From Mick Landmann:
As the penetration of smartphones and all things mobile into our lives continues exponentially (In 2011, according to Stanley Morgan, the combined shipments of smartphones and tablet computers are forecast to exceed those of personal computers), the use of those devices for teaching and learning within and without our schools is not keeping pace.
However, we at Digital Education Brighton (DEB) are doing our bit to encourage and support the use of these devices for education. At our inaugural meeting (June 2011), we established a project team to start working with teachers in schools specifically utilising pupils own smartphones in lessons. On the eve of our next monthly meeting to be held at the impressive Crew Club at Whitehawk.
I am happy to be able to report that we now have three projects, two with local schools and one with the Self Managed Learning Centre, that will be up and running very early in the new year (2012).
The first of these projects that starts next week is to look at some community projects pupils at Blatchington Mill school are involved in with a view to establishing how they might utilise QR codes. A QR Code (it stands for “Quick Response”) is a cell phone readable bar code that can store website URL’s, plain text, phone numbers, email addresses and pretty much any other alphanumeric data.
Sue Korman and I will be holding a preliminary session with the pupils involved next week (12th Dec) to explain the project and start generating some ideas. The full project will then commence on 16th January 2012. If you scan the QR code at the top of this blog post you will be taken to a little game.
The second project is with a school in Hassocks. We will be working with an art teacher and two of her classes to encourage the pupils to use their smartphones in class and elsewhere to record their work and each create a sort of e-portfolio. The project will make use of smartphone capabilities to record video, take photographs, record audio etc..
I have met the teacher involved (who lives in Brighton) and will be meeting her again before the end of the year with a view to kicking off the project proper as soon as possible in the new year.
The third project is with a young woman who attends the Self Managed Learning Centre at Brighton Youth Centre on Edward Street and wants to develop her photography skills. The idea is to undertake a project that is specifically about mobile and taking photo’s ‘on the go’ explicitly with a mobile phone. Because the young woman in question does not own an appropriate smartphone for the project we will be loaning her one from the ‘Smartphone repository’ that is being administered for DEB by Wired Sussex.
I have been thinking quite a bit about what has really changed in schools in the last few years – well actually since schools were invented. I went to a school in Harrow, but not Harrow School, which is famous for teaching a long line of public figures including several prime ministers. Harrow School was founded in 1572 and in those days (as indeed back to ancient Greece) education went like this:
- someone (in high office) decided what facts children should learn
- a special school (which came to be called a university) was set up to teach adults these facts so they could pass them on to the children
- these people (who came to be called teachers) would stand at the front of the class
- the children would sit at desks in rows facing the teacher
- a means of displaying the facts would be put on a wall behind the teacher – this was called the blackboard
- when there was no more room to display the facts, a rubbing device would erase some or all of the fact, so more could be put in their place
- the rubbing device could also be thrown at a child to maintain control – a wooden stick was a useful backup device.
- periodically the children would be required to show that they had remembered the facts. Occasionally just some of the facts had to be regurgitated – this was called a test. At other times all the facts had to be seen to be remembered – this was called an examination.
- if you passed examinations, you were entitled to rise higher in the system. If you failed, you remained at that level, almost certainly for the rest of your life (unless your family had money).
- someone (in high office) decides what facts children should learn
- special schools (called a teacher training colleges) have been set up to teach adults these facts so they could pass them on to the children
- these people (still called teachers) stand at the front of the class
- the children sit at desks in rows facing the teacher
- a means of displaying the facts is put on a wall behind the teacher – this is called the whiteboard
- when there is no more room to display the facts, a rubbing device can erase some or all of the fact, so more can be put in their place
- the rubbing device (and cane) are no longer available (health and safety reasons) for maintaining order – this enabled the invention of the electronic whiteboard
- periodically the children are required to show that they had remembered the facts. Occasionally just some of the facts have to be regurgitated – these are called SATS. At other times all the facts have to be shown to be remembered – these are still called examinations.
- if you pass examinations, you are entitled to rise higher in the system. If you fail, you remain at that level, almost certainly for the rest of your life (unless your family have money).
- with a grading system every students starts by thinking they are an A+ – from there, the only way is down
- with a games system, you give experience points, so everyone is working their way up
- there are opportunities for collaboration – bonus point for all students if some do well – gives an incentive to support the high achievers
- but could also design topics to enable the more able to help those doing less well – such that one only goes on to the next “level” when all the students have “made it”
- a sense of “agency” – feeling that you have control over your own destiny – that your choices matter
- agency is a scale – the more you have, the more likely you are to succeed, the less likely are you to be put off by failures.
- agency can be improved by playing games. In games, direction can be clear – you try things and fail, then start all over again until you get there
- external motivators and how the playing of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) encourage learning – best if cross-disciplinary, designed not to be specific to one type of person only
GoveWho decides what facts children should learn? Rather than answer that directly, I would pose another question: what skills/qualities should a young adult have? Maybe those of curiosity, being articulate, how to have good relationships, how to be a team player, how to survive difficult times. Perhaps the only key skills that are needed in the first instance are “bootstrap” skills – to speak, to read and write, and how to find things out. Then rather than have someone else decide what is learnt, allow children to learn what they want albeit in a guided way. Teacher trainingSo goodbye teachers, hello guides. Good guiding practises will be developed over time. These may be disseminated at guide camps, and on web sites. And of course, they are skill that will be picked up and practised by children at they guide and get guided. Front of classGuides can mingle/sit with groups of students. Guides can be the students themselves, and because they become proficient at guiding, they are able to carry on doing this throughout their lives (even if it is not their main profession). Back of classThere is now no absolute need for a desk, or even a classroom. Children can work in smaller groups, and this could be in a library, museum, a workplace, a beach … Blackboard/whiteboardA £3000 whiteboard can be replaced by 15 computer tablets – there should be one per child, and children should not be firewalled from the internet – they must find out how to use it responsibly. Rubbing devicethere is no modern equivalent for this – instead of erasing, think bookmarking. The ability to retrieve things you’ve seen/like/want to pass on are, imho, key skills Examsok, this is the one big area where gamification plays an important part. Reasons mentioned above – summary: completion of “levels” before moving on. Some means needed to make sure that “progress” is being made by all – leader boards – then pay more attention to those that are at the lower end. Pass or failnow, no need for cut-offs at certain ages. The system become more seamless between child/student/graduate/worker. Less boundaries between learning skills/practical skills/artistic endeavours.