50 Reasons It’s Time For Smartphones In Every Classroom

There are many ways to use a smartphone in the classroom, but it continues to be a touchy subject.

Privacy, equity, bandwidth, lesson design, classroom management, theft, bullying, and scores of other legitimate concerns continue to cloud education’s thinking about how to meaningfully integrate technology in the learning process.

To be clear–learning can happen in the absence of technology. Integrated poorly, technology can subdue, distract, stifle, and obscure the kind of personal interactions between learner, content, peer, and performance that lead to learning results.

But increasingly we live in a world where technology is deeply embedded into everything we do. Thinking about it simply in terms of “digital literacy” puts you about 5 years behind the curve. It’s really much more than that–less about being connected, and more about being mobile.

There will be growing pains, and I’m sure educators that have brought in BYOD programs into their school can come up with 50 reasons it won’t work. But most of those 50 are a product of the continued poor fit that exists between schools and communities–the system and the humans it serves.

Soon, the argument won’t be about smartphones, but rather steeper technology–contact lenses that record, and bendable, wearable mobile hardware that offers AI-produced haptic feedback to guide how students research, skim through information, or connect through media (all media will be social).

Which will make an iPhone or Nexus 5 look like an abacus.

This an argument less about smartphones, and more about meaningfully embracing what’s possible in 2015 and beyond–a stance that could see education finally take a position of leadership in the use of technology to support how we make sense of the world around us.

50 Reasons It’s Time For Smartphones In Every Classroom

1. Students could Google anything–just like you do

2. Used, they’re incredibly affordable

3. They can therefore reduce rather than increase equity and access

4. Self-directed learning will be a core tenet of future learning. This means technology, and the most mobile, affordable, and accessible kind of technology is a used smartphone

5. Another core tenet of future learning? Mobility. Which requires mobile technology.

6. Texting in class is a classroom management problem–or even a matter of instructional design. It is not a technology problem

7. Related gadgets like wearable technology are already here. Smartphones are already dated technology, but they can serve as a bridge to the near future

8. Workflow in classrooms is now based primarily on physical media, which often means shoehorning in technology. It’s time for the reverse

9. Students can create their own workflows

10. The hardware isn’t overwhelming. Technology isn’t the point of learning, and should not overwhelm awareness, curiosity, interaction, or critical analysis in favor of mass publishing and communication.

11. It’s easy to turn them off, put them in airplane mode, etc

12. Push and location-specific notifications have tremendous potential for personalizing learning

13. Security issues go both ways–personally I’d prefer my teenager to have a smartphone on her at all times

14. Geo-tagging, game-based learning, and apps with adaptive learning algorithms that differentiate for you–or for the student, rather. Have you seen The Sandbox?!

15. Tumblr–easy grab-and-go blogging

16. Students can create their own IT department or tech support teams

17. Yes, there is a have vs have-nots with iPhone 5s versus dated Android phones. This is not a reason to ban them from the classroom

18. NFC technologies are getting smarter and more integrated into our lives, including beaming almost anything digital from here to there–to share, broadcast, publish, display anything in real-time

19. Wi-Fi Direct makes peer-to-peer sharing of data instantaneous

20. They support project-based learning, game-based learning, sync teaching, and dozens of other related learning trends

21. Evernote–cloud-based everything

22. QR Codes help accommodate mobile learning

23. 3G is nearly ubiquitous and 4G is getting more common. (And even a disconnected smartphone is 100xs more useful than a calculator.)

24. Podcasts (a technology underused in the classroom) can be recorded, shared, broadcast, saved, or socialized anywhere

25. They can be used as clickers to give teachers real-time data from quick assessments

26. Backchannel conversations

27. Augmented reality allows for the overlay of physical environments with real-time data

28. Voice-recognition and voice-activated apps are getting smarter–and could be a boon for struggling writers

29. This would decenter the teacher

30. This would liberate the teacher

31. This would utlimately empower the teacher

32. Every student has a voice

33. Students can have choice in terms of apps, platforms, social channels, assessment style, and so on. Smartphones can support this

34. Smartphones can supplement laptops, tablets, and other learning technology

35. Smartphones can function as a productivity hub for challenge-based learning–reminders, to-do lists, calendar updates, social messaging, emails, etc

36. And they’re already in the pockets of most students

37. Digital citizenship is a perfect segue to teaching human citizenship

38. Digital literacy is as important as non-digital literacy

38. Every student using a smartphone would naturally democratize what is otherwise an academic oligarchy

39. YouTube is the most popular and diverse media channel on the planet. It may be time to let them use it how they want, when they want

40. Students continuing to learn without access to the hardware and software they’re accustomed to using on a daily basis only further alienates and discredits schools rather than “cleaning them of distraction”

41. Easy, persistent access to their previous thinking–i.e., digital portfolios

42. White noise apps

43. Don’t you stream music while you work? I do. Doesn’t have to be Eminem–could be Mozart, Gregorian Chants, or white noise

44. Headphones, earbuds, and other related peripherals are becoming increasingly common-and useful (see #42)

45. Yes, it very well may be that we are becoming addicted to technology as a culture. Banning them in schools while pretending that your classroom is the last bastion for humanity is lunacy

46. Kindle, iBooks, and other reading apps

47. Access to virtual libraries, museums, networks

48. reddit, while quiry, is a community that models critical thinking, the nuance of content, and a celebration of learning

49. Ease of data collection for teachers

50. It’d immediately disrupt everything from district filters and school policies to the role of students in the learning process, and the transparency of student work and performance in the classroom

50 Reasons It’s Time For Smartphones In Every Classroom.

The Maker Movement and the Rebirth of Constructionism – Hybrid Pedagogy

Educational theory and practice have begun to appear more frequently in the popular press. Terms such as collaborative learning, project-based learning, metacognition, inquiry-based learning, and so on, might be new to some audiences, but they have a relatively long and well-documented history for many educators. The most widely-known and promising pedagogical approach is constructivism grounded on the work of Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner. Given how it has transformed my own understanding of pedagogy, teaching, and learning, constructionism seems ripe for a similar resurgence — like a phoenix rising from the ashes of Taylorization and standardized testing. Constructionism brings creativity, tinkering, exploring, building, and presentation to the forefront of the learning process.

Over the last decade my teaching has undergone a dramatic transformation as I played with many methods for getting my students to learn not only through doing, but also through creating. Initially this interest was sparked by a belief that targeting the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (revised) would lead to mastery in all the other cognitive domains. Later it was bolstered by an interest in creating more collaborative learning opportunities for my students.

I also felt passionately that anything my students create should have an authentic audience. I realized, after reading the works of influential writing theorist Peter Elbow, that when they wrote essays for me, they were writing to be judged, not writing to inform. Elbow argued that:

When students write for teachers, they are writing ‘uphill’ in the authority dimension: instead of having the normal language-using experience of trying to communicate ‘across’ to others in order to tell them what’s on their mind, they are having the experience of trying to communicate ‘up’ to someone whose only reason for reading is to judge the acceptability of what they wrote and how they wrote it.

My first experiment was in having them write essays for their classmates, and although it was a vast improvement, still the audience seemed less than authentic.

Fortunately, my efforts to transform the way I teach came at the same time we were experiencing the societal shift from information consumerism to a production and remix culture. Now my students could write for a truly authentic audience through blogs, wikis, and websites. As I strove to facilitate learning through creating, I realized that text-based creations were only the surface and started to build learning experiences in which my students explored and leveraged the wealth of creativity tools which were freely available online, including podcasting, screencasting, online presentation, mindmapping, animation, and infographic tools. Rather than having them write essays, I encouraged them to explore various forms of digital media. They created things such as Prezi presentations, Screencast-O-Matic screencasts, Mindomo mindmaps, Go!Animate animations, and AudioBoo podcasts. I was worried at first that using these technologies would frustrate or confuse them, but was amazed at the immediate and powerful effect this had on my students’ learning process. Their comments reflected deep engagement, often saying that they would use the tools and the learning at hand in other areas of their life. Furthermore, comments such as “I feel like I can do so much more than I ever thought I could” demonstrated greater empowerment.

As the variety of types of creative artifacts my students were producing increased, I realized that I needed a stronger pedagogical framework to keep the work clearly aligned with the learning objectives. Impressive as they were, I couldn’t justify the creation of all these artifacts unless these creations were the best possible means of achieving the learning objectives. I didn’t want to fall into the common trap of using technology for the sake of using technology. After much trial and error, the solution for my particular situation emerged: published digital portfolios. These were in the form of individual student websites to which students would add their digital creations each week. The need to help the reader understand the artifacts produced a benefit which I had overlooked at first, namely, the need for metacognitive processes. When the students explained to the reader what they had created and why, their own learning was consolidated and deepened. An additional benefit was the opportunity for both individualization and collaboration. Each week students would individually create, introduce, and publish artifacts on their personal digital portfolio websites. Then they would share their work with their classmates through an online discussion board and were required to give in-depth feedback to their classmates.

As I searched for the theoretical vocabulary by which to explain what I was doing, I gravitated towards the works of John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky. However, it wasn’t until I encountered the ideas of Seymour Papert, one of the founders of MIT Media Lab and the first proponent of constructionist pedagogy, that I realized there was a clear theoretical and research basis for my pedagogical practices. At its heart constructionism argues for what I had been trying to articulate: learning happens best when learners construct their understanding through a process of constructing things to share with others. Kafai, Peppler, & Chapman explain in their book The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and Creativity in Youth Communities:

Constructionism is based on two types of construction. First, it asserts that learning is an active process, in which people actively construct knowledge from their experience in the world. People don’t get ideas; they make them. This aspect of construction comes from the constructivist theory of knowledge development by Jean Piaget. To Piaget’s concept, Papert added another type of construction, arguing that people construct new knowledge with particular effectiveness when they are engaged in constructing personally meaningful products.

Imagine my surprise and joy when I realized that I had arrived at constructionism prior to knowing that such a theory even existed. I believe that thousands of other educators are unknowingly working within the constructionist paradigm as well. Although many within the Maker movement are aware that it has it’s roots in constructionism, the movement is gaining impressive momentum without the majority of Makers realizing that there is a strong theoretical foundation behind their work. After I came to understand this connection between my practices and the supporting theoretical framework I was better able to focus and refine my practice. Even more importantly, I felt more confident and powerful in forging ahead with further experiments in the learning situations I design for my learners.

Constructionism, a theory developed by Seymour Papert, one of the founders of MIT Media Lab, articulates a theoretical foundation for learning based on creativity, tinkering, exploring, building, and presentation. Papert had previously worked with Jean Piaget, but felt that Piaget’s constructivism placed too much emphasis on the internal mental processes of learners. He insisted that learning occurs not only through learners constructing meaning, but also through constructing real-world inventions which can be shared with others. He argues that:

the construction that takes place ‘in the head’ often happens especially felicitously when it is supported by construction of a more public sort ‘in the world’—a sand castle or a cake, a Lego house or a corporation, a computer program, a poem, or a theory of the universe. Part of what I mean by ‘in the world’ is that the product can be shown, discussed, examined, probed, and admired. It is out there.

The close relation of this idea to constructivism can be seen in the name which Papert gave his theory. Perhaps the similarity of the name constructionism to constructivism is one reason the theory never gained widespread recognition. Constructivism was born in the early days of personal computers and thus work on the theory was centered around computers, programming languages, and connections between computers and real-world artifacts. This was before the digital age in which internet technologies allowed anyone to become a producer of information rather than a consumer of information.

The culmination of my quest for more powerful learning grounded in theory and research came when recently I conducted an experiment in pushing constructionism into the digital age. In one of the classes I taught at Western Oregon University the students usually read four books on a topic of some contention in the realm of technology in education, engage in deep discussion, and write critical analyses of the ideas presented in the books. This term, however, I flipped the model entirely and had my students author and publish a book. In ten weeks the students had researched, written, edited, and published Massively Open: How Massive Open Online Courses Changed the World, the first book ever written on the subject of massive open online courses (MOOCs).

As I analyzed and started conducting formal research on what had occurred through this process (manuscript in preparation), I found that I had been supplementing constructionism with my own innovations. I had added a strong element of continual systematized reflection (metacognition) and more emphasis on an authentic public audience. My work in this project was influenced by other pedagogies besides constructivism and constructionism, such as Elbow’s Embracing Contraries: Explorations in Learning and Teaching, and Magolda and King’s ideas surrounding self-authorship.

The time is right for a rebirth of constructionism. In the early work on constructionism, the focus was on childhood education. The original experiments involved programming computers and interfacing student-made real-world objects with computers. This lives on today in the Maker movement. However, constructionism is still at the fringes of educational discourse. In order for the rebirth of constructionism to be brought into the mainstream, we need to broaden our definitions and research. They need to encompass learning at all ages in both formal and informal learning situations. Most importantly, our research and practice must encompass a wide variety of the digital tools which form the landscape of our students’ future learning and work environments.

A major challenge ahead will be the move toward research into a broadened theory of learning which goes beyond the original confines of constructionism. In order to not muddy the waters of the original theory by adding other elements, I have chosen to call the work I have been doing authorship learning. The core elements of authorship learning include multiple senses of authorship, including students authoring their creations, students authoring their own meanings and understandings, students engaging in self-authorship, and broader public authorship through publishing under Open Culture licenses which allow public remix authoring. Other key aspects of authorship learning include student ownership of learning, authentic audiences, and metacognitive practices. These aspects emerge from research and the experience of educators: students learn best when they construct their own meaning. This is facilitated most powerfully through a process of having them construct meaningful physical or digital things in the real world which are intended for a real audience, and these artifacts are constructed in collaboration with others through negotiated roles and through a process which involves systematic metacognition.

New digital tools available to students have flung open the doors to creativity, imagination, and student-directed learning. The sheer number of possibilities is daunting for any educator. Educational theory can help guide our choices and guidance of student learning. Constructionism has inspired me like no other idea in education has ever inspired me.

The Maker Movement and the Rebirth of Constructionism – Hybrid Pedagogy.

Ολόκληρη η ζωή μας σε 6 λεπτά!

Ars Longa Vita Brevis

Η «Απασχόληση» (El Empleo/The Employment) είναι ένα από εκείνα τα βιντεάκια που μπορεί να δημιουργήθηκε το 2008 παρόλα αυτά όμως, 5 χρόνια μετά συνεχίζει να προκαλεί το ενδιαφέρον των χρηστών του διαδικτύου. Τα «clicks» και τα «views» αυξάνονται διαρκώς και μέχρι αυτή τη στιγμή περισσότεροι από 1.5 εκατομμύρια χρήστες έχουν «σκοντάψει» επάνω του στο YouTube. Η ίδια ανοδική πορεία σημειώνεται και στα “Shares” και τα “Likes” στα social media όπου και κοινοποιείται μανιωδώς.

Ολόκληρη η ζωή μας σε 6 λεπτά!

Αυτή η μικρής διάρκειας ταινία κινούμενων σχεδίων, είναι έμπνευση του Animation Studio OpusBou από την Αργεντινή, έχει πάρει μέρος στα περισσότερα και τα πιο σημαντικά Φεστιβάλ Κινουμένων Σχεδίων και έχει αποσπάσει μέχρι στιγμής περισσότερα από 100 βραβεία.

Σε έναν κόσμο, διαφορετικό από αυτόν που ζούμε, οι άνθρωποι αποκτούν αρμοδιότητες που δεν τις έχουμε συνηθίσει και μας φαντάζουν παράταιρες. Η ιστορία μας ξεκινάει με έναν άντρα που ξυπνάει το πρωί για να πάει στη δουλειά του. Όλα μοιάζουν…

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Free Technology for Teachers: Seven Free Online Whiteboard Tools for Teachers and Students

This afternoon through the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page I received a request for some free whiteboard apps. All of the following seven tools can be used to draw and type on a whiteboard in your browser. With the exception of PixiClip all of these tools can be used collaboratively for brainstorming sessions. While PixiClip doesn’t allow for collaboration it does have a voice-over capability.

Sketchlot is a free collaborative whiteboard service that works on any device that has a web browser. I tested it on my MacBook, my iPad, and my Android tablet. Sketchlot is designed for teacher and student use. Teachers create their own accounts and then inside that account they can create a list of students. Each student is assigned his or her own password to use to join a drawing shared by his or her teacher. Teachers can create as many drawings as they like and share them on an individual basis. Teachers can share their drawings to one or all of their students at a time. Students can create their own sketches to share back to their teachers through Sketchlot.

Aww App is a simple browser-based application for creating drawings. To get started just go to AwwApp.com and click on «start drawing.»  To invite people to collaborate on your drawing just send them the link assigned to your drawing board and they can join in the drawing fun. Aww App will work in the browser on your laptop, Chromebook, Android tablet, and iPad. If you would like to use Aww App on your classroom or school website and you have familiarity with editing the code of your site, you can install Aww App for free.

PixiClip is a great new tool tool for creating, narrating, and sharing drawings. PixiClip provides a whiteboard space on which you can draw, upload images to mark-up, and type. While adding elements to your PixiClip whiteboard you can talk and or record a video of yourself talking. In fact, you can’t use the whiteboard without at least recording your voice at the same time. Recordings can be shared via social media and or embedded into your blog posts. PixiClip does not require you to create an account in order to use the service. However, if you want to save your recording to re-visit and edit you will need to create an account. Accounts are free and take less than thirty seconds to create.

Stoodle is an online whiteboard service supported in part by the CK-12 Foundation. Through Stoodle you can quickly create a collaborative whiteboard space. On your whiteboard you can type, draw, and upload images. You can connect Stoodle to your computer’s microphone and talk your collaborators while drawing, typing, or sharing images. Stoodle does not require you to create an account. To create a Stoodle whiteboard space just click «launch a classroom,» name your room, and share the URL assigned to your room.

Draw It Live is a nice little website that offers a free space for you to instantly create a collaborative whiteboard to use with anyone you like. To use Draw It Live just go to the site, click the «collaborative whiteboard» link, enter any nickname you want, then start drawing. You can invite people to draw with you by sending them the url assigned to your whiteboard. Draw It Live provides a chat box that you can use to talk to your collaborators about what each of you is doing on the screen.

FlockDraw is a simple service that allows people to quickly and easily collaborate on the creation of a drawing. To use FlockDraw simply visit the site, click the «start drawing» button, and start drawing. To invite other people to draw with you, just send them the url assigned to your drawing board. What’s really neat is that anyone who visits the url after the drawing has started will see all of the drawing motions they missed unfold in front of them. You can embed your FlockDraw drawings into a website.

Realtime Board is a nice tool for hosting online, collaborative brainstorming sessions. I’ve featured the service a couple of times since its launch last fall. The service allows to work with any information and visual content on one board individually or with the team. You can draw, work with images, post videos, post and mark PDFs, write notes, and comment on materials through the use of colorful post-it stickers. Realtime Board supports importing files from your Google Drive account. Realtime Board offers a free education version. The education version provides schools with all of the features of the Pro version for free. That means you can create unlimited private and public boards, have an unlimited number of collaborators, and 3GB of storage space.

by Richard Byrne

Free Technology for Teachers: Seven Free Online Whiteboard Tools for Teachers and Students.

How to Screencast using CamStudio, Audacity, and VirtualDub

Digital Ephemera

There are lots of commercial screencasting products out there. Without linking to any of them in particular, most cost anywhere from $40 to upwards of hundreds of dollars depending on the company and functionality. Most, though, do the same general thing: they allow you to record video and usually audio of what you are seeing for later posting. Be it as video of some achievement, reporting on an event, or even as a way to teach how certain programs work, they all are geared towards capturing video and audio.

However, while there are a wide array of programs to buy, free and open source tools are rather limited. For Windows, the one program I’ve used the most is CamStudio (2.7.2). I usually pair it with Audcaity (2.0.5) for editing audio and VirtualDub (1.10.4) for basic video editing needs. Those are the three I will be covering in this post.


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