Crusoe College is the sixth school that I have been employed at as a teacher. Every school is different, with its own strengths and weaknesses, characteristics and foibles. It’s been just under three weeks, but I can’t help being excited at what is possible.
The start, as it has always been for me, is getting students to use a blog as a replacement, or addition to, their exercise book as a record of their learning. I have written many posts about the benefits of doing so; one of the most important is that it supports personalised learning because nowdays, pretty much anything can be digitised and uploaded to a blog: a student is no longer restricted to showing their understanding by recording it on paper. Blogs can support video, audio and images, so a student can build a model and photograph it, record a voiced explanation, or film a role play, and all can be uploaded to a blog, to be shared with their learning community.
This is great in theory, but it can be cumbersome in practice. At Castlemaine North PS, we had a collection of fairly cheap digital cameras and video cameras, which students used to photograph their models, posters, explanations and so forth. The cumbersome part comes in getting these things from the camera onto their blogs. Often, this involved removing an SD card, putting it into their computer, finding the appropriate photo amongst the dozens of others, and finally uploading it.
A solution presented itself to me at Crusoe. Being a secondary school, the number of students with iPhones, iPods and other mobile devices is close to 100%. So the school has two options: try and ban their use, or get students using them for learning.
Now, I see a mobile device (my device of choice is an iPhone) as an incredibly powerful tool. I use my phone as a calculator; a timer; a way of sharing short bits of text, photos and videos; and a way of consuming content, particularly images, audio and video. If the students have them already, I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t support the students to use them in their learning. And so we have begun a trial of mobile learning at Crusoe, and my first and most obvious target – the “low hanging fruit” – has been to get students to use their devices for quick, easy uploading of images and video to their blog.
Our blogs are based on WordPress and Buddypress - just like our Writers’ Club and our Global Science site. WordPress, bless them, have free apps available for both iPhone and Android, which enable quick, easy uploading to a specified blog. So if a student is making a model, setting up an experiment, creating a poster, or pretty much anything else that can be recorded on a phone, then they just open the app, select “new post”, hit the photo button, take the photo, upload, and publish – all without having to boot up a netbook, muck around with cords, SD cards, USBs, or anything else. Instantly, the student’s work is shared with his learning community, including his teachers, parents, and peers. And so now, it becomes even easier to choose how you show your understanding, because it is easier to create a record of it.
Astonishingly, it is already working. It is the perfect way to show how mobile devices can be used meaningfully to improve student learning, and paves the way for more innovative uses down the track.
What more innovative uses? Stay tuned!