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Being Mobile | Blog

Are you getting a little crazy in your classroom?

This week we bring a new voice to our Being Mobile blog! We have asked Dr. Zachary Walker, an assistant professor at the National Institute of Education, Singapore, an American who is traveling the world exploring new ways to bring education to children, to be a guest blogger. Welcome Zachary!

One of the benefits of living in Singapore is the chance to visit and work in schools like Nan Chiau Primary.  Nan Chiau is one of the schools around the world which is building the foundation for amazing learning through the 1:1 initiative that Elliot and Cathleen started there six years ago.  I was fortunate enough to visit Elliot and Cathleen at Nan Chiau yesterday and we began discussing learning and why districts, administrators, and teachers must start implementing technology.  Like many teachers, I was resistant to using technology at the start.  I didn’t use any technology my first two years in the classroom (except the days my administrator would evaluate me and, for those days, I would throw together a PowerPoint!).  Now I am lucky to work with some amazing districts, schools, administrators and teachers around the world who are revolutionizing education.  Here are the first three reasons I don’t think I can be a great teacher without using mobile technology in my classroom.

1)   Mobile technology is a lifeline for many of our learners. 

Although I started in general education, I found myself constantly pulled to the underdog in my classroom- the English Language Learner, the student with a learning disability.  And I soon came to realize that many of these students are smart- they just need a different way to learn, express themselves, or practice organization.  Mobile devices can be the difference between success and failure for many of our students.  We would never take away a wheel chair from a kid so why do we take away their link to learning?

2)   Mobile technology has the power to engage the Last Backpack Generation.

This is the last generation of students who will carry backpacks to school.  They have grown up playing on an iPad, on their parents’ Galaxy, or on some other device.  Research shows very clearly that one of the most powerful predictors of learning is engagement.  Are students in your school engaged with their mobile device?  If this generation of learners enters our schools and we give them a stack of worksheets, we will lose them.  Quickly.  So we have to take advantage of that power and engage the heck out of our learners.

3)   Mobile technology creates combustible, amazing, super-incredible learning experiences.

I am not talking about an app or a fancy program.  I am talking about having students use the video recorder on their device to make video of vocabulary words.  I am talking about having students take pictures in the community of different angles and discussing them in geometry class.  I am talking about having students reach out to candidates in local elections via Twitter and having those candidates come to your school or classroom, physically or virtually, to discuss the issues.  The more I use mobile technology and the more I work with teachers around the world, the more simple strategies I learn and the better teacher I become because learning comes alive in my classroom.  Simply put, there are a lot of relevant learning experiences that a textbook cannot provide.  But a mobile device and a creative teacher can provide those experiences.  And, we should take full advantage of all of them.

As I said above, it is the administrators and teachers who are revolutionizing education.  It is not technology itself.  But the best administrators and schools recognize that mobile technology is too powerful, too engaging, and too much of a lifeline for many of our learners not to use it because we are scared or because we are uncomfortable.  If we want to be great teachers who really prepare our students for the world they live in now and the workplace they will be entering, we have to adapt our teaching.  We have to be willing to fail while we adapt- and modeling failure is a good thing because it teaches resilience and endurance; two essential life skills.  We have to revolutionize our classrooms! 

We have to get a little crazy.

Dr. Zachary Walker is the founder of Last Backpack Generation and is currently a faculty member at the National Institute of Education in Singapore. Zachary is a special educator and technology consultant who teaches pre-service teachers and provides professional development for schools, districts, and businesses.  You can find out more about him and the initiative at www.lastbackpack.com.

About the Author

Dr. Zachary Walker is the founder of Last Backpack Generation and is currently a faculty member at the National Institute of Education in Singapore. Zachary is a special educator and technology consultant who teaches pre-service teachers and provides professional development for schools, districts, and businesses.You can find out more about him and the initiative at lastbackpack.com.

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