"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bring Your Own Device

"Bring Your Own Technology" promises to accelerate student learning. Social media is indeed widespread now and it is important that students learn how to use these capabilities to facilitate learning. There are opportunities for greater collaboration and creativity. Being able to use technology is indeed a skill that should now be taught in basic education. However, there are serious obstacles. First, there is a question of equity. Technology does not make education cheaper. Not everyone can afford the devices as well as access to a network. Second, there is a question of appropriateness. Simply recognizing that being connected on a network is important does not imply that all of classroom activity be based on the internet. Inside Forsyth county schools in Georgia, there is internet connectivity all throughout the schools but there remains a "device down" time during which students are not allowed to use any technology.

The fact is no matter how attractive the phrase "learner-centered" is, the classroom is a place for teaching. Denying this important aspect of education dismisses the reality that "direct instruction" remains as an effective means of educating pupils. Listening to a lecture is not passive. It is very active - without focus or attention, pupils will not learn. This attention is required whether it is listening to a lecture or reading a text. It is even required from someone who reads email and posts on Facebook. Navigating the web is not possible without attention. These activities are not really different from what lectures require.

Use of laptops, for example, inside classroom has been demonstrated as detrimental to comprehension of lectures by Sana and coworkers:

Above captured from "Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers"
As the title and abstract suggest, not only the users are distracted but also nearby classmates who could view the laptop screens. The effect on nearby peers is summarized in the following figure:

Above captured from "Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers"
The authors have also created a web page (Article FAQ) in which they address questions regarding their findings. They likewise provide recommended actions since laptops are now quite ubiquitous inside classrooms. It is quite useful to browse through the authors' responses since some of these issues may not even be obvious to some especially those who are not directly involved in working inside a classroom.

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