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.

1 comment:

  1. I really like your idea of the library being a ‘central publishing house for the school population to be finding, exploring, collaborating, examining, analysing information and then publishing their findings!’ I also see the library as the hub of the school in which students can be creators or producers, working on authentic tasks in a child-centred learning environment. The use of media and technology in authentic contexts, can enhance this learning experience, inspiring thought and creativity in children. The library environment should serve as a meeting place where all students have equal access to the necessary tools and devices required in order for them to gain the skills and knowledge that will prepare them for ‘full participation in the world of tomorrow’ (Jenkins, 2006). In this way efforts are being made to close the ‘participation gap’ between home and school. If learners are actively engaged in the learning process and given the opportunity to take more responsibility for their learning then they are more likely to assume ownership over their work and demonstrate a sense of pride in the end product.

    Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture; Media Education for the 21st Century.