Akram's Ideas

Using games, social media & mobile devices in the classroom

At the 69th Annual Four State Regional Teaching Conference, this past Thursday, I presented a discussion, entitled “Using Games, Social Media, and Mobile Devices in the Classroom”. Although, the thought of students playing games, updating their Facebook status or using mobile devices in class can give some educators the chills, this presentation was aimed at providing practical application of these new technologies in the classroom.

The research behind the presentation looks at the some common problems in today’s education.  One of the problems facing education today is engaging students and reinforcing their learning. One solution to this crisis could be the practical application of games, social media and mobile devices in the classroom.

According to Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert, in a presentation on “Changing Education Paradigms”, this is the most technological stimulating times we have ever experienced on earth. However, students are often being penalized for being distracted from non-engaging content. These students would probably call it boring. What makes educational content boring to the students is not necessarily the content, but the way it is presented.

Presentation Strategies

Most of our education is presented using a “push” strategy, where we push the content to the students and hope they get the message. This strategy has been used in advertising for years, in way of commercials; and we all know what we do when we see a commercial, change the channel or tune it out. This same thing is happening to our students.

An alternative strategy is “pull”, where a student is actively seeking information they want to learn. The “pull” strategy is often more effective, than “push”, but only tends to occur when the student has interest or a problem needing an answer. WebMD is a popular site that people visit when they are trying to figure out what might be causing their running nose and itchy eyes and thus educates through the “pull” method.

Then there is “osmosis” which as it implies a gradual absorption of information. “Osmosis” is media-driven and it comes from the many bites of information that we encounter on a daily basis, news blurbs, tweet updates, and magazine covers. An example is that most students know that Pluto is no longer a planet, because of the media hype behind it, but they can not always state the names of the 8 official planets, and no the moon is not one of them.

Today’s generation of students growing up in a culture of “osmosis” and where “pulling” information is fun, making it is obvious that the “push” strategy cannot work on its own.

New Strategies

The evolution of digital games, emergence of social networking have helped shape new ways in which people are communicating, collaborating, operating and forming social constructs (Klopfer, Osterweil, Groff, Haas, 2009).  This is evident in recent statistics, which show as of Nov 1, 2011, there are 10 million subscribes to the online game “World of Warcraft” and 800 million active members on the social network “Facebook”.

The popularity of mobile devices has also grown. According to Apple.com, the company sold 17 million iPhones in the last quarter, representing 21 percent unit growth and sold 11 million iPads during the same period, which is a 166 percent unit increase from year-ago.

What does this mean? It means that our students can access information whenever, where ever they need/want it and can actively interact with it.

 Looking at Games, Social Media, and Mobile Devices in Education

There many ways to incorporate games, social media and mobile devices in the classroom, which are highlighted in the Powerpoint I have posted below. I don’t want to extend this post by repeating thing the power point, but I do want to stress why these application need to be looked at for education.

First it is interesting to note that video games from the beginning has were designed for student engagement, in fact the first video game in history was created by William Higinbotham, the game was “Tennis for Two” in 1958 and was designed specifically to engage high school students who were visiting the Brookhaven National Laboratory, in New York. Since then video games have been used in education, but there has never been full implementation, and it might be due to the fact that the commercial side of games some times paints an nasty picture of content in games. However, there a many ways games can be implemented, one of which is to custom design a game or even have the students engaged in the game design process.

As for social media, students are doing it anyways. It is how the our society is communicating, and there is no stopping it. There are major concerns about imperishable youth becoming prey to online predators and cyber bullying through the use of social media. Although this is a concern, their vulnerability is due to a lack of education about how to use social media. It is up to educators to teach students how to use social media in an appropriate way and to teach them to be able to check the credibility and readability of the content they encounter through social media.

Finally mobile devices can be considered as mini computers in the classroom. Not all classroom have computers, nor do all students at home, however statics show that most students at least have a cell phone many of which offer online access and various applications that can be used for educational purposes. In the presentation there is a list of many ways in which mobile devices can be used in the classroom.

In Conclusion

Games, social media and mobile devices can provide tools to engage and reinforce learning by offering students interaction and near instant feedback.

Another side note, is that as I began research for the presentation, I quickly found that there is a wealth of information in all 3 area (games, social media, and mobile devices). As I refine this presentation and continue my research I feel that I need to narrow my topic a little bit, so in the future I think I’ll just focus on games, only because I have some preexisting experience and knowledge about the game industry and its applications in the classroom.

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Akram Taghavi-Burris

designer, writer, educator, tech nerd, crafter, baker, sewer and vintage collector, who Brings Creative & Crazy Ides to Life.

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