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Using Mobile Technologies in Education and Training

While I host this Training and Development blog and use the occasional guest blogger, it is my hope that you will appreciate the other point of views.

The article below by Jason Novosel, Novo Horizons Management Training, a company from Down Under spells out the phenomenon quite plainly. And, today, I share it with you.

“It has been my experience as a professional educator that the teaching and training industry can be an inconsistent one. The industry is certainly dynamic – but the education/study boards, committees, government departments, etc. are constantly re-writing the basic philosophies of teaching and learning, based on the current “fashionable” research. Despite the “advances” in curriculum development and delivery, it is quite a challenge for teachers to actually keep up. Concerns have been, and are now being, raised by the teaching fraternity that a large percentage of educators do not feel well supported when it comes to implementing curriculum and pedagogical changes. Now, throw the latest technology into the equation, and…

“It is difficult to immediately deal with the pre-existing culture of education. The transition from rote learning to self-directed exploring of concepts is a slow one. Will technology aid this process? Will the educational philosophy and focus change to, once again, embrace the retro views of previous decades? What effects, if any, do mobile technologies have on handwriting, spelling, language and extension concepts? These are the questions that should be at the forefront of any investigation into using mobile technologies in the classroom. Unfortunately, there are no definitive answers as yet. Research into this area is still new and has not yet resolved into conclusions that educators can base solid plans on. Of course, progressive education and innovation demands the incorporation of technology and ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) into all areas of the curriculum. However, with quality of education in mind, I go back to asking the above questions.

“In addition to philosophies of learning comes the issue of staffing classrooms with quality personnel. Without teachers who can explore concepts and motivate learners, stocking classrooms with the latest devices will have very little impact. Without teachers who can themselves spell and use language in a grammatically correct manner, communication will suffer regardless of the device used.

“The Australian National Curriculum (ANC) has been written to commence language and number concepts in Early Years (also called Prep). What used to be Grade One (Age 5-6) material should now be covered at Age 4-5, according to the ANC document, and similarly throughout all the years of Early Phase of Learning. This, to me, is a recognition of and response to the generation of teachers who have not had the benefit of a solid grounding in language and number, based in a stable, consistent curriculum. The overt focus (which commenced 5-8 years ago in Australia) on the embedding of ICTs into every subject’s curriculum may have been the catalyst for the degrading of the classical ‘three Rs’. It seems education systems in Australia have recognised this and are taking steps to ensure the next generation of teachers can spell, add and be creative in using applicable technology. Australia is finally following trends that have already played out internationally. Traditionally, Australian education ideologies have been 5 years behind those of the US and UK.

“So far it has sounded as if mobile technologies should not be used in the classroom right? Well, here comes the ‘but’…

“I love technology! I use it every day. I actually create and help develop apps for use on iPad, iPhone and iPod. I also love education and training. I have been a teacher all my professional life – right up to the present day. Technology is the way of the future. It is inevitable that it will impact upon every facet of business, education, training and networking. However, users should, and must, be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of mobile technologies.

“Advantages:

  • Mobile learning and training can improve the service you offer to your clients/learners. For example training can more readily be conducted on site or from the home, rather than learners/employees travelling to a training venue.
  • More powerful solutions can link directly into office or work-based networks making the training experience very relevant to the learner’s role.
  • Greater flexibility in working and training. For example, training might still be able to take place while a learner is travelling, or even at home.
  • Users are able to connect to other learners around the globe increasing discussion, interaction and perspective.

“Disadvantages:

  • In Australia, there is a lack of network coverage in rural and some regional areas. This severely limits the use of mobile devices.
  • Some learners lack technological “know-how” or are more apprehensive about technology when undertaking study or training.
  • There are costs involved in setting up the equipment and training required to make use of mobile devices, as well as ongoing costs for upgrades.
  • Mobile devices can expose valuable data to unauthorised people if proper precautions are not taken or followed.

“Decades ago educators were sceptical at how the desktop computer would play a role in education. Now tablet computers and smart phones have become the dominant communication devices. Social networks are accelerating contact, networking and information to a wide and varied audience faster than ever. It is up to trainers and educators to navigate these networks and to find appropriate, creative and mature levels of thinking and questioning which facilitate the use of mobile devices, rather than have mobile devices dominate education and training.”

Jason Novosel
Novo Horizons Management Training



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Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

With the rising cost of education and the advantages you mentioned, how soon before mobile learning (at childhood, college and continuing educational levels) before mobile learning becomes more the norm?

Profile Photo Doug Tharp

The technology is here, most kids are using it (iPhone, iPad, etc) and it is up to educators and trainers to develop the correct aps and interactions to engage them and help them learn to think and create. I don’t think it will be long before most employees expect to be able to get the information and/or job aids they need to perform on the job from their smart phone at precisly the time they need it.

Profile Photo Jack Shaw

Mobile learning is already here with some companies underwriting devices and apps for schools–even in this economy, but I think the expectation will be that civilian contractors and corporate training organizations with bucks to spend should have the latest. I know government isn’t always lucky enough to have the new toys. Some of the training forums I read are already asking questions about how to turn their very portable media into presentation tools. Tablets are commonplace in the marketplace, and we are already doing hybrid classroom training (combination of online and in classroom) and shared apps are here now. I know the author of the article above works for a company engaged in designing these learning apps.

Profile Photo Don Fitchett

One of the key differences between the how the desktop computer worked its way into the classroom and how the smart phone will is …

The PCs had to be purchased by schools, updated every 2 years if lucky. The smart phone will be purchased by students and updated by students. This fact should excel the evolution, and increase schools priority to use and develop smart phone apps.

Profile Photo Jack Shaw

Phones, especially smart phones are “banned” in schools for obvious reasons at the moment. My kids, anyway, are allowed to bring them and put them in their locker until after, which is great for keeping in touch with your kids should something happen after school. I see cheaper tablets with a school or district network and those tablets limited in their use by the school. If the manufacturers are to take advantage here, they need to take into account the needs of the schools. Unfortunately most will try to get the schools to adapt to current products and as you say, Don, force the schools to update every couple of years. We did that in when I was in government, but we still had to buy the off-the-shelf products and most people could only use the basics they needed to do the job. Need new or updated software, you have to call the IT folks. For the schools, the tablets won’t need to be super sophisticated but if the price is right. You can get a cheap tablet for $200; they just need to be faster.

Profile Photo Don Fitchett

In my opinion Jack, schools have to refrain from old-school (pun intended) method of buying the technology (ipad, tablet, etc.) for the very reason that history taught them, there will be update cost involved. Using smart phones to educate in schools is completely different than using PCs or laptops, even though they may replace them. And wont take a decade either. Schools need to focus on smart phone apps only, let students buy hardware or check-out from library. Special hardware is not needed for schools, just special apps that make hardware work within the rules and regulations of a particular school. (My kids in high school, so they are allowed to have smart phone in class, teachers do refer students to educational and calc smart phone apps.)

School campuses can block call out signal, so calls out can not be made, or do like our school does, require students have phone in air plane mode. It will be the norm for smart phones in high school, and should be for college now. But schools, like Government and big corporations find it very difficult to think out of the box, even more so to act out of the box. :>) So there will be some schools with mobile teaching technology, and some without. I am still amazed my best friends daughter is in 2 year of college and still computer illiterate. Which shows some schools will always be the exception to the rule. unfortunately in this case.

Profile Photo Jack Shaw

You may very well be right, Don, But school districts are funny. I’ve been involved with ours for quite some time and some of the logic doesn’t always track. We have parents with money in a school district that does very well, but the parents are always objecting to changes. Why mess with a good record? Anyway, I think we have a range of no cell phones for some kids and the most expensive cell phones for others. I’d like to see someone come in who knows the range of options and advantages available and present these in an open board meeting. Of course the biggest problem are those people would be stakeholders themselves have the knowledge to share. But a committee to look at these options might be useful…