Friday, February 27, 2009

Asus making Phones? - Nokia making laptops?

If ever evidence of convergence was needed it has been cropping up in interesting ways recently.

How about the news that Nokia, the biggest manufacturer of mobile pohones, are thinking of moving into the laptop market -

or the various stories about Asus, primarily a computer manufacturer, showing intentions to have a mobile phone on the market by the end of this year.

What really brought it home for me though is the news that Asus, who led the way in the netbook market, are now looking at releasing a new netbook - not running Windows or Linux but Googles mobile phone operating system, Android. A computer running on a mobile phone operating system - now that is what I call convergence.

What will be the implications for education brought about by this trend? How can we harness the power of the devices that students will be using in their every day lives? Will we continue, as happens in many if not most classrooms, to ban such devices from the classroom? Is there a danger that life at school will become increasingly separated from the real world?

The video below is from 2007 and depicts the opinions of a group of 3rd level students. I wonder are we heading towards the same kind of thing here in Ireland and will younger students at 2nd level start to experience the same kind of digital severance between school life and life outside of school. Perhaps I'm showing my age when I disapprove of students using internet chat during a lecture. Perhaps we need a level of digital severance to preserve the good things in schools.

As with most things I suppose we will need to find a balance between what can be done with mobile internet devices and what has educational value for our students. I think though simply banning such devices as a mere distraction to educational activity will not the way to go.

The amount of change over the last decade in mobile computing and mobile communication is staggering but what I am becoming more aware of is the rate at which this change is happening.

If someone had suggested to me three years ago that I would check my email more often by mobile phone than on a computer, that I would have all my calendar and contact details online rather than on my phone or computer, that my most important documents would be stored online rather than on a desktop computer, that students in my school would spend more time on the internet than watching TV, I would have simply not believed things would change that much that fast.

It leaves me wondering what ICT stuff I will be teaching in three years time and the simple answer is I just don't know. I expect that all other subject teachers in my school will be teaching pretty much the same thing they are teaching now. They may be using more/better ICT tools in their teaching but fundamentally they will do pretty much the same job in the same way. This will be considered normal as the Junior & Leaving Cert. exams won't be all that different either.

At what stage will the way we are doing things simply be the wrong way to educate 21st century learners? I wonder are we there already.