Teachable Tech: Classroom Trends To Watch
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Your high schooler spent half of geometry with his cell phone out, tweeted his way through Spanish and came home only to spend an hour on a social networking site—and he swears it’s homework. Teenage delinquency run amok? Think again. Before you start revoking phone and computer privileges, read up on how classrooms are capitalizing on new media with their tech-savvy teen audiences.
Hit ‘redial’: revisiting cell phones in the classroom
Once the bane of high school teachers everywhere, cell phones have gone from irritating to imperative in the secondary classroom. Charting Magellan’s course, compiling a list of Shakespeare’s apocrypha or calculating pi to three hundred decimal places?—there’s probably an app for that. Cell phones can be used as cameras for media projects, portals for Internet access, and graphing calculators, among other things, and their myriad uses continue to evolve on almost a daily basis with the integration of new technology. Though the threat of cheating or disruptive conversations via text message looms large, mobile enthusiasts argue that these evils existed in the classroom long before the advent of cell phones.
One particular use for cell phones in the classroom is Poll Everywhere. Poll Everywhere tracks live audience polling via SMS text messages or the web. While they offer tiered pricing for the corporate sector, the free version is popular for educators who use this slick application for quick quizzing or classroom surveys. Foneshow, a website that allows users to download audio content such as podcasts, lecture notes or even the weekly presidential radio address to their cell phones, is also becoming more popular in education.
Today’s high school students have been called the Facebook Generation—and if you’ve never killed time playing Farmville or tagged yourself in a photo, then you’re probably not one of them. The ubiquitous profile-based online community has surpassed MySpace in terms of usage and become the top social networking site in the world, making it a prime candidate for teacher opt-in . . . until privacy and safety concerns made it controversial.
Enter Ning.com. What Ning offers is an easier, classroom-based approach to social networking: instead of starting with an individual profile that can later be connected to multiple groups, Ning makes the network the focal point and allows for it to be privatized. Additionally, Ning will remove ads for education-based networks that target 13-17-year-olds. This makes it ideal for many “classrooms without walls”. Ning offers several functions that can enhance classroom teaching. Many teachers use online chat to assist students in realtime. Instructors can blog and post topics to a forum for further discussion, and Ning makes it easy for members to upload media—perfect for multimedia presentations. “As a society we need to figure out how to educate teens to navigate social structures that are quite unfamiliar to us because they will be faced with these publics as adults,” argues Danah Boyd in the article “Why Youth ♥ Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life.” “They are learning to navigate networked publics; it is in our better interest to figure out how to help them,” Boyd adds.
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