Shifting Mobility, Learning and Assessment

Mobility defines our times. From cheap flights to ever more accessible mobile phones, being mobile, being able to connect anytime anywhere is taken for granted in many parts of the world.

As mentioned in some posts back, digital mobility is not restricted to phones – iPods, iPads, gaming devices are all mobile technology as well.  How is the implementation of such mobile devices in the classroom changing the playing field of education and how is education lagging behind with the consequences?

As many know, the implementation of iPads in schools and higher education has been taking the world of education by storm. This does not mean that iPads in classrooms have become as ubiquitous as blackboards or even IWB, merely that increasingly, where possible, educational institutions are turning towards iPads as the panacea for educational woes and hope that iPads will solve the many problems in education today.

Despite currently teaching  with iPads, I don’t perceive iPads as a global panacea for education. iPads are devices which allow users to access tools and to engage in digital literacies. Undoutedly, iPads offer a wide range of potential uses in classrooms, from digital books which are easy and promote learning autonomy to creative activities such as learners creating their own podcasts, visual displays with popplet and digital stories, among many others.  Yet, before teaching with iPads, my students were already carrying out such tasks, just like many other learners around the world.

The main difference I see so far, is the emphasis on mobility, choice, autonomy and personalization. Students carry their iPads because it’s cool (and one should never underestimate the cool factor); working on iPads becomes cooler than on a laptop, even though laptops still offer users an ease of use which sometimes the iPad doesn’t – for instance, embedding work done on an iPad is not always simple; if you create a story with Puppet Pals, for instance, you have to email yourself before including it in your blog. Other tools are also not immediately simple to manage on the iPad, such as Glogster, which my learners have found easier to use on a desktop or laptop. For me right now, these are technical issues which are easily solved.

This does not mean  that using iPads is misleading nor out of place in education. Mobility implies being able to be connected to the living Web, being able to communicate, create, collaborate and hopefully, when making choices, being critical in one’s evaluation.

In my view, there are however, two sticky thorns which need to be addressed and not only by educators.

One is the issue of learner autonomy – a constant issue in education (not only in the “digital” age) and assessment.

On the one hand, not all learners are willing to take responsibility for their learning nor academic progress. This may be due to cultural traditions and hence, learners’ expectations in the classroom. As such, bridges to learner autonomy need to be built so that instead of giving up or using the iPad merely to play non-educational games, learners do in fact see how the iPad is much more than a cool accessory or gaming board. With the wealth of apps, iBooks and online activities to engage students, this issue is more a question of time, of adaptation than a long term stumbling block.

In terms of activities, I would take note regarding using the iPad as one uses other more traditional devices with programs such as Office – the iPad is much more than a typing and reading device. The degree of interactivity which the iPad offers is as relevant as it being such a convenient mobile device.

If the emphasis today is even greater for learners to be autonomous in their learning, if the focus on creativity, connectivity, collaboration and mobility are seriously implemented in education, my question is: how can traditional assessment reflect what students are learning? How can multiple choice ever determine a learner’s digital literacy and creative success? If there is an ever increasing emphasis on personalization in education, how can traditional methods of evaluation have meaning in this context of learning? Concepts of time, place and teaching approaches change, but in formal education (i.e. at educational institutions) there is still traditional assessment. Shades of change in classrooms, with safe, tried and tested, traditional methods to measure their activity and knowledge accumulation.

In some ways the use of iPads in classrooms brings to mind some of the same issues as OER and MOOCs, namely the issue of assessment.

This chart below provokes further questions regarding traditional assessment in an age of mobility and openness:

(taken from: Connectivism)

Moving away from more traditional approaches to teaching and into a more open field of personalized learning, networks, diverse means to deliver content, a strong emphasis on creativity and innovation, is a basically a frightening experience for many educators and learners at times. There is a shift in classroom power, a shift in responsibility, and there should be a shift in how assessment is carried out. However, this is complex. Not all educators are creative. Not all educators think critically. And not all educators are innovative. Relying on traditional methods of assessment echoes stability and comfort – even if these echoes are not effective nor reflect what is really taking place in digitally engaged classrooms.

I don’t hold a golden key nor crystal ball with clear answers to this. I do know, however, that by learning with multimedia/multimode literacies, making use of formal and informal learning, taking advantage of all the positive features that mobile learning brings with it, the thorny issue of assessment will need to become more in tune with the pedagogical changes in classroom practices.

References:

Adventures in Mobility

Connectivism

Exploring the Pedagogical Applications of Mobile Technologies for Teaching Literacies

On the Brink with Mobile

The iPad – What it Should and Shouldn’t Be for Education

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5 thoughts on “Shifting Mobility, Learning and Assessment

  1. Pingback: Shifting Mobility, Learning and Assessment « juandon. Innovación y conocimiento

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