Sunday, 16 October 2011

A subtle change in mobile use in the classroom

I haven't had a chance to blog over the last month or so. The start of term, an online course I was taking and an impending British Council inspection at our centre all conspired against me.

And I haven't had much time to try any mobile stuff out in class - however, what I have noticed is a very subtle but noticeable change in the way that teachers and students use their mobile devices for learning. First off, from an, institutional perspective, there seems a lot more tolerance towards students using their phones in class. In fact, we are no longer buying paper dictionaries at school since the management realized that students tend to either use their phones or electronic dictionaries in class. This is very heartening.

Second, students seem much more at home using these devices in class and there's considerably less frivolous use of them. In the past I felt I had to monitor them a little more to make sure they weren't playing games, sending text messages to friends, but this seems to happen less and less now. Students seem much more responsible in their use of them. They also seem much more aware of what their devices can do. In the past - even those who owned iphones or android phones - were often unaware that you could download apps for them. Now it seems they are very aware of the apps available for them and many of them have found a range of apps - such as dictionaries, note-taking apps - that can help them with their English learning.

This was brought home the other day when I wanted them to record themselves giving a short presentation about their hometown using the voice recorder app on their phone. In the past I've needed to spend time in class helping them find the app, going through how to use it and then send the audio file to themselves so they can upload it to our class website later. This time there was very little guidance needed, one student needed a colleague to help him find the function on the phone, but the rest found it immediately, recorded themselves and uploaded it with little fuss.

And this is nothing to do with any training I might have given students in the past. These are all new students at the school but they’ve adapted very quickly to using their mobile devices in the classroom. And it’s also noticeable just how many of them now have smartphones. Last year, about 60-70% of the class had smartphones, this year I would say it’s closer to 90%. This has made it a lot easier to recommend apps during class.

I think smartphones and mobile devices are slowly becoming part of the furniture in the classroom, just as the computer did before it. I think this year will be a great opportunity to see how far I can push students to use their own devices both inside and outside the classroom.