USA Today spotlights the future of mobile learning devices at school for students of the 21st century. This handschooling.com blog is focused on the knowledge to be learned from individual student connection to the internet. What USA calls “social media” is leading the way at New Milford High School in New Jersey. However it happens, the arrival of connectivity for today’s kids is hugely good news. From the USA article:
The principal of New Milford (N.J.) High School has nearly 12,300 Twitter followers (his handle: @NMHS_Principal). He and his teachers use Facebook to communicate with students and parents, and students use it to plan events. In class, teachers routinely ask kids to power up their cellphones to respond to classroom polls and quizzes. Rather than ban cellphones, Sheninger calls them “mobile learning devices.”
He replaced the school’s “static, boring” website with what has become a heavily used Facebook page, and his teachers encourage students to research, write, edit, perform and publish their work online.
Sheninger is one of a growing number of educators who don’t just tolerate social networking in school — he encourages it, often for educational purposes. He says sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — long banned and roundly derided by many peers — actually push kids to do better work and pay attention to important issues such as audience, quality research and copyright laws. . . .
“The Internet as we know it is the 21st century,” he says. “It is what these students have known their whole lives. They’re connected, they’re creating, they’re discussing, they’re collaborating.” . . .
Thousands of the children of Juarez live in houses like the one shown above. These homes are often a few dozen yards from El Paso, Texas and seldom more that 20 miles from the United States. As you would assume, if these children do manage to go to school they do not learn much.
The little boy in this picture could have a real chance to get a basic education — and maybe a lot more — through handschooling. Wireless is not available yet in most of Juarez, but near the border there is some connectivity. There are Juarez kids who can be connected to the web right now. Each one would need a mobile device with a web browser. The old saying goes, you save one child at a time.
Certainly there are many, many places across the world where this picture could have been taken. Think about it: To assume we can or will provide good schools for all the children living under conditions like these is folly. That simply will not happen. But today, right now, you can connect at least one kid somewhere.
BTW: The picture above is from Siguiendo los Pasos de Jesus (SPJ), which is a truly wonderful and effective project assisting families in Juarez. If you are touched by the plight of Mexican families in the midst of the drug chaos in their country, SPJ is a place where your help will be strong and effective. They are not set up to connect kids for handschooling, but their website describes many other kinds of help that would be meaningful.
Writing from El Paso, where my family has been since before 1900,
“A third of all American adults own a smartphone and for many minority and low income users, those mobile devices have replaced computers for Internet access.” So beings an article in today’s Washington Post. As usual, education is overlooked in the discussion — yet from the facts in the article the implications for engaging students in knowledge rattle the foundation of education as we know it. And that is a beautiful thing.
Those groups who are most under-served by schools today are carrying the world’s knowledge in their pocket — accessible there through their smartphone’s web browser. Minority and low income kids have not been lavished at home with cool PCs (in the olden days of the 1990s) and laptops (more recently). Their internet access has too often been in dysfunctional school computer labs where their online time has been limited or nonexistent — and controlled by curriculum and filters.
The Washington Post article explains:
Of those who solely rely on smartphones to surf the Web, most are minorities, younger than 30 and have low incomes. They’ve found mobile devices as a suitable replacement for buying expensive computers and paying DSL or cable modem bills every month. . . . Cable and DSL remain faster, but that difference may not be big enough to justify their high costs for some consumers.
The implications here are global, and the trends are breathtaking serendipity. Here are the big steps as they have happened:
The internet began.
Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (the web) in which anything can be connected to anything.
Experts have been pouring everything known into the web for nearly 20 years.
Cellphones have morphed into smartphones.
Smartphones have web browsers — so everything known can be looked at by their owners.
AND NOW –
The smartphones are proving the cheaper, and thus preferred web access.
Minority, low income, and young users are carrying smartphones.
And, best of all, knowledge delivered through those smartphones is post racial!
Scott Newcomb, a 4th grade teacher in the St. Marys Ohio City Schools has updated his website for mobile learning. He leads with this quotation from Albert Einstein:
The world we have created is a product of our thinking.
It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.
The range and quality of Scott’s ideas and resources are remarkable? Can the tipping point to the demise of chalk and pencil and the takeover of the smart phone be upon us. It’s about time!
In the last seven days, eBooks written by Homer have been downloaded 3708 times from Project Gutenberg according to the project’s Top 100 listings. In the past 30 days, Project Gutenberg has made 4,141,776 eBook downloads.
The downloads are free. Over 4 million people have received books to read on their handheld devices at no cost. And these numbers are only from Project Gutenberg. There are many other free sources for eBooks plus the entire worlds of Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and many other booksellers who increasingly offer eBook versions of their merchandise.
We are not waiting for the day when it is practical to read books on a mobile device. That day is here.
Gallup reports this week that: Young Arabs More Connected in 2010: Cell phone access jumps in low- and middle-income countries. The above chart is from the Gallup report, which begins:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Technology’s pivotal role in the change that swept the Arab world in late 2010 and early 2011 underscores how quickly its young people are gaining access to information and communication technology. Gallup surveys conducted before the unrest show 87% of 15- to 29-year-olds across the Arab League say they have cellular phone access, up from 79% in 2009. Home and community Internet access are up, too, but not nearly as much.
These facts and figures do not indicate how many of the young Arabs have internet access on their cellphones. Surely many do, and surely smartphones are flowing into young Arab hands. Smartphones deliver handschooling because smartphones browse the Web and the Web is now where the most authentic and up-to-date resources for knowledge are located.
While Facebook and other “social networking” dominate media stories about the role of connectivity in the Arab Spring, young Arabs have schooling of the future in their hands. Are they using the Web to learn? At the very least, the boys have a device by which to explore, challenge, and add to what they are taught in school and those girls who are denied school have a means to interact with knowledge.