I can hardly wait to start using more mobile devices in my classes. I'm reading up on it now and collecting lots of wonderful ideas. So far, I've just tried out one of them. Luckily for me, my students can afford tech toys. So everyone has a smart phone. Some even have two! We had a project that involved creating a survey so we practiced different forms of questions (Do you....? How often would...?) In order to get them thinking about questions and listening for them, I told them to go out and about and find 5 questions being asked in English and record them with their phones. They immediately started playing around with them in class, asking each other questions. The assignment though was to find these questions out in the 'real world", in authentic situations, and to describe the context when they came back. This is one homework assignment that 100% of the class completed and had fun doing.
Recently, I've been reading in our Trends class about research that compares the effectiveness of face to face instruction with various types of computer assisted instruction. And for my Research and Info. class I've been reading about teacher use of technology in English language classrooms. The results of these studies are all over the board. Technology certainly doesn't seem to hurt, but it just isn't clear if it helps. Ultimately, those studies that drew conclusions about why learning outcomes were better or they stayed flat speculated that it had a lot to do with the impact that the teacher made on the class. How they used the technology. Also, some studies looked at the instructional design of elearning programs and concluded that the successful programs were the ones with instructional design based on best practice.
So it would seem that in the end, it comes down to what we all know - good teachers matter. It seems to me that the investments we need to make aren't just in technology. It's technology and training for teachers. Whether those teachers are university professors, or online instructional designers, or grade school teachers. This is an idea that needs to be sold. Paying for training can be expensive, but in the end it should be well worth it.
Laura Davis is an entrepreneur and educator. Her background covers teaching, school management, and community development work.