A Mobile Imperative

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Hattie’s rather clinical analysis of data has suggested that technology isn’t an influential factor in student outcomes. Fullan’s paper Choosing Wrong Drivers identifies technology as being a Wrong Driver. On this basis it would be easy to dismiss technology out of hand.

In reality their messages aren’t really about the technology at all. They are actually about teaching and learning. Both authors would argue that”without pedagogy in the driver’s seat….. that technology is better at driving us to distraction.” (Fullan)
And in juxtaposition Fullan argues it can also be a Right Driver if the pedagogy is right. The way forward is clear. Fullan states it well. “Go all out to power new pedagogical innovations with technology. As I noted, there are numbers of these developments currently under way that are aimed at the next generation of learners. What makes these advances crucial is that they combine so many elements needed for success: engagement; entertainment; ease of access to information and data; group work; humanity; social relevance; and so on. In a word, they make education easier and more absorbing. Learning and life become more seamless.” (Fullan)

UNESCO suggests “The learning potentials of mobile devices are impressive and, in many instances, well-established. while hardly a cure-all, they can meaningfully address a number of pressing educational challenges in new and cost-effective ways.
In a world that is increasingly reliant on connectivity and access to information, mobile devices are not a passing fad. As mobile technologies continue to grow in power and functionality, their utility as educational tools is likely to expand and, with it, their centrality to formal as well as informal education. For these reasons, UNESCO believes that mobile learning deserves the careful consideration of policy-makers.” (UNESCO 2013)

Similarly a study into an iPad roll out at Longfield found “The evidence from this study clearly confirms the views of Melhuish, Gliksman, Spang and others that the use of iPad and similar tablet devices in schools is beneficial to both learning and teaching.
Such devices cannot be dismissed as mere toys or distractions and while they bring with them technical and management issues, these are far outweighed by increased student motivation, progress and collaboration. Students using them regularly indicate that their iPads have become an indispensible tool, facilitating research, communication with teachers and, as in art, saving considerable time so enabling greater achievement.” (Naace: A study of the introduction of iPads at Longfield Academy, Kent 2011)

Schools need commit to the development of teachers clearly a fundamental essential in enabling student learning. While basic technical capability is necessary the focus must be more around the pedagogical application of technology in learning programs. In the near and longer term all schools will implement the new National Curriculum. ICT is identified as one of the General Capabilities.

“The general capabilities encompass the knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions that, together with curriculum content in each learning area and the cross-curriculum priorities, will assist students to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century. They complement the key learning outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework (COAG 2009) – that children have a strong sense of identity and wellbeing, are connected with and contribute to their world, are confident and involved learners and effective communicators.

The Australian Curriculum includes seven general capabilities:
• Literacy
• Numeracy
• Information and communication technology (ICT) capability
• Critical and creative thinking
• Personal and social capability
• Ethical understanding
Intercultural understanding.” (ACARA, General capabilities in the Australian Curriculum 2013)

A mobile device program provides the capability for schools to address the needs of the Australian Curriculum.
In addition to the General Capabilities strand of ICT which crosses over all areas there is also a specific Technology Curriculum that will be included as a key learning area of the National Curriculum.

“The Australian Curriculum: Technologies aims to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills to ensure that, individually and collaboratively, students:
• are creative, innovative and enterprising when using traditional, contemporary and emerging technologies, and understand how technologies have developed over time
• effectively and responsibly select and manipulate appropriate technologies, resources, materials, data, systems, tools and equipment when designing and creating products, services, environments and digital solutions
• critique and evaluate technologies processes to identify and create solutions to a range of problems or opportunities
• investigate, design, plan, manage, create, produce and evaluate technologies solutions
engage confidently with technologies and make informed, ethical and sustainable decisions about technologies for preferred futures including personal health and wellbeing, recreation, everyday life, the world of work and enterprise, and the environment”
(ACARA – Draft Australian Curriculum: Technologies – February 2013)

Schools must commit to a long term program of Professional Development that will provide the knowledge and skills to enable teachers. The sort of development required needs to be deep and purposeful. The focus needs to be on pedagogy rather than just skills / knowledge.

“To capitalise on the advantages of mobile technologies, teachers need to be trained to successfully incorporate them into pedagogical practice. In many instances, a government’s investment in teacher training is more important than its investment in technology itself. UNESCO’s research has shown that without guidance and instruction teachers will often use technology to ‘do old things in new ways’ rather than transform and improve approaches to teaching and learning.” (Ref UNESCO, Policy Guidelines for Mobile Learning 2013)

When excellent pedagogy combines with powerful, mobile technology tools and rich environments the possibilities around student outcomes can grow exponentially.

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