From the Teacher's Desk:

Leo Quilty
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This is an exciting time to be a teacher – especially an e-teacher. Cutting edge technologies – from smart boards to smart phones – are reshaping the pedagogical landscape.

Mobile technology can have a great impact on student engagement, but we will be required to invest our time and resources to design learning activities that take advantage of this potential. –  Gerald Logan


This is an exciting time to be a teacher – especially an e-teacher. Cutting edge technologies – from smart boards to smart phones – are reshaping the pedagogical landscape.

Traditional (bricks and mortar) schools are finding they must adapt to the changing environment or run the risk of disengaging their students. Current educational research uses the term ‘m-learning’ to describe the phenomenon of learning that is mediated, or enabled, through handheld or mobile devices.

Through m-learning, the resulting shift in the teaching model is a move away from the teacher as the sole provider of information, to one who mediates the learning through collaboration and group interaction.

Here in Alberta, a junior high school in St. Albert has decided to embrace this innovative learning model by allowing students to bring their smart phones into the classroom. Apparently, there is even a plan by the school to assist families that cannot provide this technology to their children.

Can’t you just see other schools following this lead and endorsing the use of mobile devices in the classroom?

Just last week I bought an iPhone. What an amazing piece of technology!

For a while now I’ve wanted to have a device of this sort, just to take advantage of its varied applications. Among those apps, the one that intrigues me the most is the anytime, anywhere (well, almost) access to the Internet.

Way back in the day (oh, it must have been four or five years ago!) I used to dream of having that capability in the palm of my hand. Just the thought of having digital access to the knowledge of the world – at my fingertips, and at my beck and call – does it get any better than that?

One of my favorite quotes about teachers and teaching is the one by Mark Van Doren: “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”

That’s what we do as teachers; we point the way for our students so they can discover for themselves the wealth of knowledge available all around them. As they explore and try to make sense of this new information, we act as the guide on the side.

We use our expertise as educators, by scaffolding the information into manageable chunks, to help our students come to new understandings.

Now, of course, using the power of technology (i.e. mobile devices like iPhones and Blackberries), we can maybe accelerate the learning curve as we assist our students in constructing new knowledge.

Two researchers at the University of Calgary, Sharon Friesen and David Jardine, assert “digital technologies should never be about pouring old wine into new bottles.”

They contend we, as educators, have to “rethink schooling for today’s world.”

What better way to refocus our efforts than to venture out to the cutting edge and embrace the new technology? By doing so, we are more in tune with the advice of American computer scientist Alan Kay: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Organizations: University of Calgary, Sharon Friesen and David Jardine

Geographic location: Alberta

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