“We felt that if a student could learn better working in front of a computer,” said Jeff Crawford, manager of networking and security for East Grand Rapids Public Schools, “that he or she should be able to maximize that learning tool.” The district encourages students to bring their own devices to school and use them in their classes.
Source: Flipping the switch on Mobile Security, THE Journal

Tim at Assorted Stuff shares his reflections on the switch from 1 to 1 computing to students having ubiquitous access to powerful communication technologies, often, ones that they pay for and maintain themselves. This idea of making school district networks irrelevant for social networking, sharing information is fascinating.

The larger impediment are the teachers and administrators in the schools, not to mention the curriculum folks in central office.

Very few of them are prepared for what happens when every student in class has instant access to a huge variety of communications tools, both incoming and outgoing (who’s streaming the class today?).

How is that power controlled? Or more to the point, how should the teaching and learning process change when students more equally share control of the technology, instead of access being exclusively dictated by the teacher?

Those of us who are advocates for the potentially transformative effect of instructional technology are often caught up in the day-to-day, never-ending struggle to provide enough equipment, software, training and support to make large scale changes possible…if we ever did get to the point where every student is carrying around their own networked computing device, the traditional education model we’ve lived with for a century or more would probably fall apart very quickly.

And that is NOT a bad thing.

Tim points out that the effect of ubiquitous access to information, ideas would cause the current education model to fall apart. I’d like to suggest an alternate view to that, a possible parallel universe scenario. Perhaps, these ideas are obvious to some, but I have to consider them periodically and hope you will correct my thinking or point out flaws.

What if education model didn’t fall apart but continued to exist alongside a vibrant information network that was student created, run, and individually managed? Teachers could tap into this network in the same way other students would but exerting no more power over the others?

In fact, teachers already do this. While there are undoubtedly a few teachers who do enforce the bans on mobile ICT devices, the proliferation of devices in schools and their use implies that most teachers turn a blind eye 90% of the time. And, consider that while there are inappropriate uses of these mobile technologies in schools by both students and teachers, they are not representative of the whole who do use them appropriately.

Currently, almost 100% of students have ubiquitous access to communication technologies in the form of their mobile communications device that exists independently of the school network. Walk down the hall of any high school, and students are accessing mobile phones in clear violation of signs posted every ten feet. In short, it’s no surprise that an information network already exists among our students via Facebook, Twitter, and other tools that they use to keep in touch.

Since such a network already exists in violation of school district practices, the only question is whether we should do as Tim says and embrace this haphazard network that works for social networking among our students for academic purposes.

The question, “Should we embrace the student network for academic use?” implies a lack of choice among students. Perhaps, students don’t want us on “their network.” They enjoy the independence from the school network that is used for “schooliness” and prefer to use their network for real life, their lives.

Rather than thinking that our current education model will be destroyed, vanquished in the face of new communication technologies, one might suggest that it will become more entrenched as “schooliness” is passed along one network while real life learning flows along the other.

Or, is this vision of two complementary, separate and unequal networks too flawed to persist?

Update (an hour or so after I wrote this): Just ran across Scott’s quote of Seth Godin and feel compelled to include it below:

School was the big thing for a long time. School is tests and credits and notetaking and meeting standards. Learning, on the other hand, is ‘getting it’. It’s the conceptual breakthrough that permits the student to understand it then move on to something else. Learning doesn’t care about workbooks or long checklists.

For a while, smart people thought that school was organized to encourage learning. For a long time, though, people in the know have realized that they are fundamentally different activities.
Source: Seth Godin as cited by Dr. Scott McLeod


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure