Monday, June 29, 2009
Nokia has kicked off an initiative to start thinking about how mobiles can be used to improve the classroom learning experience. Together with the Pearson Foundation they are sponsoring the "Mobile Learning Institute, which delivers engaging, personalized, project-based learning right to classrooms and community centers across the United States." It goes on to talk about the need to help teachers and students develop the "21st-century skills they need to design, develop, and complete the collaborative digital arts projects that will shape their future."
Not much more detail yet, but definitely a step in the right direction. There hasn't been nearly enough fresh thinking in this area. A novel idea I heard recently was the Million progamme - a radical idea championed by Harvard's uberkid Roland Fryer and carried out by the funky NYC ad house Droga5, the folk responsible for The Great Schlepp and Unicef's Tap project. The hypothesis is that you can give phones to kids in schools that help them during the school day, as a learning-centric communication platform (quizes, prizes, research etc) which then double as their personal devices at night. All sorts of knee jerk reactions to the idea of giving more techno toys to kids, bribing them with rewards for good grades, and some relevant questions about whether a device given by the school could ever be cool enough to use at home.
However, the reality is that i) kids are watching 4 hours of TV a day, and ii) US pre-university education standards are as Greenspan puts it, awful and slipping further. Kids today are so hard to reach through normal channels, so getting into a conversation with them where they are already today (the phone), rather than where they're not (the classroom) has some merit. Looking forward to seeing these ideas evolve.