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Archive for February, 2011

Last night I listened to Dr. Gary Stager on a live Webinar presented by #Edchat, and The Educator’s PLN. As I often do after attending such presentations, I latched on to one statement by the speaker and began noodling and reflecting for the purpose of further exploration. Dr. Stager took issue with the term “Device” in regard to it being used as a term for a specific computer used as a tool for learning. He made his point by explaining that people do not walk into an Apple Store and ask to see a device. If that is true, how did we, as educators, arrive at a place where we use such a generic term for any form of technology that we want to use in the classroom?

From my point of view I find technology to be an integral part of learning for today’s learners. Of course not every educator agrees, and I recognize that. I also acknowledge that there are many times where technology does not fit into a lesson. No educator should use tech for the sake of using tech. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it. However, for the purpose of collection, collaboration, communication, or creation of content, technology beats out the old school methods. Of course, there are some who would not accept that.

That resistance on the part of some educators might very well be a contributing factor in the use of the word “Device” as opposed to the word “Computer” in education. I am always amazed that a profession filled with so many people holding advanced degrees can be so resistant to a tool, or apparatus, or a “device” for learning. There, I did it as well. I called it everything but a computer. Why? (Actually in this case it was to make the point) The idea of a computer is similar to garbage dump. Yes, we need it; yes, we must have it; No, I do not want it in my backyard.  As long as somebody else is using a computer in some other class, educators can say that kids are using tech in education.

Many believe that the best way to engage our kids in learning and preparing them with the skills that they will need in the world in which they will live, requires a computer for each student. That idea however, is a hard sell. Once we recognize that as a fact, it commits every community to a goal that many are not willing to pay for in either intellectual or monetary currency. It would require that all educators immediately become media literate, and communities would be required to fund a computer for every child. Those commitments will not happen. The plan then becomes, “If they don’t buy into computers, let’s try to get them to accept devices.” The word itself sounds cheaper and less intimidating.

More and more schools are committing to a laptop for every student. This scares a great number of people. The costs involved initially go beyond just the cost of the computers. It requires training teachers in the use of the computers, as well as new methods in teaching while using computers as a tool for learning. This is a big commitment. Many educators have been educated with limited computer use and now they are being asked to put that aside and learn a different, less familiar, and less comfortable way of teaching. The idea of “devices” may be a baby step way of getting there. If we can use the smart phones that kids are familiar with as a “Mobile Learning Device”, that could be a baby step forward. If an IPod is small enough, and cheap enough that is another device that takes us a baby step forward. A tablet with an Interactive White Board is a cute device, and it may also take us a baby step forward. My only problem with any of this is that we are not babies. We cannot settle for baby steps.

All of these devices are great for what they do, but we need more of a total commitment, if we want real education reform. There is no way to expect reform without having to change something. Band-Aids and baby steps over time are expensive alternatives to a thoughtful commitment. If we are not yet ready for the financial commitment, we can at least claim a computer for every child as a goal. The professional development of teachers can then be focused for that in preparation of reaching that goal. “Devices”, at that point, must be recognized as stop-gap measures, and not the end goal. They are all parts of the bigger picture of technology integrated into curriculum. Technology designed to support the curriculum without replacing it. Technology should empower the teacher to do more not less. Technology should remove boundaries of time and space for students. Technology should enable learning to take place anytime and anywhere. Technology should enable life-long learning for teachers and students alike.

Your comments are welcomed

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This post is the third and last on a topic involving a change in the way most schools incorporate technology into the curriculum for the benefit of students and teachers alike. The overall idea was spelled out in Piece of the Pie, and suggested changes on the elementary and secondary levels in our approach to technology integration. A more detailed description of the Elementary piece was explored in An Elementary Idea. In this post I would like to offer a suggestion for an approach on the secondary level.

Many of the obstacles to integrating technology into the curriculum as tools for learning are the same on the secondary level as they are on the elementary level. Insofar as teachers needing to seek professional development the problem remains the same. Too often teachers don’t know what it is that they don’t know when it comes to technology in education. It goes beyond just learning tech. It requires a continual commitment to learning with the ability to provide the time to do so. Beyond that commitment, the idea of comfort is always worked into the discussion. Teachers seem to have a need to be comfortable with technology in order to learn or use it. Little of this helps get technology into the classroom. The time restraints and discomfort of some, deny the access of technology in the curriculum for many. Beyond the teachers however, the other obstacle is a lack of support on the part of the district. This is usually a result of lack of money, or understanding, or leadership. Too often it’s a combination of all of those elements.

The plan for the secondary level is as simple as scheduling a study hall. It will require a model very familiar to special education teachers. It is a resource room with access to technology. The teacher in charge of the room may become a jack of all trades and a master of none. It will require the teacher to be a mentor more than a content expert. The teacher’s expertise will be in knowing where to direct kids to go for an exploration of content. The room will require access to technology or at least the ability for students to use their own personal tools to access the internet.

In this scheduled class students may be directed to any number of tutorial sites like the Kahn Academy. This will enable students to explore subjects in ways that may be different from those presented in the regular class. The idea of open source exploration may also slip the bonds of the textbook of the classroom with the guidance of the tech resource teacher. This will be a place of exploration to teach students the ability to explore subjects independently in an effort to develop independent life-long Learners.

This learning environment will also allow students to understand and develop their own Personal Learning Networks. The idea of responsible digital citizenship will be reinforced on a daily basis. Emphasis can be placed on the positive aspects of social media and social learning. The skills of collaboration and communication will be the focus. Students needing to work on projects or presentations will also benefit in this learning environment. The ability to Skype with experts and authors can take place to benefit all in this collaborative environment.

The age of the students should not matter. Freshmen to seniors mixed in one place can all benefit from this mentoring process. The mission of this environment would be to create a mentoring environment with access to technology to supplement, and enhance that which is being taught in the various classes of the students in this environment. This will remove the classroom barriers as students gain independence in learning outside the classroom. The idea would be to make them participatory learners, directing their own learning. There would also be a need to teach and strengthen critical thinking skills in order to improve the ability to acquire accurate and relevant information. These students will be media literate. The benefits of this learning environment hopefully will spill over to the other classes.

That would be my proposal with some of the benefits spelled out. It will meet certain academic and media literacy needs. It will require a change in thinking on the part of some, but it would be fairly simple to implement. It addresses the 21st century skills that we hear and talk so much about. This proposal however, will also probably never go anywhere but this post for two reasons. One, It cannot be measured by a standardized test. Two, it requires people to think and do things differently from the way they are doing things now. Our need to talk, debate and argue endlessly about reform without change will continue. I will however probably feel compelled to continue making suggestions for reform.

Comments are welcomed.

 

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In my last post, Piece of the Pie, I suggested adding a teacher to the elementary program in order to better utilize technology as a tool for learning. I have had a number of requests to expand on that idea. I have never been an elementary teacher, so I am not sure I have the clearest picture of how to make the right changes, but I can frame the problem and offer a suggestion which can be changed accordingly.

When we talk about reform in education there are no easy solutions. There are layers of problems intertwined with more layers of problems. Often a solution in one area may ripple out and cause problems in other areas. This is a primary reason many people would like to blow up the system and start from scratch.

In order to appreciate my suggestion for change, I think I might best start by addressing the problems that I am attempting to address. It is not a single issue but, again, a layer of intertwined conditions preventing or at least obstructing our ability to create the best environment for learning for our kids.

The first part of this problem involves teachers and Technology. For a myriad of reasons the advance of technology development is out pacing our teachers’ ability, or understanding as to how to use it effectively as a tool for learning. We need not explore the reasons for this gap, but we must acknowledge that for a huge number of our teachers this gap exists.

The second part of this problem is the need for our kids to understand the advantages as well, as the pitfalls, in the use of technology in order to prepare for a technology driven society. Yes, there are those who feel that people should reject the fact that we are becoming a technology driven society and they have that right. They don’t have the right to make that decision for others however. In order to decide about any choice, one needs to understand the choices and their implications. That being said, technology does have a place in education as a tool for learning.

Of course I am making a recommendation to add teachers in an era of cutbacks and layoffs, so this entire idea may be a non-starter. I would like to see an elementary teaching position created for the purpose of integrating technology into the elementary classroom. This is not an IT position, but a classroom teacher position. This would be a revolving teacher, one who schedules visits to many classrooms as a support person. This Tech teacher would enter classes one or two times a week for a period of time to work with kids using technology as tools for learning in support of the curriculum that is being taught by the primary teacher.

This Tech teacher will be responsible for planning with the primary teacher in order to integrate technology in a meaningful way to the class environment.   This can be done with applications or websites. Skyping in experts and authors can be an activity for this Tech teacher. The introduction of Social Media and responsible digital citizenship could be added to the list. Tech tools for the creation of content are another area the Tech teacher could explore. She/he would also be the Go-to person for Parent Workshops for technology in the classroom sessions. A teacher offering to be a source parent support.

It would need to be mandated with  required a schedule for this Tech teacher to enter these classrooms on a regular basis. There is an argument for this to be applicable at every grade level, but at the very least it should happen from fourth grade, and continue through sixth.

The addition of this Tech teacher is the best form of Professional Development in technology for the entire staff. Teachers, who are not now using tech for whatever reason, will see its benefits in their own class without needing to do it themselves. They will also have a say in how to incorporate it in what they want to do. This increases their understanding and guides them through its use. It will also increase collaboration with all teachers since the Tech Teacher revolving from class to class will be making connections with teachers with similar interests, goals and lessons.

Every Tech teacher should have a COW. That would be a cart with a class set of laptops, Computers On Wheels. Being able to have a person responsible to guide the students to the best sites and the best free web 2.0 tools will be a great help to the primary teacher. It also allows the primary teacher to explore the benefits of student, and class blogging. That opens the door to responsible digital citizenship, critical thinking, reflective thinking, creation of content, collaboration, communication, and enhancement of self-esteem.

Using the push-in teacher model enables the primary teacher the time and incentive to learn and grow with the students. Hopefully, the more they learn and share, the more they will venture forward. Both teachers and students may begin to develop connections with others who have similar likes and interests, as well as people who are experts in various areas. We know this a Personal Learning Network. Imagine what could happen if kids learned to responsibly create their own PLN’s as elementary students and develop and grow that PLN throughout their academic career.

There are many pluses in this plan, at least as I have laid it out, but there are huge obstacles to make it happen. When it comes to education reform, many wants reform, but few want change. Out of the Box innovation does not come from in the box regulation. I proposed an idea that addresses many issues and may offer solutions to persisting problems in Professional Development and use of Technology. I am only a Shaker, I am not a Mover. If we are to ever get Education Reform, we need educators, not only discussing reform, but making changes as well. The alternative will be business mandated labor reforms couched in the cloak of Education Reform for the sake of privatization and profit.

I now need to post a similar idea for the secondary Level.

Comments and ratings welcomed

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I have been corresponding with a high school student who contacted our college about the effects of Personal Learning Networks on high school students. He was doing research for a report. I was impressed with his curiosity, as well as his grasp of the subject. My interaction has caused me to reflect on my own beliefs as I explained things to him.

In order to learn about any subject, one needs to seek out a source with expertise on the subject to obtain the information or content needed to understand that subject. That is a simple explanation. Our education system not only provides those experts to our citizenry, but it trains experts of content to continue the process. We know those content experts as teachers. This is how things went for decades. Content was delivered by the systems experts. The exception would be those who sought out the expertise of books by self-directing their search for knowledge in libraries.

In the age of the Internet all of that has changed. Information or content can be searched and stored digitally. Beyond that, it can also be created, published, and communicated in ways never before possible. To accelerate the entire process, we now have Social Media which provides a global gateway for the flow of information in numbers never imagined when information was only in printed-in-ink text form.

The new tools of technology, as well as the vast amount of content now available, have created a new form of literacy. The skills required to master this literacy will enable our students to gather, create, collaborate, and communicate with content globally. It is not a passing fad, but rather a shift in the way we interact as a culture. This is the reality for which we, as educators, are helping to create lifelong learners.

Our education system has not yet recognized this as the new reality. There are still stand-and-deliver educators who are wonderful educators. They do get their content across to a number of students. Bill Gates has a vision of all teachers having the TED Talks model of content delivery. The methods taught to teachers are only now taking on the tools of technology in the methods used to teach. Not every teacher in the system today has had the access needed to be comfortable using those tools. Not every parent has had the opportunity to explore the possibilities of learning for their children with the tools of technology.

I have always felt that if we are to reform the education system we need to change the culture. We are beginning to see a change coming as our culture is being further immersed in a technologically-driven society. The needs of the society are requiring a citizenry that is technologically literate. In order for our children to be literate and competitive we need to shift our focus in education.

There are times when a stand and deliver model of teaching will be required. The front of the room content delivery system will always be needed at times. Students however need to know that they are capable of getting beyond that. They can go beyond that model to seek out what it is they need to know. We need to teach them how to do that. We need them to understand what id is to be a responsible digital citizen. We need them to understand how to navigate the internet to seek information. We need them to understand that there are people the can connect with on a global level willing to collaborate on content. They need to understand that they can create content in many forms and publish it to the world as an audience. They need to understand that they can communicate their ideas to others worldwide. E are not lofty goals available to a limited few. They are real attainable goals available to anyone who is technologically literate.

“How do we get there?”, you may ask. That is the change in the culture and reform education part. In my view of the perfect system, we would start in elementary school. We would teach digital citizenship and safety on the internet. We would focus on critical thinking to have students understand the difference between fact and fiction, and be   separate facts from sound bytes. We will teach them how to gather, collaborate, create and communicate content using technology tools. We would begin to have them develop their own Personal Learning Networks which will continue to grow as they do. It will be populated with people who will help with what each student wants to learn as well as what needs to be learned. The teacher will not be a content delivery expert, but rather a content expert who guides the students in a mentoring model. Wherever it is fitting, technology tools will be used for learning, but it will not be a forced issue. If technology tools are not appropriate they need not be used.

Of course this is not possible. I don’t make the rules. The policies determining the direction of education is not being made by me. Some might argue it’s not even being made by educators. I am a realist. I don’t expect to get the whole pie, but I would love to get a piece of it.

How about if we do not implement this school wide around the country. What if we started a push-in program where a teacher would on a regular schedule drop into classes on the elementary level to mentor students in the areas discussed here. This teacher would also be a liaison with the parents. Parents are most active with their child’s education on the elementary level. What better time to train them in the use of technology and to dispel the myths connected with it. This will allow parents a greater involvement with their child’s education.

What if on the secondary level, instead of doing what is needed with technology in every academic class, we created a separate mentoring class. At each meeting the teacher of that class would address the needs of the students in using tech learning tools to accomplish goals in all academic areas.The teacher would act as a guide, an expert in the area of learning with tech tools for learning. If the program is successful other academic teachers should soon adopt the practices of the mentoring teacher as they learn from their students. Students could use this mentoring class to refine PLN’s with experts and others with similar interests. This PLN will go with the student after graduation to ensure lifelong learning.

These are getting to be cliché’s but someone needs to pay attention. The status Quo is not working. We can’t expect out of the box innovation, if we do not allow out of the box thinking. We do need our teachers to be better learners, if we expect them to be better teachers.

I am most grateful to that high school student who engaged me in this conversation. By the way he is creating his Personal Learning Network in order to research what a personal learning network is. Amazing is this wonderful, magical world of learning!

Two follow up posts to this: An Elementary Ideaand A Secondary Idea

Your comments and ratings are welcomed.

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This is a guest Post I did for Shelly Terrell’s Blog, TEACHER REBOOT CAMP, back on Friday, July 24th, 2009. It was one of my first toe-dipping experiences in the world of blogging. Shelly was very kind and encouraging. She also formatted this in a way that I would never have thought. I am grateful to her for starting me blogging.

I thought about this topic recently and considered doing a new post, but after revisiting my guest Post, I thought a resurrection might be as effective. I guess the problems are still here even after almost two years. Evidently,  few people read or implemented my suggestions.


Parents, Who Needs Them?

After tweeting about schools needing to teach parents about educational technology, I was quite surprised to find out that the idea was widely tweeted all over the twitter-sphere. This is geek speak for a message being sent and resent around on Twitter. I imagine that even Ashton Kutcher read my thought. Since neither he, nor Demi, tweeted me back however, I have no way of knowing for sure, but I hold out hope.

Parents, A Problem for Teachers?!

I was a single and very arrogant high school teacher in the beginning of my career in the early ‘70’s. I made certain observations of parents in general.

  • When most parents came to our school building, they were not there to praise their child’s teacher. This was a problem for teachers.
  • Many parents caused administrators to react to requests, resulting in edicts and orders for teachers. This was a problem for teachers.
  • Parents attended Board of Education meetings demanding and getting changes resulting in administrators giving edicts and orders for teachers. This was a problem for teachers.
  • Parents’ Night required teachers to come back to school at night wearing jackets and ties for the men and dresses for the women. This was a problem for teachers.
  • As a result I concluded that parents were a problem for teachers. To further this “well-founded opinion,” I came to realize that students did their best to block parents from their world in school. They would always share the negatives with their parents but rarely the positives. Again, this was a problem for teachers.

Because everyone in the system reacts to parents, sometimes policies are formed around what administrators perceive as the least objectionable policy in order to make the parents happy. These are policies, which are not solely based on the advancement of learning. These were my observations and not necessarily facts.

Wearing the Parental Shoes

My life as well as my perceptions and observations all changed when I became a parent of two daughters, four years apart. Now, I observed that in elementary school children were enthusiastic about learning, and as a parent, I was with them every step of the way. I knew what they did, and how they did it. As they moved to the middle school, I was less and less involved. By the time they got to high school it was a dinner discussion.

My observation now has been that as parents become less involved with their child’s education, the children became less involved with learning. I know, “The chicken or the egg?” theory.

Technology is Changing our Schools

Now we reach the age of Technology. Classrooms begin to look different. Things can be done in schools that were not even conceived two years ago. All this is taking place while some parents are saying that they cannot even program the VCR. The kids have to do it. By the way, it is now a DVR. I can never understand why some adults pride themselves in being computer illiterate.

Practical Advice

It is now time to add up all of my observations and try to make something of this which will benefit everyone.

  • Parents who are involved with their child’s education will see a child who is involved in learning.
  • Some teachers, who may feel threatened by parents, must still attempt to involve them.
  • There may be some administrators making technology decisions based on what they think will please the parents. They need to know that parents have knowledge of what is needed to help their child learn. Parents, if made comfortable with the technology, can embrace the technology and understand its purpose in the curriculum not only to enhance learning, but to make their child competitive in a technology-rich, work environment.

Why Schools Need Edtech Parent Workshops

Schools should conduct parent workshops to explain and demonstrate technology in education.

  • Parents need to know how it is applied in school, as well as out of school, applications.
  • We need to teach them the do’s and don’ts of the internet if they are to prepare their child for the real world, unfiltered and competitive.
  • We need to have people make decisions based on learning and not lack of understanding or fear.
  • The more the parents know, the more they can be partners in their child’s education.

The answer should be obvious when asked, “Parents, who needs them?”

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Today, I read yet another in a growing list of articles involving a teacher who wrote a Blog Post with totally inappropriate comments about her job, students, parents and administrators. In the past month or so, I have read several articles about teachers using social media for contacting students in an inappropriate way. More and more teachers are coming under attack and when the opportunity arises technology, as well as Social Media are being piled on as the reason for the ills of society and the deterioration of our education system, if not actually being the root of all evil.

The unfortunate consequence of these mindless acts of stupidity in the actions of a few is a knee jerk reaction on the part of some administrators, and politicians, who pander to the fears of a public, that is sorely in need of an education and understanding of Social Media (including:Facebook,Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, et al). These solutions sometimes result in the banning of the internet in school districts, or attempting to alter labor contracts restricting the use of the internet by teachers even in their private lives.

When we examine the offenses of these individuals however, it is not the social media that is the offense; it is the inappropriate behavior of a few individuals. It should be that behavior that is banned. It is that behavior for which we should hold individuals accountable. It is that behavior that is the punishable offense. It is not the Technology or the Social Media. The vast majority of educators use it responsibly, yet they and their students will suffer by being disconnected from the free-flowing content and collaboration of the learning-rich environment of the Internet.

Please do not comment to me about the dangers of the Internet. I am the first to insist that we educate our society about internet safety, as well as, what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. It is obvious to me that our entire society is in need of such lessons, because the internet and social media is new to a vast majority of our citizenry. It hasn’t existed for all that long and it needs to be taught and learned. It is not a fad that will pass in time. It will grow and move forward. We need to deal with it rationally. It needs to be introduced and taught early to kids as a tool for learning with more access and freedoms as they mature. Yes, there are predators that will use the internet to get to kids. This is why we must teach our children about this as early as we teach them not to go with strangers in a playground or amusement park, or shopping mall.

The prevailing myth governing some parents’ views of the Internet however is skewed by the repeated battering as a topic by shows like To Catch a Predator. The show with the hard-nosed investigative reporter luring predators to the homes of, theoretically, internet-duped adolescents, expecting something more than the awaiting cops hiding behind the bushes on the driveway. These are real incidents; it is undeniable, and sickening. However the dangers of  predators on the internet is a fact that is sensationalized and dramatized and repeated over and over on TV and Radio distorting the frequency of occurrences.  The real fact of the matter is that over 90% of the victims of child molestation are molested by family members, or close family friends (including some clergy). This is rarely captured by the cameras. Yet, do we ban family picnics, block parties, or church functions as a defense? No child should be molested as a result of the internet use, or face to face contact. Our best defense for our children is education, and, not banning. We should not ban picnics, block parties, church functions, or the Internet from our children.

One post that offered some great quotes was BLOG PUTS TEACHER IN HOT WATER by: Christina Kristofic from The Intelligencer. Beyond every educator, all adults should heed this advice. these ideas should also be taught to students from an early age.

“Each time you post a photograph or information on the web, make sure you would gladly show it to the following people: Your mother. Your students. Your superintendent. The editor of The New York Times,” The Pennsylvania State Education Association tells teachers on its website. “Even though the First Amendment protects your speech as a private citizen on matters of public concern, that speech may fall outside of First Amendment protection if it ‘impedes your employer’s effectiveness or efficiency, or otherwise disrupts the workplace.’ Avoid posting anything on your profile page about your colleagues, administrators, or students, as well as using inappropriate or profane messages or graphics, or anything that would reflect negatively on your workplace.”

I never liked the argument used against gun legislation, “Guns don’t kill people; People kill people!” It was a statement however, that could not be disputed. It actually is an effective defense to banning guns. The right to bear arms is guaranteed under the constitution. Responsible gun owners educate themselves and their families in the proper safety and maintenance of weapons. There is a good reason for this. Without understanding and respect, a gun in the wrong hands can be a tragedy. There are many parallels that may be drawn with the internet and Social Media. Our society has no choice. All of these are part of our culture and we must be smart and deal with them responsibly, or live with the consequences of not dealing with them at all. I would hope that commentary to this post is limited to technology and the internet in education, and not Gun Control.

 

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It has been almost a week since I went to EduCon 2.3 in Philadelphia, and I am still going over many things in my head that I discussed, or experienced in that atmosphere of educational collaboration. “What is EduCon?” you may ask.  It is, hopefully, an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools.” The “in person” attendance was limited to 300 educators who came from all over the country. Many of the attendees were educators who were connected to each other through Social Media. Many, although maybe meeting face to face for the first time, were very familiar with the beliefs and attributes of their fellow attendees long before this conference.

Social Media is the new factor in educational conferences that is changing the way many educators interact. Its effect is not only taking hold on educators at conferences, but on the population of countries as well. Social Media is having a profound effect on the revolution going on in the Middle East. The first reaction of repressive governments used to be to control the TV and Radio stations. Today, their first reaction to revolt is to block the internet, specifically Twitter and Facebook.  This control of social Media has become a prime directive in China. The idea of keeping entire populations without access to technology of any kind, with the possible exception of weapons, may be a goal of many Middle Eastern countries

I have said enough about international conflict, so back to Philly and EduCon 2.3. I really enjoyed going out with so many people after a day of conferring on Education. At my hotel we gathered a group of about 30 people for dinner. It was great meeting in the hotel lobby. The energy level was high with everyone recapping the events of the day. We were expanding and exploring much of day’s topics, while interspersing jokes and personal anecdotes. After traveling to two restaurants and realizing that no one was going to host a group of 30 people we broke down into two groups. My group of about a dozen people went to a really nice pub that took us in and seated us in an isolated alcove at the back of the pub.

As we were seated, we resembled any group of close friends out for a night of celebration and frivolity. That appearance belied the fact that many of us, although familiar with each other through social media, were together face to face for the first time. It mattered not because of our strong connections developed virtually through social media over the past year. We had a great time talking about the day, the people we met and the things we had learned.

The Waiter brought the menus and we all perused the fare to decide on our meals. After the orders were given and the waiter went off with his order pad and something happened. Everyone at the table, I think it was twelve total, pulled out their mobile learning devices to check-in, tweet out or catch-up. Some even texted the other half of the original group from our hotel. My immediate reaction was to ask the group, would you do this at a restaurant with your families? Of course the response was a resounding NO. “They do not understand” was in the majority of responses. The smart phones, or mobile learning devices, were then used to share with each of the dinners family photos, links to educational sites, blogs, and sites stored from the day’s encounters. It was a collaboration fest. The sight that grabbed me was that a dozen people, all seated at a long combination of tables, were all looking at their individual mobile learning devices all at the same time. It took about ten minutes until the first round of drinks arrived and the devices disappeared and the face to face socializing began.

The encounter stuck with me through the next day. The idea of how mobile learning devices have crept into our interaction and collaboration began to implant itself in my head. I knew how it affected me, but now I observed its effect on many educator/learners who I have come to know and respect. The next day at the conference I continued my observation of mobile learning devices. In every session I attended, I observed a great majority of the attendees using Laptops, I Pads, or Smart Phones during each of the sessions. These learner educators were recording and back channeling information from each of the sessions. (Back Channeling is sending out comments, quotes, or reactions to a session or a speaker through social media.) These people represented some of the best informed educator learners in education today all using mobile technology to learn and collaborate.

Now for my reflection: It was obvious to me that some of the most avid learners that I have ever known have embraced mobile devices in their learning. They use it in their formal learning environments as well as personal lives. For these learners, learning technology is ubiquitous. (ubiquitous existing or being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresent.) Laptops, I Pads, and mobile phones were everywhere in this conference of über learners.

Now, I need to present my long-awaited reflection. I wonder, given the two examples offered, where should American education fall with a policy on Mobile Learning Devices. Should it follow the model of outstanding educators who are proven learners? That would involve the ubiquitous use of learning technologies. The other option: Should it follow the model of Middle Eastern countries attempting to keep their populations in the centuries of the past? Blocking the internet and controlling the use of Mobile Learning Devices. Should American Educators resist the advent of learning technologies, or should they embrace it. Embracing it will require Professional Development. Rejecting it requires absolutely nothing.

 

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