Monday, December 22, 2008

Are You Willing to Take the Opportunities?

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities - brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” - John Gardner, Founder - Common Cause and former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.

 This is one of the quotes that Thomas Friedman uses to start the second half of his new book, "Hot, Flat and Crowded."  Just as we face many issues in dealing with Global Warming and the depletion of fossil fuels on the planet, we also face many issues in education that necessitate the change from the standard 5 rows of desks inside a classroom, with students reading from a standardized text book, following along with a teacher who is probably following the same lesson plan they developed ten years ago.
As the most technologically savvy country on the planet (allowing us to have an ego!), we need to play to this strength to solve the problems of global warming and in education.  Unlike the world of "Green" industries that are in their infancy, many of the technologies that can transform education are in their teens, metaphorically speaking.  Which means, we have seen these devices develop and we have a good idea what they will look like when they have fully matured and reach adulthood, but there is still some opportunities for change.
The tools that will power the change in education are known to a certain extent, in the fact that we are quickly seeing a convergence of technology tools at a price point which will make them affordable and accessible for most teens to own.  We have all seen the XO Laptop ($100 Laptop), ASUS Eee PC and the new Acer Aspire One, all of which have a price of less than $350.00 and have the full functionality of a standard laptop.  There are also mobile devices like the iPhone, LG Dare, G1 and the BlackBerry Storm that have many of the functions of a laptop with access to the Internet via a 3G mobile network.  Want proof of this convergence?  Animoto, the music video slide show site, has recently launched a version for the iPhone.
We need to think of these mobile technologies as 'leap frog' technologies, just as most of the developed world 'leap frogged' the wired telephone in their homes and went directly to cell phones which don't need a cable.  In the personal computing market, many teens may or may not have their own computers, but a vast majority of them will have cell phones (current data states 80% of all 13 to 18 year olds)  and it is the primary mode of communication for most of them, if you look at voice and text services. (Video Here illustrating this point.)  The current survey states that 15% of all teens already have 'smartphones' and with the current two year replacement cycle of cell phones in the US, the numbers of teens owing 'smartphones' will rise dramatically by 2010.

So, what does this mean for education?  We have a good idea as to what kind of devices students in our classes will have and some of the basic functions they will have, which will continue to expand as each of the mobile carriers develop 'App Stores' for their phones, allowing third-parties to develop and market applications for their devices. Educators need to develop ways for students to use these devices in ways to authentically assess their proficiency.  Liz Kolb's blog, "From Toy to Tool: Cellphones in Learning" is a great resource with many different ways to use cellphones in the educational process.  Here are just a few...
Camera, video camera, voice recorder, search engine, polling responder, speech to text messaging, mobile blogging, to do lists, etc.  The number of applications available will continue to expand, so for the tech savvy educator it is imperative that you learn how to best integrate these devices into your curriculum.  You can even deliver or share content with your students via video or podcasts they can access from their phones.  For the tech savvy administrator, you need to find those teachers who are moving in this direction and give them the encouragement and support to keep developing ways to integrate these devices into the curriculum.  I know as we start looking forward, we will be looking for teachers who have the skill and desire to move in this direction.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome...  If you have ideas of how to integrate cellphones or smartphones into the curriculum, please drop me a note!


Liz Kolb said...

Hi Kyle
Thank you for the shout out to my site. I love the quote you began the post with, it is very true in this digital age.

My favorite cell phone project for students is to have them become iReporters and report local news to major news sources such as ABC news or CNN. Very authentic and just plain fun!

Happy Holidays

Ken said...

Great post Kyle. Unfortunately, the first step is to get school districts, then schools, then the technophobes on board so we can begin to take advantage of these powerful tools with our students

Brian said...

Interesting perspective. The obstacle is exactly as Ken describes it. We know that the opportunities exist, and the powerful tools that our students have access to, but how do we move the nay sayers to a point where they will sit down at the table to openly discuss the opportunities? You are the administrator, I'm looking to you and others for that answer. I am willing to participate in any genuine conversation on the topic.

mrsdurff said...

Ken I so disagree. The last step are the districts. First steps are made by you and me....from the ground up. Rome was not built from the top down.

Kyle Brumbaugh said...

Well... part of the reason I wrote this post was the fact that I was on the other side of the fence last year, trying to get things moving forward but felt like the issue was administrations fault and don't get me wrong... it is Administration's fault, but now that I am on the other side, I want to find some teachers who want to move things forward. Any takers?

Summer camps France said...

Great post Kyle.Most of the blogs online are pretty much the same but i think that your blog can be an exception. Grats !