Monday, October 18, 2010

Transformations and innovative pedagogies with mobile phones and critical thinking

Youth cultures and new technologies are key topics for social futures in a global economy. Livingstone (2002) takes a phenomenological approach and cautions that we need to consider changes in media, childhood and economics to avoid technological determinism. Empowering youth through information technology is gained by "guiding children towards the newly accessible abundance of diverse information and communication possibilities" (Livingstone, 2002,p. 239).

The image portrayed in the cartoon above shows an 'instructivist' teaching approach to mobile technology. Educators are caught in the shift towards convergent forms of information and telecommunications services. Gaining increased understanding of youth interactions with new technologies is enhanced when educators interact with the devices themselves and then use the features of the new tool to enhance the learning process and knowledge inquiry.

Innovative and transformative pedagogies have evolved with the new era of global communications. I will demonstrate how mobile devices can be used in a school setting with students immersed in the act of learning as opposed to being taught to.

I will address a comment posted by 'The Teacher and The Librarian' who responded to my previous post on the “inevitability” of mobiles being used in schools. 'The Teacher and The Librarian' cited research from Sharples (2002) where :

the skills of constructing and exploring knowledge through conversing and collaborating, and having to exercise a measure of self control when using these devices are the skills and attributes that any future employer would be happy to see in a prospective employee.

Indeed collaborative skills are necessary for workers who will be interacting with ever evolving technology devices and the ability to use these devices for work purposes. Currently the social networking attractions of mobile technologies have merged into business and commercial enterprises in capitalist economies. Castells (2000) finds that the new information economy has divided labour into "networked" labour which "serves the goals of the network" and "switched off" labour which has nothing to offer the network. I would argue that schools are now functioning more as training grounds for the workplace with testing regimes the main priority. If students do not get access to the new technologies then they are "switched off" and at risk of being left behind in an information economy. Using these tools with a purpose such as critical thinking can be the key to engaging youth in individual thought. Educators can use these technology tools to empower students to analyse the information economy so that they can decide how to participate in this system.

I agree with 'The Teacher and the Librarian' when they point out however we need to be sure we design a curriculum that provides opportunities to use such technology to create relevant, life type experiences that have an educational purpose in the lives of the young people in our classrooms. This "life type experience" should include critical literacy because it is crucial to transformations and innovative pedagogies in education. It can assist youth cultures to understand the workings of class, gender, government and institutional systems.

Some practical examples include Mary's post on Sunday, October 10, 2010 in Group 20, where a historical timeline is created as a collaborative exercise. The teacher scaffolds the learning activity by supplying the source which is a Web 2.0 application and administering the procedures that enable the electronic interaction to take place. Once the authentic website is located, the student can then discover new sources of information and collaborate as a team to build the historical time line thereby enhancing their knowledge of the topic, in this case, the war in Gallipoli.

Youth cultures have been engaging with new technologies throughout human history (Dezuanni & Jetnikoff, 2008). In this latest information age incarnation, Dezanni & Jetnikoff suggest that young people have been “remixing media” throughout the history of popular culture and give practical examples for educators to use new technologies in the classroom. Using the camera feature on the mobile phone, Dezuanni & Jetnikoff (2008) design an "advertising hunt" to investigate the genre and context of advertising providing planning templates and asking pertinent questions during the reflection phase of the inquiry process such as " Who is it aimed at and how do we know?"(Dezuanni & Jetnikoff, 2008,p.6).

Other critical literacy resources are available widely on the World Wide Web. The "" website gained my attention because these are the type of activities that I have done with my own classes with other media devices. It struck me that whatever the technology, you can engage students to immerse themselves in the curriculum critically.

For example, in the suggested activity where you use the mobile as a "new invention" the students are imagining a future that would accomodate a new gadget. In the past, I have used this idea with the concept of an 'anti-boredom' machine where the children invent the features that they would like on the gadget. The teaching ideas remain, it is the technology that has changed. The content is the same but the pedagogy has shifted to user (or child) centred and the 'user' can employ whatever technology is available to analyse advertising texts, look at gender representations in popular media, write scripts for plays, songs or dances on a curriculum topic. Once digital technology resources are acquired, students document the research process digitally and create their own slideshows on intranet software applications.

I have often integrated curriculum areas to investigate a topic and my students have created their own scripts for plays, dances or songs as a culminating activity to showcase to the school community. My future vision for a library setting would be a central publishing house for the whole school population to be finding, exploring, collaborating, examining, analysing information and then publishing their findings!

When students produce the media themselves they can give their own interpretation of the media messages in our culture and experience the learning process personally. According to the Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells (2000) “Internet is a tool that better serves democracy than control over democracy" and that applies to any other technologies such as mobile phones.


Castells, M (2000) The Rise of the Network Society Second Edition, Blackwell Publishing, USA.

Castells, M (2000) Materials for an exploratory theory of the network society British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 51 (1). Jan/March 2000 pp. 5-24.

Dezuanni, M. & Jetnikoff, A. (2008) Media Remix: Digital Projects for students Jacaranda Plus. Milton, QLD. Australia. pp. 1-7.

Livingstone, S. (2002) Young People and New Media Sage Publications Limited London, UK. pp. 239 -240.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mobile use in schools - Canadian news link - Local TL conference video

Mobile phone use is prolific amongst students though many public schools restrict their use. Western governments are currently reassessing their mobile media policies and education institutions are exploring the possibilities of enhancing digital pedagogy in schools.

Web 2.0 applications that support mobile phone use have been used in a United States charter school for "at-risk" students in Florida. Using Google SMS search one educator used this feature to text message search queries and message back the results in a text collaboration exercise with high school students. "Mobcasts" were created by using the phone to create an instant "voiceblog" to reply to questions posed by the instructor. The "mobcast" was seen as "
an example of a student's higher order reflective thinking" (Geary, 2008, pp. 30-31). Some problems experienced were not being able to print out the results but it was seen that "Web 2.0 tools are changing that" (Geary, 2008,p. 30)

Some government officials are responding to the growing movement of mobile use in schools. The Premier of Ottawa, Canada is advocating the educational use of cell phones in schools. On the 15th of September, 2010 CTV Ottawa posted this news item:

Another news article in the School Library Journal in the USA cites "changes to the Federal Communications Commission" policy to allow in school use of mobile devices in an "E-Rate Program" (Barack, 2010).

At a recent conference (18-10-10) for teacher librarians in Brisbane, Australia at the Queensland Academy of Science and Technology, future trends in information literacy and technology provision were explored. Digital technologies such as iPads and eReaders were demonstrated. Prue, a QUT Masters of Education in Teacher Librarianship student and teacher librarian, explained how she uses her iPad and associated apps to enhance her digital pedagogy. (See video below)

These examples from the Western world of recent government regulation and a local educational conference exploring mobile media use in schools would indicate that the adoption of mobile devices in classrooms around the world is inevitable.

Barack, L. (2010) "E-Rate Revision Supports Cell Phone use in Schools" School Library Journal retrieved 15-10-10

Geary, M. (2008) Supporting Cell Phone Use in the Classroom Florida Educational Journal Fall Issue pp. 29-31

CTV Canadian Television Ottowa "Premier Open to allowing cellphones in class" September 15, 2010 retrieved on 15-10-10

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mythbusters: Does mobile culture shackle or liberate? A literature review of Handsome devils: mobile imaginings of youth culture

Handsome devils: mobile imagings of youth culture” by Kate Crawford and Gerald Goggin (2008) caught my attention because of the reference to Roland Barthes’ (1973) text "Mythologies." Barthes examined in detail myth as a semiological system and how social imaginaries represent the hallmarks of a certain type of social group. There is synergy between the views of Barthes, a twentieth century ‘mythbuster,’ and those of the authors writing about mobile phone culture in the twenty first century and analysing advertising myths.

The article considers the ways in which Australian youth have been engaged to mobile phone culture and the implications and ramifications that might follow. The authors suggest that there are “two myths of mobiles – disconnection and hyperconnection” (Goggin & Crawford, 2008,p. 3). These myths have been around since the twentieth century but the technologies have converged resulting in a subject wired into social existence through technology, “a tethered self” (Turkle, 1995).

A powerful and evocative image of a body shackled in chains with a mobile phone hanging around a neck accompanying the article conveys the conflict at issue. The image can convey multiple interpretations. On the one hand the authors observe the disconnection with “fear of social decay through isolation of the individual” and on the other hand, manifests as “fear of inescapable hyperconnection” (Goggin & Crawford 2008,p.8). Link to this article is

Myth busting is the object of the article and the authors postulate that the media sensationalises both the “seductive and destructive mobile imaginaries” for reasons best known unto itself. Roland Barthes recognized similar discourses being constructed to reinforce “bourgeois ideology” (Barthes, 1973, p.143).

Popular culture is actively produced and consumed in a capitalist society (Goggin, 2006). In the twenty first century established telecommunication companies offer delivery of a proliferation of 'ever new' information, multimedia, applications and email to mobile devices. The convergence and “blurring of industry boundaries” such as entertainment, lifestyle products and communication have resulted in the "commodification of new geographical spaces" with the digital economy "penetrating more into intimate domains of personal life”. (May & Hearn 2005:p.166)"

The individualistic nature of mobile interactions within youth cultures “shifts boundaries from the personal and the public” (Goggin & Crawford, 2008, p. 1) and the authors sought to find out about the notions of youth as a “highly individualized cohort” and embark on a three year national study by the Australian Research Council commencing in 2008: “Young, Mobile, Networked: Mobile Media and Youth Culture in Australia.”

From an educational context, I would argue that such a study can benefit school organizations because mobile media use in the classroom is inevitable. Despite institutional resistance evidenced by restrictions on the use of mobile phones and protected online environments such as "The Learning Place" (The State of Queensland, 2010). This is evidenced by Education Queensland currently offering professional development on the use of iPads with literacy and numeracy development.

The authors show that the mass media representations of mobile media are bound up with individualistic interpretations of youth culture. Teachers already employ media education and critique advertising with their students and are updating their new digital media knowledge. The convergence of media and cultural industries are evolving and require a current study of practices so that educators can better understand how to cater for their “always on” students (Baron, 2008).

A great deal of advertising is directed at young people and is embedded in their popular culture (Evans 2005). Mass media texts, including advertising reflect certain values even when they appear to be neutral (Giroux, 1999). Such texts can influence people’s thinking and this requires students to interrogate commercialism in their environment, including popular culture such as mobile media.

Students engage in multiple forms of media and this has not translated to wide scale pedagogical changes in the teaching of literacy. We are on the cusp of change and it is reasonable for educators to consider ways to help students develop the skills required to read and write using multiple text and media forms (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006). Researchers such as Goggin & Crawford (2008) can contribute some current insights into teaching critical media literacy within the field of cultural studies. This can ensure that educators can scaffold students’ learning as they explore and analyse multiple forms of texts and mobile convergent technologies.

The “social imaginaries” that Goggin & Crawford (2008) refer to can be exemplified by their analysis of advertisements in the article and this analysis can be replicated in the classroom context. Advertisements and other forms of mass media offer great potential for teachers and students to “unpack layers of textual meaning” (Luke, O’Brien & Comber, 2001). They can then question the relations of power and knowledge, (the 'bourgeois ideology'), inherent in these texts. Teachers can foster critical literacy of students and can invite an interrogation of consumer messages found in today’s society. One can disengage from negative aspects of advertising messages and ‘hyperconnect’ to information that is required to benefit one's life experience.

I accept that social theorists gauge youth subcultures as a signifier of current social debates and that the accompanying negativity of “brave new world to bad new future” (May & Hearn 2005) has been with us as new technologies have evolved. The history of moral panics “operate by marking out and stigmatising certain groups of users” (Goggin & Crawford, 2008, p. 2) and creating social anxiety. Young adults are becoming more aware and therefore 'liberated' from the targeted commercialism of the media corporations as a result of the teaching of critical literacy skills. Current research has found that youth cultures are savvy to consumer traps from telecommunications providers. Following on from their 2008 article, Goggin & Crawford (2010) find in the first part of their qualitative study that respondents had chosen not to use social media or other mobile Internet devices “for fear of the cost implications” (Goggin & Crawford, 2010, p.15). The researchers dispel the myth of youth being the first to adopt new technologies and introduce the notion of "mobile phone class politics" whereby owners of iPhones are seen as "spoiled" or elitist and that nineteen eighties Nokias are "retro" and fashionable.

The notion of people being 'shackled' to technology is evidenced by the study that revealed youth in the demographic between 18-30, could not disengage with the portable nature of mobile technology. Some respondents from the study slept with their switched on mobile devices and one respondent became anxious when asked to switch off their mobile phone and could not comprehend the reason for disengaging with their device whilst flying in an aeroplane (Goggin & Crawford, 2010, p15).

Current research has demonstrated that youth cultures could be 'shackled' or 'liberated' by mobile technology and that a high percentage of youth employ critical awareness to make the most out of the advantages that new digital technologies can offer while some of the demographic exhibit psychological dependency on technology. Given that mobile communication has “subscriptions set to cross the five billion mark in 2010” it can be anticipated that mobile devices will be part of the education curriculum and that educators can continue to do their good work by arming their students with knowledge and critical new media literacy (Goggin & Crawford, 2010, p. 3).


Barthes, R. (1973). Mythologies Granada Publishing Limited. London, UK.

Baron, N. (2008). Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World Oxford University New York, USA

Crawford, K. & Goggin G. (2008). Handsome Devils: Mobile imaginings of youth culture Global Media Journal Australian Edition Volume 1/1 University of New South Wales, Australia.

Crawford, K & Goggin G. (2010). Movable Type: Findings from the Young, Mobile, Networked Study (DP0877530) of which this paper is an output. Australian Research Council for the Discovery Grant. (Thanks to Professor Gerard Goggin for sharing the first part of their qualitative findings from e-mail contact on 10-10-10).

Evans, J. (2005). Literacy moves on: Popular culture, new technologies, and critical literacy in the elementary classroom. Heinemann New Hampshire, USA.

Giroux, H. (1999). The mouse that roared: Disney and the end of innocence. Rowman & Littlefield. Colorado, USA.

Goggin, G 2006 Cell Phone Culture: Mobile technology in everyday life Routledge, Oxon, UK.

Lankshear, C. & Knoble, M. (2006). New literacies of online reading comprehension. The New England Reading Association Journal, 43 (1), pp. 1-7.

Luke, A, O'Brien, J, & Comber, B. (2001). Making community texts objects of study. In Fehring, H. & Green, P. (Eds), Critical literacy: A collection of articles from the Australian Literacy Educators Association. pp. 112-123.

May, H & Hearn, G. (2005). The mobile phone as media International Journal of Cultural Studies. SAGE Publications, London, UK. Volume 8. (2) pp. 195-211 Downloaded from at Queensland University of Technology on September 20, 2010.

The State of Queensland. (2010) The Learning Place Education Queensland Retrieved on 06-10-10.

Turkle, S. (1995). Life On The Screen: Identity In The Age Of The Internet Touchstone Books. New York, USA.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What is mobile media? News article about technology and primary school classrooms

Today we are witnessing a mobile media revolution and this technology is described as “Those media able to provide direct or immediate access to content or services, regardless of the place or the moment" Aguado & Martinez (2007), best exemplified by the mobile phone, iPad, iPod, MP3 and similar, personal portable, internet connected devices. These "always on" (Baron 2008) devices are simply tools, exceedingly high tech but tools none the less. More than any other tool ever invented, these devices stimulate our minds into unprecedented productivity.

Mobile technologies are creating a new language of icons and shorthand code to ensure the brevity needed to communicate ideas on screens often smaller than a credit card. Now it seems that in a case of life imitating art, the iconography of the teen centric mobile media craze is even influencing the presentation of hardcopy tabloids (see fig.1)

Today children are hyper-stimulated by digital wizardry in their domestic environment long before they cross the threshold of school. The challenge for educators is to maintain this level of stimulation or lose the students attention.

The instant nature of this medium has revolutionised telecommunications and has brought about a quality of "pervasive play" where accessing screen content becomes immersive and "identity-forming" Wilson & Thang (2007. p. 946). Generating meaning is 'game-like' and hence attractive to youth cultures internationally.

Press campaigns typified by reports such as this one appearing in the Brisbane Times in January 2010, contend that incorporating mobile media and other cutting edge technologies in the education process is now essential to academic success.

This piece discusses digitization of the classroom including the breakthrough trial of mobile media in West Australian public schooling. Students and teachers can access free online learning materials in a range of electronic formats using mobile media in the classroom. The goal is to make the learning process more appealing and entertaining for users by assimilating their informal information gathering techniques. Other positive benefits cited include the enabling of national and global communication with other school communities and the ability of educators to streamline their evaluation with online assessment tools.

The report glowingly describes what technologies the contemporary classroom will deploy and how but where is the evidence or explanation of exactly how the deployment of this technology will improve academic results. Without evidence the claim of nexus between the tool and the achievement is speculative and invokes Monty Pythonesque images of the machine that goes ‘bing’, looks mod, but what does it do? While engaging youth with motivating lessons using Web 2.0 technology is positive, my concern is that articles like this create unrealistic expectations in the school community. The promise of better, easier achievement on the back of the introduction of miracle technologies is uncertain.

"Our society tends toward a breathless techno-enthusiasm" (Else, 2006) where we have unprecedented access to information but take less time to think about the complexity and relevance of digital messages. Information overload or "data smog" (Shenk 1997) caused by infinite messages require teachers to assist their students with deciphering authentic and relevant sources. The issue of deciphering and authenticating information sources made available by new digital media is not addressed in the article.

Respondents harbour other reservations. For example, Thoughtspace (22 January, 2010) who wrote:
"This seems a staggeringly expensive resource and energy wasting compared to existing methods
" I read into this comment a concern about cost shifting. that is, shifting the cost of accessing learning materials onto the consumer in the form of purchasing mobile media devices and their attendant internet access cost. This may not be equitable as not all families will be able to afford these costs. I share this concern but note that earlier more tangible learning materials were not always affordable to some families.

Blaming teachers for lack of technical skills and professional development is a common catch cry by the public, academics and media commentators. This is also expressed in the Comments of the news article. Professional development is available, frequent and a requirement of teacher registration in Queensland. Many teachers have competent computer skills, the problem has been with the maintenance of equipment and the buildings that were not equipped for the infrastructure of the technology. For example, prior to the DER and Building Education Revolution (BER), in 2008, my classroom was not able to be cabled for my Interactive White Board to access the Internet so this device was reduced to being a data projector. Access to maintenance personnel is limited in the state school system with computer technicians contracted to service up to five schools in one district. This results in once-a-week visits to repair equipment.

Thoughtspace comments about the redundancy of technologies and the constant need to upgrade facilities and appliances due to latest technological innovations. This is an expensive but one could say a necessary step in order to be part of a digital economy. Evidence of the need to upgrade is reflected by educational institutions such as Queensland University of Technology, Education Queensland and private sector schools rebuilding their libraries in 2010 to accomodate wireless technology.

The positive point of the news article cited is that the DER and the BER that was instituted by the Federal Labor government have assisted public schools to upgrade their facilities to accommodate twenty-first century technology. The longevity of these technology tools and the maintenance of these gadgets remains problematic.


Aguado, J. & Martinez, I. (2007) From mobile phones to mobile media:Current developments in mobile phone-based cultural consumption Mobile Media 2007 University of Sydney, NSW, Quest Publishing Services. p 47

Baron, N. (2008) Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World Oxford University Press, London, UK.

Else L. (2006) I'll have to ask my friends Interview with Sherry Turkle New Scientist. London. Sept 16-22, Vol. 191, Iss. 2569: pp. 48-49

Shenk, D. (1997). Data Smog: Surviving the information glut Harper Collins Publishers. New York, USA.

Wilson T. & Thang F. (2007) The hermeneutic circle of cellphone use: four universal moments in a Malaysian narrative of continuing contact Sage Publications, Los Angeles, CA Vol 9 (6);pp. 945-963

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Inter-generational technology applications

As technological appliances evolve into new forms through human generations, people's consumption habits evolve with these new forms.

The comic shows "this totally retro "I-POD" as its predecessor, the cassette tape or Sony Walkman. Electronic devices are given names by marketers to reflect the latest technological innovation such as 'iPad'. Net or 'cyber' language is created by new media communication forms. For example: I had to learn what a "widget" or an electronic "gadget" was by creating this blog!

In this media blog, Ms Koppen examines issues that exist when youth cultures engage with mobile media. The posts contribute contemporary thought, academic literature and musings about transformations of youth culture and innovative pedagogies for educators.