Friday, March 15, 2013

The Significance of a Smartphone's Cultural Relevance in Teaching & Learning

What a difference 8 years makes. St. Peter's Square in 2008 and in 2013, the day Pope Francis first greeted the public.

When pondering the importance of weaving mobile learning into a class, there are so many benefits to consider.  These include increasing student access to content, supporting Universal Design for Learning, and cultivating more authentic assessment strategies that require students to become active creators of digital content.

But I also think it's important to understand the cultural relevancy of the smartphone to today's traditional college age student demographic.  Smartphones are more than hand held computers or phones with internet access which is often how someone from my generation may perceive them (I dislike that I just said that, by the way).  A smartphone is a personal companion through which a young person stays fluidly connected to his peers at all times.  Sharing images on Instagram is quickly outpacing the popularity of Facebook among the pre-teen population.  One's smartphone is the method through which an adolescent communicates with first loves and uses to document, share, and dialogue about her experiences through photographs and videos and text.

I really don't know why we still call them phones.

And the speed at which the transformation has occurred is staggering.  Five years ago, nobody had smartphones.  In 2012, 67% of 18-24 year olds in the United States were smartphone owners (an 18% change from 2011).

So when we ponder the question, "Why teach with mobile devices?" we must also consider the significance of cultural relevancy.  If our goal is to encourage our students to engage with content on a meaningful level, does it not make practical sense to create a class that makes it feasible for them to use the device that through which they document, share, and dialogue the rest of their experiences?

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