Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mobile Devices In Education - "Let Them Use It" - Reflections on Michael O'hara's LWF12 Talk

UPDATE TO POST 2/19/12:  Michael O'hara's talk can be viewed at or via iTunes    Thanks Graham Brown-Martin for the updated links!)

It's been a few weeks since I attended the Learning Without Frontiers conference in Olympia, UK.  I wrote a previous reflection piece on Noam Chomsky's talk right after I returned.  I was revisiting my notes on other speakers and re-watching some of the talks at the LWF website trying to come up with my blog post for the day.  In my notes, the one that stuck out as relevant to me this week was Michael O'hara's talk about the mobile industry and education called "Learning While Mobile".  Imagine my disappointment when I went to re-watch the talk to find that it had been blocked due to potential copyright issues, apparently because of some materials mentioned in his talk.  Sigh.

I have decided to still focus on O'hara's talk, even though I can't share the video with you, because I think some of the comments he made regarding the use of mobile devices in education are important to the current debates on what should and should not be allowed in educational arenas.  O'hara's emphasis was on the pervasive use of mobile devices throughout the world, and how mobile disruption is only just beginning. He pointed out that in the next 10 years, there will be over 24 billion mobile connections throughout the world. Mobile is used to communicate and access the internet and is a tool for inclusion - distance is irrelevant in life because of the capabilities of mobile.

Mobile connects the worlds' people, and rather than banning it's use in education, we should be embracing the use of mobile devices because of their ability to be a tool for inclusion.  O'hara mentioned that today's current apps are interesting, but are missing the big trends of the devices, which is their ability to connect and teach globally, in the real world, with others. Mobile devices should be used to coach creativity and coding.  We should be letting students use it socially and be teaching across the social environment. Communication and creativity are skills students will need for the future because these are critical to business and connecting to the world and mobile devices are instrumental it helping develop those skills.

I agree with all of O'hara's comments.  I think of my own children and how connected they are through their various mobile devices to the rest of the world. From Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, to texting on their phones, my children are in constant contact with someone and to information at all times. And the things they do with this connectivity are amazingly creative and inventive because they are not limited....except at school. Which brings me to O'hara's ending question: "how do we fight the bans on mobile devices" that are pervasive in schools today?

Developing frameworks was one suggestion brought forth by him, as well as the need for all of us to continue to educate on the capabilities of mobile.  I would add myself that those of us in education or education related fields should continue to develop quality applications, relevant resources that support effective integration of mobile learning, and continue to support and inform the arguments for mobile learning.

I end with O'hara's overall message about mobile devices -"Let Them Use It!"

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