As more colleges look at adopting a 'bring your own device' policy, what do teachers and college management need to do to make them a success? How can learning styles and lesson plans be adapted to incorporate this new technology and what potential pitfalls (or benefits) should teachers be aware of?
Most teachers can associate with the ongoing struggle to ensure every student brings a pen to their lesson. One thing they never seem to forget though is their smartphone! So how do we harness and make the most of this technology in their hands to enhance their learning experience? Can mobile technology really provide the solution to some of the challenges faced in FE teaching, learning and assessment?
I believe the potential is certainly there.
When interactivity increases in the classroom, learning also has the potential to. When excitement and intrinsic motivation increase, the same applies. So, if the use of technology increases interactivity, excitement and intrinsic motivation then it should have the desired impact. This seems simple enough, but if so, why aren't all learners using technology to best effect? Let's consider the issues.
Sometimes the problem is rooted in fear. A fear that if learners are allowed to use their mobiles in class, they will use them inappropriately and lessons will suffer. However, in order to survive in the workplace they will need to be able to use their mobiles appropriately and responsibly. What better place to learn this than in college? Not using technology because of what might go wrong is not reason enough. It's a bit like not doing sports just in case someone gets hurt. Take the necessary precautions, have rules and guidelines, but do it because the benefits outweigh the risks!
Another worry I've heard voiced is that using mobiles to communicate in class might hinder communication. Conversely, it can actually increase interaction and engagement. Teachers using Learning Smarter (a new teaching, learning and assessment app) to ask questions in lessons at City of Westminster College found that once learners used their mobile devices to answer questions, they verbally contributed more in order to rationalise their answers. Some also found that by using the technology to create competition, the excitement caused increased engagement and communication, and lead to accelerated learning.
Smart teachers, who use mobile technology well, tend to follow certain steps to ensure success. They ensure the WIFI is easily accessible for all in the class. They have contingency plans such as sharing devices, switching to verbal questions, games or activities if technology fails, and they don't get flustered if it does. Most importantly, they don't use it because it's something they've been told to do and they certainly don't work their lesson around trying to fit mobile technology in. They plan first what learners need to learn, what they need to be able to do, and how best to do that. Where they see that mobile technology can improve the learning, and develop some skills and increase enthusiasm along the way, they use it. In other words, they apply a common sense approach.
Managers can help by supporting teachers to get over any fears or concerns they have and providing the right type of training. As with planning all CPD, it's better to help teachers understand why, how and where their learners can make the most of mobile technology so they can apply them appropriately, rather than only equipping them with strategies for artificial inclusion. Sorting out and boosting WIFI connection can also support teachers.
Teachers might want to try some simple strategies detailed below, but only where they are appropriate for your learners!
• Have learners text each other a summary at the end of the session
• Have learners mark each other's text answers and provide feedback through text
• Ask learners to text the correct spelling of a word
• Challenge to provide a concise answer by text
• Make up text language related to study
• Give learners a set time to find an answer or research a topic using the internet
• Give different topics or questions to different learners or groups to ensure engagement and challenge
• Use to react to learner questions to encourage them to help themselves and become more independent
• Have learners use timers on their phones to manage their tasks- particularly for those that disengage, respond well to competition or lack concentration
• Give the responsibility for watching time to the right learners
• Allow learners to pick and play music at appropriate points during lessons
• Let them control this to develop enthusiasm
• Let learners use music for expression, to present their feedback, or to help with memory
• Photograph work, notes, the white board, products
• Don't just have them take photos – get them to use them!
• Share these on blogs etc
Video and Voice
• Have learners use video to enhance projects eg. Filming interviews, meetings, presentations, practical tasks and use for analysis purposes where relevant
• Manage how these are used and shared
• Have learners record parts of the session / discussions
• Look out for those that don't just have learners answer questions, but ask and answer their own questions too
• Use to check, record and evaluate their learning
• Use to get contributions from learners that need a range of approaches
• Use to develop evaluative skills
• Have learners try out apps that are related to their study and evaluate the use of these
• Have learners contribute to online forums
• Give them a reason to have to do this to begin and then keep it going eg. Link to assessment
• Manage / moderate the discussions
• Use these to develop language and critical evaluation and debating skills
By following some relatively straightforward guidelines, bringing mobile technology into the classroom can help improve the learning experience for everyone involved.
Deborah McVey is head of Learning Smarter, which has created an app for use in the classroom to encourage better and more frequent communication between teachers and learners
Learn Smarter with technology in the classroom