Unit 7: Mobile Technologies

This week I explored Mobile Technologies in the form of applications for integration in learning activities. The fact that smart phones and tablets are becoming more and more widespread and already used by students make apps a readily-available technology that easily allows learners to access information, presentations and the ability to interact while staying engaged. Additionally, the availability of low-priced ‘knock-offs’ in Thailand allows for the purchase of smart phones, even at a low socio-economic level.

Key Issues

A key issue I have relating to mobile technologies for teaching is the question of what to teach. The availability of information and ease of access raises the question of what to teach, casting doubt on the teaching of basic facts that anyone can look up almost instantaneously. Socol (2006) explores this concept, making the case for teaching skills in processing the vast amount of information available and ascertaining the reliability of the source. These skills are arguably more important than rote memorization of facts and events in our current age of information. As access to information continues to grow with the amount of information itself, sifting and managing the information becomes a clear priority. “This is why it is important not to test things like memorization of formulas, but an understanding of which formula to use. Not dates, but what events mean. Not data collected in tables but how to find the tables you need. Not the simple ability to state a ‘fact’ but the ability to explain why you understand that fact to be true — and how to test it out. Not how to look something up but how to know if what you looked up is good information” (Socol, 2006).

However, I do believe there is a place for the memorization of facts; for example, basic facts of the history and spread of Buddhism are vital to the understanding of the development and current state of Thai Buddhism and are needed at the secondary level for a more holistic view of the religion. The issue becomes the amount that one focuses on memorization versus the amount that one focuses on conceptual thinking and its apparent implications. I have found that, by just searching for information, I am able to recall it from memory.

435px-Buddha_dvaravatistyle

My Experience

I created a learning activity using the Buddha’s Words 2.1 app for android that is suitable for my 7th, 8th and 9th grade classes. The app is a digital version of the Dhammapada, the sayings of the Buddha divided into twenty-six chapters, each with its own topic (The Mind, The Wise, Craving, etc.). I chose this particular app for a number of reasons. The language can easily be switched between Thai, English and Pali which is ideal for the Thai students in the English Program I teach; Pali is the language used for chanting in Theravada Buddhism, pervasive in Thailand and familiar to the students. It also solves the problem of students ‘losing’ their worksheets, as is often the perplexing excuse for not completing homework in this educational context. Additionally, it provides short, four to six lines of verse that is more easily comprehensible than the difficult Tripitaka (Pali canon) that students rarely explore, even in their first language. Using the Dhammapada app allows students to explore bite-sized chunks of knowledge at their own pace, wherever they please.

Specific apps that I regularly access for language learning include a Thai dictionary app and other Thai language learning apps, specifically helping my Thai reading comprehension, adding to my vocabulary as well as to my familiarity with common phrases. These also come in handy during my tutoring classes, as I can quickly search for a definition or synonyms with example sentences in English.

I’ve had a smart phone since November, 2013,  and I didn’t utilize or realize the educational potential mobile apps until this unit. I am definitely excited to integrate these apps into my students’ learning experience and literally put the learning in my students’ own hands.

Nuvola_apps_edu_languages

Questions

The use of mobile technologies makes the idea of a flipped classroom more of a reality. A flipped classroom is one where students first access materials and presentations outside of class while classroom time is used for discussion and reinforcement of key concepts and ideas (About flipped classrooms, 2012). I question whether this is feasible in a lower secondary environment in Thailand. Thailand is basically stuck in the 1950′s in terms of learning philosophy: boring lecture with distracted students. I’m not aware of flipped classrooms here and when I want to try something in the way I present material, I often get a negative response from my Thai colleagues and bosses, who instead recommend the same outdated techniques I try to improve upon. Tradition is hard to change in this context, but I think if I make an argument for it and walk the administrator through a learning activity, it has a greater chance of resonating in a positive way.

In conclusion, my experience in actually creating a mobile learning activity using EduCreations has led me to believe that, if I can’t flip the classroom, I can at least use mobile technologies for reinforcement. The ability to illustrate and write the vocabulary during the recording will help to reinforce the English comprehension, aided by the fact that the learner can watch it a number of times until complete comprehension is reached. Mobile learning activities are probably the most relevant technology that can be used by students.

References

Socol, I. (2006). Stop chasing high-tech cheaters. Retrieved from

https://post.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-1870318-dt-content-rid-19160429_1/courses/EDU625.901238026230/Documents/Unit%207%20Resources/Stop_Chasing_High-Tech_Cheaters.pdf          

About flipped classrooms. (2012). The University of Queensland Teaching and Educational Development Institute. Retrieved from http://www.uq.edu.au/tediteach/flipped-classroom/what-is-fc.html

All images licensed under creative commons.

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