Once upon a time, in the land of academia, teachers loathed the very presence of cellphones in their classrooms. To curb this practice, we tried everything. Collecting and keeping the mobiles in our desks. Lining them up across our whiteboards. Reading student texts aloud when a phone went off during lecture. But the days of combating mobile device usage in education are now gone, maybe because we realized the futility of waging war against technology in this era, and we have now not only embraced it, but learned to use it to our advantage.
With three particular advances in technology-based learning, the latest being the bring your own device (BYOD) initiative, we have entered into a new age of education and show no signs of slowing down in the future.
Social Media Integration
To reach modern students, educators have had to meet them in their current natural habitat, the terrain of social media. Though the number of K-12 users is difficult to estimate, the percentage of Twitter users that are of college age (18-29) is more than 89 percent, according to Pew Research. We’d be crazy not to use this to our educational advantage, so that is exactly what we’ve done. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are used to communicate class announcements and to track class participation. And YouTube, well YouTube is a very close friend of mine. Not only does the video hosting site eliminate the need to haul around DVDs and “guessitmate” where to the portion of the content you want to show begins, but students can comment directly in the thread online, allowing you to see who has actually viewed the material and who has not.
A current issue with using social media is the copyright factor, especially when sharing source information. Once it is online, it is there for anyone to see, whether it has been purchased or not. In the future, I foresee a greater adaptation of social media sites to accommodate educational institutes, and an increase in available material that falls under fair use.
Cloud computing allows data and applications to be shared among users online. Options like Dropbox and Google Drive have managed to eliminate the cumbersome problems of trying to coordinate platform and document compatibility, as well as browser sensitivity. It does not matter if you have a Mac or PC, if you browse in Safari or Chrome. You simply upload and save your work online and seamlessly share it with collaborators. This resource benefits both educators and students. The student’s information or assignment is there in the cloud waiting for you. The dog cannot eat the cloud.
There have been issues, however, with securing personal data in the cloud. Cloud computing is potentially a FERPA violation waiting to happen, but in the future, I see school’s coordinating with cloud computing support companies to work around this issue.
And finally, we arrive at BYOD. In not only allowing but encouraging students to bring their own devices to class, schools are able to cut back on the very expensive cost of technology upkeep and replacement. It also saves instructors time in the classroom as the students are well-versed in using their own devices, so the teacher does not have to stop and assist each one that experiences technical difficulties. Mobile devices also offer students a variety of apps engineered to assist them in budgeting their time, managing assignments, and participating in online activities.
Computer companies have dedicated their resources to spread their technology throughout school systems and are helping them to implement BYOD policies. Windows is probably the most popular, and is used primarily in schools for desktops, but in the future, a student may also be required to bring his or her own phone to school, specifically a Windows device.
The relationship between educators and technology has come a long way in the past five years. As the educational benefits of these advances continue to grow, it is likely that our disdain for mobile devices will further wane. One day, we may even come to admit that we actually need them.