I learned to develop websites in my spare time, and now it’s what I do for a living. Admittedly, I find developing sites for mobile phones to be a challenge, but after completing a project for one of my TC courses on mobile devices in e-learning classrooms, I’m unimpressed with the big EdTech companies. When you look at the numbers, our students are using mobile phones like crazy. Why doesn’t Blackboard have a mobile interface? Why don’t huge companies embrace the fact that in just a few years, many more people will be visiting their site on a smartphone than on a windows PC? All of the big businessmen have seen the numbers, so why aren’t they ahead of the curve. The answer: inertia. When I design websites, it’s just so much easier to think about mobile later, instead of the better design practice, mobile first. I just like doing what’s easy.
The parallels in the classroom are obvious. Tons of teachers are integrating technology: they bring students to the computer lab, they roll in the laptop cart, or they ‘flip’ the classroom. But with the HUGE amount time that our students are spending clicking away on their phones, why aren’t we concentrating on mobile first. If the folks at Microsoft redesigned their entire OS to be tablet optimized, why haven’t we dont the same to our classrooms?
Just like in mobile web design, there are barriers to integrating mobile devices. There are equity issues – how do we deal with them? There is a diverse set of devices out there that students can BYOD – how can we work with them all? These are all important questions, but they all need to be asked, and we as teachers need to step up to the task of taking the cellphones out from under the desk and putting them to work! It’s only then that we can develop the strategies to deal with the constraints of mobile phones in the classroom.
The key factor to all of this is teaching teachers how to do it! There’s just so many amazing tools that teachers can make use of. Of course, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the individual tools. I’ve seen a bunch of “60 Apps in 60 minutes” presentations at conferences. I think that’s a waste of time. I’d rather sessions that teach teachers to find, assess, and integrate apps. Technology (and a 60 Apps in 60 minutes presentation) moves way to fast for teachers to keep up with all of the tools. Instead, we just need to teach them to pick up new tools and figure them out. That way, they can handle it for themselves going forward. When they see how their students react to using their phones in the classroom, I’m sure they’ll be motivated to keep up.
Shameless Plug: If you’re looking for someone to provide this sort of professional development in your school, or you want to see how a web application can help you to revolutionize your school’s culture using web and mobile technologies – check out my web development and consulting group, Merlin Education.