In yesterday’s post I talked about Geoff Stead’s view of smartphones as elaborate “digital Swiss army knives” – full of all the tools one could hope for to represent learning, and aid in inquiry. While this technology offers us many ways in which we can integrate mobile tech into the classroom, it is still a tool first and foremost. How we plan for smartphone use, and how we formatively assess its strengths and weaknesses, will ultimately be more important. TPACK offers an easy way to break down the different elements of planning and learning that must be taken into consideration. According to TPACK, we can break this down into three forms of knowledge:
· Content Knowledge (CK) – “Teachers’ knowledge about the subject matter to be learned or taught. The content to be covered in middle school science or history is different from the content to be covered in an undergraduate course on art appreciation or a graduate seminar on astrophysics… As Shulman (1986) noted, this knowledge would include knowledge of concepts, theories, ideas, organizational frameworks, knowledge of evidence and proof, as well as established practices and approaches toward developing such knowledge” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
· Pedagogical Knowledge (PK) – “Teachers’ deep knowledge about the processes and practices or methods of teaching and learning. They encompass, among other things, overall educational purposes, values, and aims. This generic form of knowledge applies to understanding how students learn, general classroom management skills, lesson planning, and student assessment.” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
· Technology Knowledge (TK) – Knowledge about certain ways of thinking about, and working with technology, tools and resources. and working with technology can apply to all technology tools and resources. This includes understanding information technology broadly enough to apply it productively at work and in everyday life, being able to recognize when information technology can assist or impede the achievement of a goal, and being able continually adapt to changes in information technology (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
In planning for m-learning lessons, we need to be careful not to lean too heavily on our knowledge of technology for the sake of putting smartphones in our student’s hands. Instead, we should be looking at the unique abilities inherent in the technology, and plan lessons that take advantages of the features that this mobile tech. affords both teachers and students.
Today I looked around at the work that Geoff Stead is doing at Tribal labs in developing and distributing mobile apps and smartphones to test in classrooms. I first came across Geoff through a MOOC that he had set up dealing with m-learning, and the challenge of bridging the gap between theory and practice. Geoff gave a TED talk in London last year on his experiences with mlearning. Smartphones, he says, are kind of like a digital Swiss army knife – they provide us with a range of tools to record and represent our learning. As we use these digital Swiss army knives more and more we will move to a place in our teaching where our lessons are no longer confined to the four walls of the classroom. He talks about the idea of “Ubuntu”, a word of South African origin, which roughly translates to “I am me because of us”. We need to keeps this in mind when we develop and test out these new tools, as the collaborations with our peers and students will yield much richer results. Currently, Tribal Labs are taking refurbished smartphones and using them in schools in South Africa. Students are using them to develop their own apps to study for tests, and represent their learning in unique ways. They deem these projects m-Ubuntu, and their website can be found here. Here is Geoff’s TED talk:
My search continued today, with some investigation as to how museums are trying to use mobile tech to deepen student’s understanding of their exhibits. Museums offer a great bridging point between the classroom and the field as they offer a space removed from student’s home schools, while still providing a structured environment packed with information. The challenge is to find a way to synthesize all of this information in a way that is meaningful to the learner.
The History Center in Minnesota is taking steps to do just that. It recently invited a group of students to test out its new “Then Now Wow” exhibit, which makes use of a smartphone’s ability to scan QR codes to access and share content. These codes can open up movies, photos, or opportunities to “converse” with historical figures. It is up to the student which avenue they want to go down, and how long they want to spend on them. The smartphones also facilitate teamwork in group games where students have to work together to virtually gather building materials for a house that they will construct on their screens. Once they have returned to their classrooms, students will still have access to their pictures, recordings, or elements from the exhibit online. As Wendy Jones, the Head of Museum Education and Programs says, “These kids, digital natives, are different from any other children in human history. They are the first generation to have grown up with the Internet, video games and cell phones. They learn differently. We want to take the best of what technology has to offer and really deepen their learning.” The blog article dealing the students initial visit to the museum can be found here.
The British Journal of Educational Technology has an article in its September 2012 issue examining the ways in which mobile technology can enhance meaning-making in museum field trips. What they found is that technology is at its best in a museum setting when it is able to facilitate social interactions and inquiry activities. They further state that:
Learning in museums is conceptualized as the construction of meaning. Making meaning is a social practice—people engage with their environment and each other through “socially made and culturally specific resources, in ways that arise out of their interests” (Kress)
I was excited to see that many of the changes that the journal recommends are happening in the History of Minnesota’s programs. I thought I would investigate a little further, to see what other museums are doing:
The Melbourne museum in Australia has just released an Ipad App to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The App is called “Please Touch the Exhibit”, and offers stand alone content, and opportunities to interact with its exhibits. A video of the app in action can be found here.
The Museum of Modern Art also has a dedicated iPad App, in which users can delve deeper into the artworks on display, as well as viewing maps showing where works were created, and where artists lived. Glossaries of terms, and in depth videos explaining the works are also provided.
While not all museums are moving as quickly to adopt and integrate m-learning into their exhibits, there is no doubt that smartphones are shaping the way in which museums will operate in the future. As these devices becomes ever more pervasive, the expectation will be for more dynamic exhibits in which the user can control where they take their learning. It will be an exciting ride as we discover new ways to use this emerging technology for a generation of learners who do not know a world without it.
I spent the bulk of my lunch hour today on a google expedition, trying to figure out what types of experiences people have had using mobile technology, and how this might facilitate student’s learning. I’m not so sure that the “self directed field trip” exists in the form that i conceptualized it, but there are many examples out there of how tablets and smart-phones have enriched learning experiences in the field.
Shauna Ullman is a grade 3 teacher in Vancouver, and she brought along her classroom’s iPads to document their participation in the “Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup”. Her class came away with a great document of their day, and students were able to create reflections of their time spent in the field, when their experiences were fresh in their minds. Shuana’s blog post can be found here. Another third grade class took their iPad along to a trip to the Museum, taking pictures of their journey. Once they returned the pictures were imported into a slideshow, and students took turns narrating each slide. Their video can be found here. It is activities like these that show just how useful mobile tech can be in capturing that spark we feel when first encountering something new and exciting. Having the ability to record one’s initial reactions to powerful learning environments makes for a richer representation of student learning. I still frequently sub in classrooms where the favourite journal topic is to write about what happened over the weekend. This invariably results in groans from many of the students who feel like the weekend was eons ago, even if the activity is proposed on a Monday morning. How different those same journal entires would be if they could be updated in real time, as events were unfolding, or directly after!
As my search continued I discovered that there is a specific name for what I am researching. Instead of typing in “mobile technology that facilitates student learning” I could just type in “m-learning” and get links that were much closer to my desired topic of inquiry. M-Learning is described in this paper as “Any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies”. This was a step in the right direction, and I felt a sense of satisfaction in having a short hand term for describing my topic of investigation.
Next I stumbled across google’s “Field Trip” Android app, which is the closest I’ve come so far to finding something that accomplishes the self directed, infield learning that I am looking for. I have not tried it out yet, but it seems like it could be a useful piece in this puzzle I am trying to assemble. “Field Trip” uses the GPS data of your current location and references this with numerous databases provided by companies such as Arcadia,Thrillist, Food Network and Zagat to provide you with interesting bits of history, food options, local artists, and places of interest surrounding your current location. While not necessarily tailored to an elementary or middle school classroom environment, certain features, especially historical and environmental landmarks, would provide exciting learning activities. This is the kind of app I had in my head when I started thinking about this assignment. While not a perfect fit, it provides a framework for possible educational specific alternatives.
I’ve been having a hard time getting started on my final assignment for OLTD 502. My classmates and I have a lot of leeway with where we take the project, and I’ve found all this freedom a little incapacitating! Here are the instructions:
Use one of the models from the readings (i.e. concerns-based adoption or transformational leadership if planning to implement technology; or an instructional design template if furthering development an implementation of a learning activity) to help you implement an online or technology-based learning activity, or build a technology implementation plan to guide integration of technology in your own setting, or a mutually agreed project to further your own learning and inquiry.
Yesterday I had the idea of creating a “self directed field trip” in which students could go out to a specified location on their own, accessing required learning objectives in the field through a mobile device such as an iPhone / iPad / android product etc.… I wanted to find a way for students to be able to show their learning through photos, audio recordings and tweets while having the learning objectives and rubrics in a centralized “electronic environment”, such as a blog, or possibly an app. My head was swimming with ideas, and while I’m sure this type of thing is possible, it may be outside my limited technological capabilities. I intend to use this blog for the next couple of weeks to document my learning as I fumble toward some sort of solution to this problem and figure out what options are available to teachers interested in similar projects.
I plan on using the TPACK framework to assess what the successful implementation of this type of activity might look like, and to try and understand what considerations need to be taken in terms of content, technology and pedagogy.
While not a perfect solution to the problems present in brick and mortar classrooms, I think that the Khan Academy does a lot of things right, and offers a viable way for educators to “flip” their classrooms. When looking at the potential impact that Sal Khan may have on our practice we need to view the resources he provides as a jumping off point for the face to face time we spend with our students. Simply watching a video will not guarantee mastery of a subject. The benefit that prior exposure to a subject provides, is that it allows for more meaningful conversations in the classroom to take place. When students come primed with some exposure to the topic being covered they are able to offer support and clarification to their peers and scaffold their understanding as a community of learners. Using this method, classrooms can be transformed from places where information is passively received, to forums where it is actively demonstrated. This type of learning would not be feasible without access to resources that are available to students outside of traditional class times.
Another thing I really like about the Khan Academy is that it offers students the chance to progress through topics at their own pace, with concept mastery being the only criteria in moving forward. Too often students are restricted by the pace of their group, and discouraged from going too far ahead in the course. Letting students set their own pace allows for novelty in the tasks they encounter and autonomy in moving their learning forward. Having access to student data also helps teachers to identify which students need extra support, and which students may be good candidates to tutor those students who are struggling with a concept. In this way teacher time is maximized, and responsibility for their learning is placed in the hands of the students as much as the teachers.
Reaction to the Khan website seems to be quite polarized, with educators either singing its praises, or decrying its potential to undermine the foundations our educational system is built on. The reality is, that our practice needs to change with the times, and the system we currently use is outdated, and not benefiting our students as it could. I don’t think the Khan Academy needs to be anything more than another tool that we use to engage our students, taking pieces that work for our practice and leaving behind what doesn’t. As this new school refines its practices, I think we will see great leaps forward in the delivery and interactivity of the content, with both students and teachers benefitting.