3 EXPLORE – Mobile Learning Lab

Looking at the advantages and possibilities of mobile learning, it is exciting to play with different ideas to make the curriculum more at the level of what students are doing in their day to day lives. So much in the world has changed, and so much in the classroom has stayed the same.

Looking ahead to the uses of mobile technology, such as cell phones, isn’t without pitfalls though (as I posted on the Classroom 2.0′s thread about Cell Phones).

In my school, student cell phones are banned outright. My students are picked up by van from their house, and shouldn’t even have a cell phone there because of school and court regulations. If they do have cell phones, they are confiscated upon entering the building and going through security (which includes a metal detector and x-ray machines). Because of this, I am limited in mobile learning possibilities that involve cell phones only outside of the classroom. Because of the rules surrounding cell phones at my school, I plan to further research cell phone contact with students before utilizing cell phones at all, but a potential application could be polling students about school content being used practically over a weekend. I have created a poll that could be used for this type of an assignment using Poll Everywhere.

This technology to help communicate with teachers in my building, but I am in a unique situation of working with only five other teachers in my school, of which I have daily contact. In time, I will look for appropriate uses of this technology and integrate it in some fashion to promoting educational outcomes.

Using links and descriptions provided in the Mobile Learning Lab of CEP 812, I looked into several mobile technologies that I plan to attempt to integrate. These technologies include MP3 players, USB drives, book E readers, Flip Cameras, and Laptops.

The use of MP3 players could be easily implemented in my classes. These could have lectures about different topics. If the MP3 players have a microphone, it could be used to record student answers. What excites me about MP3 players is that they are cheaper than an iPod and can be restricted to only the files that I want students to have access to.

USB drives are a thought to help students store projects and documents they are working on. My only concerns deal with USB drives walking away and use potential within my school. Student accounts on existing computers ban the use of USB drives, though teachers have access to student drives. Because of this, luckily, a backup of student files could be made by any teacher. We are also planning to purchase a Computer on Wheels (COW) lab that should allow USB input. The use of a COW makes USB drive use more practical, and would help keep student work more organized since access to the central school network might not be possible with the laptops.

Electronic Books are a promising idea after the cost of the available readers come down. Many textbooks are made digital these days, which would make e-books and interactive textbooks relevant media to be used with the readers. As I thought more about these options, I determined that other subject areas such as English and drama might have better uses because of the volume of reading material that is used in those classes, but it is something I will be keeping my eye on next time we are looking for textbooks.

When I looked into flip cameras, many ideas came to mind. Our school has a camcorder, which could serve the same purpose. I hope to use the camcorder in my forensics class to have groups record mock crime scenes and create tutorials for crime scene analysis techniques. The possibilities are quite endless in forensics, but it could also be helpful in core science classes. Whenever one is required to explain a topic, one must know more than if one was only asked to recite answers. Because of this, having students or groups of students record explanations of key concepts could greatly enhance student understanding.

Finally, I looked into the use of Laptops. Students bringing a personal laptop to school would fall into the same situation as cell phones, as they are a personal electronic device, and are banned. Even so, because our school is looking into a COW for next year, laptops should be there for students to utilize. With laptops, students can give and get the near instantaneous feedback that they would have using mobile phone polling. Students also would have a multitude of resources at their fingertips without the inefficiency of smart phones concerning typing and creating documents. Having online course-ware already in use before the arrival of the COW is just another benefit that I plan to take advantage of as soon as our COW arrives.

Given all of this technology and opportunity, I am thankful for the options that I have. Cell phones may never work in my adjudicated youth setting, but that doesn’t mean that mobile learning is out. A cell phone may do many things that a laptop can, but I will have laptops that can do more than any phone soon. Students might be able to use their phone to play music and listen to a podcast, but so can a laptop or desktop with headphones. In this day and age, many opportunities are out there for mobile learning, regardless of what type of technology is used. I look forward wondering what new applications will be thought of and made possible by our ever changing and advancing technological society.

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