the way we do business in the classroom” (cited in Hu, 2012). Technologies in the classroom are tools to engage students and are no substitute for quality teachers or instructional approaches. However, a change in instructional techniques must change as our students change. If properly used by excellent teachers, these technologies offer new ways to motivate and fully engage middle school students for life-long learning applied across the curriculum.
Some of these emerging technologies are appropriate for any content area. For example, any teacher can use a wiki to create a PLE for their class or for specific assignments. Students can then post work to the wiki while collaborating with the instructor and peers. Additionally, an instructor can use iTunes U to gather materials all in one digital location and distribute them to students. Students can access audio, video, or other materials for a class with a mobile app (Mangukiya, 2012). Another example of a mobile app that any teacher can use is called Poll Everywhere. This app allows teachers to poll up to 40 students using the texting-enabled cell phones for instant formative assessment (Koebler, 2011).
Another goal for many schools across the curriculum is to become paperless. Using tablets, students can use cloud computing to store and turn in work to create a paperless learning environment. Cloud computing also allows students to continue working at home with an Internet connection without lost papers or forgotten work. Digital textbooks also help schools become paperless and can be augmented by digital portfolios (Hu, 2011). In addition, students can take more interactive, annotated notes in class using mobile apps while interactive whiteboards facilitate classwork to be posted online as pdf’s. Although some applications of these technologies can be for almost any teacher, some benefits of these technologies are content specific.
These emerging technologies can be directly applied to language arts. Most universally applicable is e-books. E-book readers, like the Kindle or the iBooks mobile app for iPod, iPhone, and iPad, allow literary texts to become interactive. Interactive features improve reading skills like digital dictionaries for unknown vocabulary words, connections to supplementary online content to increase comprehension, digital annotation to increase depth of reading, and read-aloud capabilities for auditory learners. E-books also motivate reluctant readers (Watters, 2012). This is especially difficult with struggling readers in middle school. Students can even create and e-publish their own e-book for iBooks using Apple’s Pages word processing software. Although not every title is available digitally, digital publishing is becoming more common as mobile reading apps become more prevalent.
Literature also comes alive with mobile apps. For example, an app for iPad and computers is Shakespeare in Bits. This app provides an animated and interactive text of some of Shakespeare’s plays. Students can click on archaic vocabulary for definitions and watch animated performances of each scene for context. In addition to reading, writing skills can also be improved by the proper integration of emerging technologies. Practical, authentic writing experiences where work is shared with peers promotes improvement with middle school writers. PLE’s like journal writing in blogs or creating e-portfolios of written work can facilitate such writing experiences (Johnson et al., 2012).
Another highly motivating reading and writing experience is facilitated by game-based learning platforms emphasizing literacy, including a writing component and critical problem solving in collaboration with peers, called Quest Atlantis and Atlantis Remixed, or ARX. According to the website’s homepage, ARX uses 3D, multi-user, virtual environments to immerse students in educational tasks. ARX combines elements of video games with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation. Students take on the persona of an investigator, exploring different virtual environments. When enough information is gathered, each student writes an assignment based on his or her research within the game. The games are also customizable for different subjects and instructional objectives, promoting writing across the curriculum. This encourages students to write for different purposes and for different audiences, one of the common core standards for middle school language arts students. Their work is shared with peers around the world, motivating each student to write their best work. Even reluctant writers are motivated to craft their writing with thoughtfulness and clarity and reluctant readers build reading skills because they enjoy the video game elements.
Middle school science students can benefit from science based personal learning environments. One such PLE is called Scitable. Scitable is a free science library and personal learning tool focusing on genetics and cell biology. Students can join in scientific discussions, talk to experts in the field, and ask questions about science careers (Johnson et al., 2012). Teachers and students create their own virtual learning environment for scientific inquiry on the website.
In addition, schools in Virginia have begun replacing science textbooks with iPad interactive textbooks (Hu, 2011). The interactive textbooks can provide students with the means of manipulating data into charts, graphs, or other visuals; connecting to the Internet for more information about specific subjects based on student interest; connect students to practicing scientists, experts in their fields of study; and conduct virtual dissections or experiments. Along the same lines, interactive mobile apps for tablets or smartphones allow science students to learn by manipulating information or doing virtual labs. These kinds of apps permit students to learn the periodic table by viewing and rotating images in 3D or dissect frogs virtually (Johnson et al., 2012). Middle school students are independent enough in their thinking to accept more control over their scientific experimentation, with appropriate supervision, that tablet technology provides.
Middle school students in mathematics classes begin to study more complex mathematical constructions like percentages, ratios, and equations. Integrating technology into mathematics instruction can facilitate not only an understanding of the procedures of the math they are learning but also how to apply and synthesize it in the world around them. Mobile devices can help students visualize content. Students can graph equations using their smartphones. They can not only play math games using tablet technology but also view or create for themselves animations of complex math problems. In fact, California recently launched an iPad only algebra course in conjunction with Houghton Mifflin Harcort (Hu, 2011).
Gesture-based learning can also prompt students to apply mathematical concepts in new ways. According to the Center for Digital Education (2012), Johnny Kissco, a math teacher from Texas uses the Xbox Kinect in his classroom. “When I used Kinect in my algebra class, students began asking questions that went far beyond the curriculum requirements. This was a huge success, as it got students thinking about applying the content in a real-world context” (p. 1). Although most people use mathematics in daily life, middle school students are constantly asking about the practical application of the math they are learning. Students who use these devices to learn mathematics no longer wonder how they will use the assigned content; they see the practical applications through the instruction itself.
Arts and Physical Education
Many mobile apps for tablets encourage students to create their artistic visions digitally. Other mobile apps allow art students to view masterworks of art from museums around the world, such as the free apps from the Van Gogh museum and the Louvre. Students can interact with visuals and content about the artist. Music students can create their own digital music using apps like GarageBand for iPad. Such interactive apps can engage many reluctant music makers (Mangukiya, 2012). These creations can then be published and shared. Gesture-based learning can provide new learning experiences in physical education. Learning the rules or motions involved in a sport can be accomplished digitally where progress can be tracked through formative assessments collected by the device.
Middle school students are motivated and encouraged to use higher level thinking skills when instruction includes these emerging technologies. In the hands of an excellent teacher in a student-centered classroom, these technologies can transform instruction providing authentic, real-world learning experiences to the benefit of students of all learning styles and intelligences. This is the future of education.
Center for Digital Education. (2012). Learning through motion. Retrieved through Microsoft website: http://www.microsoft.com/education/en-us/products/Pages/kinect.aspx
Demski, J. (2012, January 4). This time it’s personal. Transforming Education Through Technology Journal. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2012/01/04/personalized-learning.aspx
Hu, W. (2011, January 4). Math that moves: Schools embrace the iPad. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/education/05tablets.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Cummins, M. (2012). NMC Horizon Report: 2012 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2012-horizon-report-K12.pdf
Mangukiya, P. (2012, February 3). How mobile apps are changing classrooms and education. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/piyush-mangukiya/mobile-apps-education_b_1250582.html
Nielsen, L. (2011, November 9). 7 myths about BYOD debunked. Transforming Education Through Technology Journal. Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2011/11/09/7-byod-myths.aspx
Rankin, B. (2010, August 24). Dr. Bill Rankin: Next-wave mobility and the three ages of information [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8yhPQrMfAk
Torres, R. (2011, November 9). TEDxGotham 2011–Robert Torres [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ahYeJ5LmnXI#!
Watters, A. (2012, February 1). The truth about tablets: Educators are getting iPads and e-readers into students’ hands–but it is not easy. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://thedigitalshift.com/2012/02/ebooks/the-truth-about-tablets-educators-are-getting- ipads-and-ereaders-into-students-hands-but-its-not-easy/
I teach an Integrating Technology Into the Classroom course for the Boise State Universities EdTech graduate program. As part of the course, students are given a choice menu of options for integrating technology into their respective content areas. One of these choices is to develop a Mobile Learning Lesson Plan. This is the template they are asked to follow:
- Content Area:
- Grade Level or Target Group:
- Pre Planning
- Big Idea(s):
- Essential Questions:
- Lesson Opening
- Lesson Opening (The Hook): Include a least one content-area app to gain students’ interest.
- Lesson Body
- Explanation: Include at least one content-area app that provides an explanation of the concepts
- Check for Understanding: Include at least one content-area app “tests” student knowledge of the concepts.
- Extended Practice: Include at least one content-area app that assists students in getting more practice in applying content-related concepts.
- Lesson Closing: Include at least one content-area app that assists students creating a project – producing a project that integrates and demonstrates the lesson’s concepts.
What follows are some examples from students who selected this option.
Poetry In Motion
- Poetry is “Found” Everywhere
- The Power of Expression (word choice / word combinations)
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge states, “Poetry: the best words in the best order.” Why is word choice especially important to poetry?
- Marshall Mcluhan states, “The medium is the message.” Does the “medium” influence how the message is perceived?
Mobile Learning for Writing
- Different pre-planning and organization methods are used based on the reasons for writing and the intended audience.
- How does the style and genre we choose to write in effect the message?
- How do different organization structures support different writing genres?
Writing a Paragraph
- Begin by brainstorming, move on to main idea and supporting details, conclusion, and eventually write a complete how-to paragraph.
- Why do writers need to make sure their writing is effective?
Sight Word Writing for Kindergarten
- Learning and practicing sight words helps students not only read at grade level, but also helps students express their ideas to produce pieces of legible, coherent writing.
- What does the word start with?
- What do you hear at the beginning?
- What sounds do you hear?
- What do you need in between your words when writing a sentence?
English Language Learning
English through Social Media on a Mobile Phone
- Language learners can improve their English language skills and increase their global awareness by interacting with English-based, social media platforms.
- How can language learners express their ideas and opinions in response to authentic social media discourse?
- To what extent can language learners accurately express their ideas and opinions in response to authentic social media discourse?
- Can this type of lesson help language learners such as those students in the Academic Bridge Program achieve course learning objectives?
Money Management Mobile Learning Activity
- Mobile apps allow students anytime/anywhere access to money managementinformation and tools.
- What are the core concepts that make up money management?
- What can one do to better manage their money?
- Students learn concepts of money management.
- Students increase their ability in money management.
- Students are more confident when it comes to managing their money.
Solving Multiple Step Equations: Mobile Device Lesson
- Students will be able to undo the math operations and keep the equation balanced to solve for the variable.
- What is the process to solve for the missing variable?
- Is there a pattern in solving for the variable?
- How does PEMDAS work when solving for the missing variable?
Art and Design
Digital Restaurant Flyer
Using mobile technology, learners will develop conceptual, organizational, marketing, and artistic skills while producing a tangible digital composition in a real-world, design scenario.
- How can mobile technology be used to create an artistic design?
- How can mobile technology be used to develop an individual’s conceptual, developmental, and artistic skills?
- How can multiple mobile technologies be combined to make one, cohesive artistic design?
- How does the style and content of a design affect the overall perception and effectiveness of a marketing piece?
- What role does organization play in executing a design from the development of a design to the final delivery?