Sunday, December 23, 2007

Electronic flash cards - wave of the future?

So I had a coworker send me a link to the video about the use of mobile phones for learning about a week ago. The first time I watched this something about it did not sit right with me. Take a look and see what you think.

I just re-watched it and it became more apparent what disturbed me. While the UCF Report attempts to position the use of testing via cellphones as something new and exciting it appears to me to be the same old "drill and kill" approach that traditionalists have been demanding a return to for years now; it's just dressed up in new clothing. Replace the cellphone with flash cards and you have the same approach to learning.

I guess the argument could be made that the cellphone approach makes it more appealing to the children and it engages them outside the classroom, but it bothers me that the cellphone delivery is also used during the class. Where is the teacher in all this? Primary engagement in the classroom should be between the teacher and his or her students? If the students are staring at their cellphone screen how does the teacher know they are engaged in learning and not IM'ing a friend?

While I think mobile learning via cellphones, PDAs, and other mobile devices have great possibilities, I'm a little leery about the approach put forward in this video. I think it is directing mobile learning initiatives down the same old path that education has traveled already. And if we have learned anything from the push towards learning on computers, once we start down that path it is extremely difficult to reverse course.

Another thing that bothers me about the UCF approach is the extension of the corporate concept that employees should be available 24-7 thanks to computers, cellphones, and blackberries to children and formal education. Parents already complain about their children being overburdened with homework and now they are going to receive more homework by way of cellphones? And their responses must be in by 6 p.m., not the next school day. This is a bit disconcerting.

Don't get me wrong I believe strongly that learning never stops, especially not once you walk out through the doors of the schoolhouse. But learning outside the schoolhouse is informal learning. It should not be about answering a cellphone and responding within a time frame dictated by a teacher.


Rory said...

I'm with you, Dennis. How sad that this school district got involved with something like this. It's the same old nonsense pretending to be innovation.
I sure hope this doesn't come to our school district here ... (Oh goodie - one more thing to be vigilant about and fight against.)

Ignatia eLearns through the web said...

Although I like learning through mobile devices (and other technology) I also had doubts with this approach.

The time/competition factor that urges students to be on the job 247 (that cannot be healthy).

limited motivation: the presenter talks about intrinsic motivation, but let's face it not everyone is motivated by sport as a mathematical approach. And the gender diversity with these athletes was completely neglected. So from my point a view these courses (or are they only tests?) recreate existing flaws.

And indeed what about the informal learning?

Based on the movie, I could not see any didactical knowledge being used to create these tests/courses. So ... I was definitely not impressed. It is not the technology, but the learning outcomes that count and in that case teachers still rule (very greatful for that).