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.