How Can Ubiquitous Technology Be Successful for Education?

I’m in Missouri this week for the 4th Annual Handheld Conference, currently listening to Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris do their keynote (yet another one…..). They have been spreading the gospel of handheld computers for years now, focusing on the idea that handheld computers are the only way to provide 1:1 access for 55 million school kids in the US (cost, size, weight…..).

Finally, they are mentioning the idea that mobile technology is a disruptive technology. I think the idea of disruptive technology is good, even though many, many teachers and administrators are very uncomfortable with this idea, because disruptive means having to change teaching and learning. Top-down teaching no longer works, as kids merely turn teachers off. Outdated or a lack of technology turns kids off in school, because they figure they just wait to get home to use the technology they have access to there (personal computer, Internet, multimedia).

As far as changes for teaching go, Cathie and Elliot have been talking about “evolution, not revolution,” which I agree with to some extent. Evolution is important for teachers (start slow, add a little bit at a time), the problem is that it may be too slow for kids. I think it’s better to give kids a little more freedom and let them run with the technology, let them show what they are capable of within the “boundaries” of learning. This doesn’t necessarily mean radical changes in content (for now), but it means giving kids more freedom to choose how to master the content, how they will represent what they have learned, and how they will justify how their representations show what they’ve learned. These ideas aren’t really new, but they need to be implemented more…

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