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Learning in the Pocket

Posted by John Hendron on 03/23 at 08:35 AM

This Saturday (March 26), VSTE will be hosting its first professional development event centered around learning with mobile technologies. But is this innovative? In some ways, it is, because never before have the type of programs existed for mobile devices like they do today (everyone and their uncle now is launching an “app store”). And the technology that’s mobile today in some ways rivals desktop computers of just 15 years ago.

But there’s also a history behind mobile learning, and for that we need to go back to the Palm Pilots, the experiences some college students had with Apple’s Newton, and we also have to look at the sophistication of calculators. What we learned early on was that students gravitated towards having a device in their hand. It became personal and something you wanted to hold. Much could be said today about the craze for cell phones and portable devices like the iPod Touch. Visionary Alan Kay many many years ago already knew this, as he envisioned a future where every student might carry a portable computer called a Dynabook.

The concept of mobile learning isn’t new. It’s simply come of age. And while children may gravitate towards using these devices which helps with engagement, we have to remember that there are bigger gains at stake when we invest in mobile technologies. There’s also the convenience of carrying around a giant portion of the world’s knowledge in your pocket.  In the 1990s we craved having reliable, fast Internet in our schools. For many, it didn’t come until a decade later. And now, well-into the second decade of this century, we can dream about the “Internet in our pockets.” In order for any deployment of mobile technology to be successful, we are going to have to first deal with the same demon that plagues learning in all schools - access to content and the mechanisms by which we filter this content.

The most powerful aspect of mobile technology, I feel, is that devices know where they are. The GPS capability opens up new possibilities for collaboration and communication, and the social aspect of the Web today is something we won’t for long be able to ignore when students have access to today’s powerful mobile learning tools.

I invite all members of VSTE - even those new to the organization - to take advantage this Saturday of our first Mobile Learning experience. Together, we can help make this age of the mobile device a positive and powerful tool in the toolkit for learning in the twenty-first century.

This blog is an official voice of the VSTE Board of Directors. In March, 2011, the Board decided it wanted a blog to share news with the education community and VSTE members. Learn more about the VSTE Board on our VSTE leadership page.

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