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Ban ’em all! July 18, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Resources.
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As promised then, a follow-up to the previous post

Mobile devices

From umpcportal on Flickr

The majority of our students enjoy access to wide range of powerful devices from desktops, laptops, netbooks, slates/pads, web-enabled phones, iPod Touches, games consoles and more. Increasingly so as they mature. But when they come into school, those devices have to be left at home or kept in their bag and they’re required to use school equipment. To be fair, they’re quite well catered for there; the school infrastructure and equipment are robust, reliable, well specified, up to date and in good order . . . but it’s not their equipment. There’s no sense of ownership. They have to adapt to the way school has decided to deploy its ICT resources, as indeed most pupils walking through any school gate would experience.

Why is then that we’ve chosen not to tap into the resource base already in place? What are the challenges to be overcome before we exploit that potential? In scanning through a few reports (Naismith et al 2005, Traxler 2008, Schuler 2009), I picked out three basic categories of reason:

  • Technical – school networks in general are set up for security, safety, uniformity and ease of management. This is for the benefit of the organisation, rather than that of the learner.
  • Pedagogical – we’re still developing appropriate techniques for harnessing new technologies, currently to a large extent bending them to fit what we’ve always done. How might our approach change if we don’t have to move to the technology (ICT suite) or have it come to us (laptop bank)? Instead it’s just there . . . all the time.
  • Human – attitudes and norms are more accepting of new technologies in the world at large than they are in school. Teachers using social networking tools to keep in touch with friends and family for example, rarely consider using them to nurture professional relationships.

To examine the factors encouraging and resisting the move towards greater pupil autonomy in device usage, I thought a force-field analysis might help:

Force-field Diagram

Driving and resisting forces

Though the driving forces are largely out of our control, the resisting forces offer scope for reduction. We are already investigating the impact on our infrastructure by exploring an enterprise solution to safely accommodate more devices over our wireless network. With students using their own devices, the school desktop/laptop estate could be reduced, releasing funds to support students for whom equity is an issue. Issues of bullying and child safety should be addressed through the curriculum anyway and may simply need enhancing. If devices provide a distraction in classrooms, we perhaps ought to be exploring the reasons why students feel the need to disengage, rather than blaming the technology.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle however is changing the way we view the encroachment of these technologies into the formal space that is our school. Do we embrace it, seizing the opportunities it provides? Or do we continue to throw up barriers, instead of seeking ways to dissemble them?

I guess it depends whether your cup is half empty . . . or half full.

Naismith, L. et al., 2005. Literature review in mobile technologies and learning. NESTA Futurelab Series. Available at: http://www.futurelab.org.uk/resources/publications-reports-articles/literature-reviews/Literature-Review203/ [Accessed July 16, 2010].

Schuler, C., 2009. Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote
Children’s Learning. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

Traxler, J., 2008. Learners–Should We Leave Them To Their Own Devices? Emerging Technologies. Available at: http://partners.becta.org.uk/page_documents/research/emerging_technologies/learners_johntraxler.pdf [Accessed July 16, 2010].

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Comments»

1. JP - July 28, 2010

Just like the world of work – take my OH as an example, she works for IBM and, like many of her colleagues, usually has enough computing power about her person to launch and control several simultaneous moon landings: iphone, netbook, etc. With it she browses, downloads, socially networks, youtubes, tweets, blogs and much more

But, for IBM stuff, its a regulation thinkpad, Windows, Lotus Notes, Lotus sametime and a network configuration that makes one’s eyes water to even contemplate it

Getting used to working in a ‘restricted’ IT environment: with kit that you would never spend your own hard earned pennies on; using software that frustrates you and not being allowed to use software that you use everyday in your own time…. Its all part and parcel of getting ready for life after schooling,

ianinsheffield - August 2, 2010

Now that’s a view I’d not even thought of! Thanks for offering a different standpoint Jonathan. Perhaps we didn’t ought to be aiming for a ‘deregulated’ environment, since we won’t be preparing our students for the world of work they’re likely to encounter 😉

Mark Allen - August 6, 2010

I can’t believe that, JP: the world of work is, I think, going to look very different – if it doesn’t already. Portable skills, adaptability, resourcefulness and flexibility will be key. Preparing people for a locked-down environment because that’s what they will face in the real world is such a depressing strategy. Our local high school loves MS Publisher – they use it for everything. No, they really do! Does that mean we should teach our primary kids to become experts in that one tool so they can shine for the next five years? I can’t do that…

2. Oliver Quinlan - August 6, 2010

A very interesting post, and something I think we really need to start moving on in schools. 8 year olds in my class are coming to school with iPhones, we have to take advantage of that!

Our wifi network is set up so that any connection has to go through our proxy server for filtering, but any wireless device cannot access our main servers. This allows for security when using own devices although does require a little bit of setup on them.

Interesting point about preparing children for the world of work. However this world is changing so fast we need to equip the, for every eventuality. This argument could be used to only teach Microsoft Office in school, and no social networking, but then school is about preparing people for life, not just for work. People need to have a chance to develop their use of technology across their lives as it is becoming increasingly important for communication. If we were just here to prepare people for work teaching would be a lot easier, but much less interesting.

ianinsheffield - August 6, 2010

Spot on Oliver, thanks. School is indeed about preparing young people for life and as you rightly observe, predicting what that’life’ might be like when they move on from school is becoming increasingly difficult. So I guess we’re charged with doing our best to help them become flexible, adaptable, versatile young people for whom change holds fewer fears?


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