Wired for learning

Teachers need to embrace mobile devices and a culture of always-on connectivity if learning is to be truly global

Today, there are around 17 billion devices connected to the internet. But we have a learning disconnect – all too often, students tell me: “When I go to school I have to power down.”

To educators, this just doesn’t add up. We acknowledge, encourage and celebrate the fact that our students learn in different ways. They arrive at our doors with high levels of digital skills, able to access, communicate and collaborate proficiently online.

To our students, these technologies are trivial. They reach for the internet using whatever device makes sense to them at that moment.

We need to ask ourselves: what are we capable of achieving if we truly embrace digital devices and connectivity? To respond successfully to this challenge, we need to weave digital learning into the fabric of our curriculum.

At the Jumeirah English Speaking School, Dubai, we have adopted a model for cascading skills across the Primary School. This was implemented through the introduction of Infusion Leaders within each year group. Infusion Leaders receive regular training opportunities and then share their new skills within their respective area of the school.

Radiowaves, a secure social networking platform, was introduced to provide students with a means to share work in a safe and secure environment. This, combined with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) iPad projects, allows students to work collaboratively to produce eBooks on topics such as, ‘Interdependence and Adaptation’.

Existing resources are also being used in new and dynamic ways, in all kinds of environments. Many state schools across the world are now following a deconstructed system of ICT which involves the redistribution of computer equipment. Computers and laptops are dotted around classes to allow children access any time of the day.

This complements a process of ‘continuous provision’. Students work from Personalized Learning Menus as and how they choose, which means any child or group may be working on a skill or subject area at any time. Students are taught skills through teacher-directed sessions as well as peer mentoring.

Augmented reality and Quick Response (QR) codes have given alternative approaches for sharing work with parents and the community. For example, Year 5 children uploaded videos to the school YouTube account and linked them to QR codes that were shared electronically with parents. Our students are also providing iPad training for teachers in the primary school.

In response to these changes, educators need to embrace the multitude of opportunities now available to empower our pedagogy with digital technology, enabling our classrooms to be boundless.

“Mobile Technology Week was one of the highlights of the year for me,” Max, a Year 4 student, told me. “We had school iPads and worked on a series of challenges as a follow-up to our visit to a local wildlife park. We each created a holiday itinerary including flights, transfers and accommodation bookings, in order to view an animal we had selected in its natural habitat. We created an eBook to share the information on our chosen animal too. Email, photo, video, augmented reality, calendar, currency and map work were much more fun to explore.”

If we are capable of leaving our comfort zone and focusing on developing and creating new strategies for learning that embrace mobile technologies, we will redefine ourselves as potent 21st-century educators. We must ask ourselves: are we willing to change to meet the needs of the students we serve? Because when we think we know it all, that’s when the serious learning begins.

By Rob Stokoe, Director, Jumeirah English Speaking School, Dubai.