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Mobile Technology Changes the Game

As schools start to place mobile technologies in the hands of every student, the traditional use of the classroom PC is waning. Education technology consultant and FETC 2012 speaker Brent Williams talks about the challenges ahead and why going mobile is in everyone's best interest.

Like the cartridge pen and the ditto machine before it, the traditional PC's best days in the classroom may be over.

"I think we've finally established that we're not going to get any gains in SAT scores, or whichever kind of test scores you want to look at, by putting two or three PCs in the classroom," said Brent Williams, the director of the iTeach Center at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta. "It hasn't worked."

Williams, who also serves as an education consultant specializing in emerging technologies, said he's a firm believer that the new standards in personal computing--namely smart phones and tablets--are leading education in a bold and irreversible new direction. "What we do know is that when we put technology in the hands of every kid, that kids use it, they get excited about it, and I think there's great hope that we will actually see some improvement in teaching and learning as we make this shift away from the sort of boat anchor PC," he said.

Williams will expand upon his visions for technology in the classroom during his upcoming presentation, "A Real Paradigm Shift," at FETC 2012, the annual education technology conference, held this year at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, Jan. 23-26.

Before real change can occur, however, schools will need to find a way to get teachers as excited over mobile technologies as their students, which will undoubtedly require laying some groundwork. "The main thing is teacher training," Williams said. "That is the one thing that has got to occur.... Don't just tell them how to do it, show them."

Right now there are a few different ways that could play out: Schools can plan group training sessions during vacations or summer breaks, or they can invite trainers to observe classrooms individually and provide feedback. Students--likely to be already ahead of the curve when it comes to using this technology--can also take the lead. "Kids can be a great help to each other," Williams said, "and they typically are."

Eventually, Williams sees the entire learning dynamic shifting to accommodate mobile learning, even if that challenges the convention of the standard classroom. "Why does it have to be in a 'room' at all moving forward?" he mused. "You can go from kindergarten to Ph.D. right now entirely on iPad. The whole game is changing."

About the Author

Stephen Noonoo is an education technology journalist based in Los Angeles. He is on Twitter @stephenoonoo.