Can You Hear Me Now?

Can you hear me now?  Mobile technology and the next generation  is a one hour lecture presented by David Thornburg of Thornburg Center for Prof Development that is divided into four parts:

  • History of communications as a dominant technological force
  • The rise of mobile devices
  • The impact of mobile devices on education
  • The ways mobile devices will lead toward a more learner-centered educational system

This presentation explores the promise of modern educational computer use and where mobile education is headed.

In 2011, we have moved to the point where ubiquitous access to technology (after all computers come into schools in students’ pockets) is an expectation, not an option – where myriad coupled services can be used in support of rich educational practice, and where each learner can experience true anywhere/anytime learning.

Thornburg highlights some of the interesting things that young people take for granted today that were virtually impossible to image even a decade ago.

He also describes how impractical it is to project the changes that will evolve.  For instance, he explains that the technology used to build mainframe computers evolved over 40 years in ways that obviously lead to iPhone technology – but 40 years ago no one had a realistic concept of the direction computers would take.  Similarly, if one were to try to add 40 years of evolution to today’s technology it is impossible to predict the trajectory of the future.

Our world has changed, as he emphasizes the past tense. As a result, educators are addressing brand new challenges.  It’s a brand new world we are living in now.  There is no going backwards – only forwards.  To support this claim, Thornburg cites that there are 1.97 billion internet users in the world,   73% of teens are on Facebook, YouTube accounts for 10% of all internet traffic, and every 60 seconds 13,000 iPhone apps are downloaded.  There are more than one billion virtual world users.  Yet many schools today limit technology to the use of blackboards and chalk.

Schools are slowly considering lifting bans on student use of mobile devices… too slowly for our rapidly changing world.  Thornburg ironically mention that in Second Life classrooms desks and chairs set-up facing the front of the classroom is still the virtual-world norm.  Even in the virtual world — which has very few boundaries, we mimic what we know and are slow to change.

Mobile technology tools encourage a culture of communication and sharing among peers.  This not only generates new information but also advances joint learning beyond boundaries of expense, distance, and time.  Mobile technology allows educators to engage students today in ways that are transforming education.  And most of this can be accomplished with a device that lives in the pockets of today’s students and carries more computing power than nearly any device from earlier generations.

There were three revolutionary moments in the history of education when disruptive technologies transformed the structure of education:

  1. The invention of phonetic alphabet – changing the role of the oral storyteller (5,000 years ago).
  2. The invention of mass produced books that were printed before knowing who would purchase them – changing the educator’s role from transcriber to teacher (500 years ago).
  3. And the invention of the mobile technology — changing again the role of the educator as students can take themselves far beyond the classroom.

Finally, Thornburg identifies mobile technology (rather than software itself) — advanced by Apple and Google (in his words they “reign supreme”) — as being on the cutting edge of this transformational wave.

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