Picture in your minds eye a classroom with the teacher and all 30 students each using a mobile PC. Place the classroom in whatever setting you choose. A demonstration likely exists of mobile PCs used in a similar setting. The following scene is assembled from reports of real classrooms repeated in variations probably a hundred thousand times a year worldwide in government and private schools.
It’s Tuesday morning, the second month of the school year. Upon entering the classroom, each student boots up his or her Tablet PC, signs onto the school network through a wireless connection, and then signs into the attendance roster, all without prompts from the teacher.
Ms. Yasmin, the teacher, walks around the classroom holding, watching the monitor and using her Tablet PC to assist students silently online as they require anywhere in the room.
Students include those typically classified as slow to fast learners, with special education to regular or normal to gifted and talented labels. The teacher learned to use her Tablet PC in three ways.
1. Ms. Yasmin attended school sponsored in-service training that introduced her to the machine’s features, to the school’s network and applications, and then to ways of using Tablet PCs with these applications to guide student learning.
2. She practiced on her own time with her Tablet PC the way a music student commits 30 minutes a day to mastering a new instrument. Sometimes this practice occurred at home, sometimes in a coffee shop hot spot, and sometimes in her classroom without anyone else present.
3. Ms. Yasmin and her students began interacting with their Tablet PCs in the classroom after students learned to use their machines during a school sponsored training program geared to them. It took a number of trials and errors for them to establish easily repeated routines to work together as a classroom.
Technologies, especially mobile PCs, have changed ways to fulfill social functions of education in three ways.
First, mobile PCs reduce the number of links between knower and learner in information supply chains. These notebooks and software supplement and replace conventional teacher practices of instruction and individual academic performance evaluations.
Second, the capacity of mobile PCs continues to increase in order to address on-demand routine electronic mediations that supplement transmission of information and skills from knower to individual learners. Hundreds of large to small scale mobile PC demonstrations in PK20 schools worldwide exist of the feasibility of learning on demand, one-to–one as well as group based learning in and out of schools.
Third, mobile PCs and other advanced communication technologies have inspired what I call an emerging mass market of independent learners (MMIL). They compete for time, attention and control with schooling practices to fulfill their personal learning interests that overlap irregularly with conventional academic expectations.
These changes contribute to an emerging new common sense about learning venues, timing, processes, and content: Schooling must adapt to global technologies in order to remain a relevant learning venue. This sense has profound implications for adjusting teacher selection, preparation, recruitment, and retention, as well as for research about teaching.
Together, changes, demonstrations and common sense indicate a potential for increased learning rates and qualities. These increases affect definitions and practices of schooling, including with people labeled disabled and those with special gifts and talents.
These changes, demonstrations, and common sense open previously unavailable implications for reviewing near and farther term teaching, learning, disabilities, and gifts as well as talents. They also offer newer vocabulary for discussing teaching-learning processes in and out of formal organizations, such as schools. I’m especially intrigued by the potential of the rise of perhaps the first ever (that sounds hyper, but I wonder if it’s a fact) mass market of independent learners.
I’ll address such implications in separate posts.
(Excerpt from Heiny, R. (to be released soon). Mobile PCs in Schools. tabletpcpost.com.