Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#1 McLuhan's Wake

The Horizon K-12 report discusses six emerging technologies in application to education in school settings. Marshall McLuhan proposed a tetrad of questions to analyze emerging media, the Laws of Media. Mobiles are one type of technological device expected to be adopted by schools in the next two to three years. Hand held devices capable to interpersonal communication, video and audio recording, and a host of applications with various functions will serve to extend the human nervous system of students and teachers. The ability to send, receive and record information will alter the way learning occurs.

Mobiles have the potential to make entire ways of knowing obsolete. Students will expect to have access to information at the tips of their fingers, and may be baffled by teachers who expect them to memorize facts or formulas. Rapid access to information will develop concurrently with the mobiles’ ability to search for and retrieve material in non-linear ways. Students will be able to organize information in idiosyncratic patterns which best serve their own cognitive pathways as they build their knowledge base on an as-needed basis.

As mobiles become ubiquitous from the student perspective teachers will be challenged to formulate new pedagogies. As educators pursue new methods to compliment mobile technologies, the classroom will be able to retrieve the highest levels of student learning. Students unburdened from factual recall and memorization will be able to construct critical models and analyze connections between disparate information. A teacher who successfully employs mobiles in his classroom will facilitate students’ abilities to create their own meanings.

Students engaged in the use of mobiles to facilitate higher level learning, however, run the risk of reverting to a state of dependence if mobile technology is over extended. Efforts to use mobiles to allow students freedom to pursue knowledge and construct meaning independently may result in an over reliance on rapid access to information. Pedagogical methods designed to shift the focus of classroom learning from teachers to students may be undermined without a strong base in factual content knowledge. Students which constantly need to look up information will engage in repetitious and wasteful fact-searching, or worse, be unable to think critically if separated from their mobile device.

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