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Thoughts on the State of Mobile Learning

In 2011, Abilene Christian University held a Connected Summit, where various experts in the fields of business, education, and technology came together to share ideas about the current state of technology and where it's headed. Below are some of the conclusions I drew after watching this video, which covered the highlights of the Connected Summit.

Teachers should use technology that students already have

I think Abdul Chohan made an excellent point about how teachers should utilize the technologies that students already have with them in their pockets. It reminded me of an article I read recently called Adolescents' Engagement with Web 2.0 and Social Media: Research, Theory, and Practice. The authors talk about something called "turn-around pedagogies," which involves "the kind of curriculum- and people-work required for connecting Web 2.0 and social media to adolescents' academic literacies" (Alvermann 34). They expressly encourage teachers to focus on incorporating tools in the curriculum that address students' preexisting technological interests—such as videos, podcasts, or personal web pages—and for the teachers themselves to become acquainted with these technologies.

Students should learn to reflect critically on their media usage

However, the authors go a step further and insist that teachers give their students "critical media literacy skills," which include such tasks as reflecting on the pleasures derived from popular media, analyzing how popular media texts shape and are shaped by youth culture, and mapping the ways in which individuals assimilate popular culture texts differently. According to the authors, these are skills which students "are not likely to develop on their own" (35). They contend that this a process that should be facilitated by educators, but that "there is scant evidence that critical digital literacy instruction is keeping pace" (35). So, while I would say it is important to get students to use the technologies with which they're already familiar in an educationally engaging and constructive way, I think it's even more important for teachers to put the necessary checks in place to ensure that students are developing the skills to reflect on and assess the merits of their technological exercises.

Technology should be the supplement, not the focus

I also thought Billie McConnell of ACU also made a great point about how technology shouldn't be the focus of the classroom; that is the place of the curriculum. The technology should merely be there to support the curriculum, perhaps by enabling students to perform tasks and accomplish goals in a more efficient way. If you have a poorly designed curriculum, it doesn't matter how neat your technology is; the course will ultimately be a flop because it lacks actual substance.

Why don't more students have educational apps on their devices?

Robbie Melton of the Tennessee Board of Regents raised a very thought-provoking question. She remarks that while smartphones and tablets are filled with devices that are great for socializing, finding out how to get from point A to point B, and so on, that there are no notable apps that encourage the learning of math, English, and other school subjects in a dynamic, engaging way. I don't know if I can agree with that statement entirely, since language-learning apps like Duolingo have really taken off over the past couple of years, but I do see her point about how such educational apps don't really have a presence on most peoples' smart devices. What do you think the reason for this is? Are learning apps "just not cool?" Is there something about them that turns kids off? What does it take for an educational app to appeal to their demographic?

What were some of your takeaways from this video? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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