Earlier this week I gave a talk at a UK university. The audience was made up of lecturers from a variety of disciplines, and the theme was "Learners in the 21st century". My opening gambit was to poll the audience on a number of issues - "How many social networking channels do you use", "How much of the assigned reading do you think your students do", things like that. The polling itself I did via polls set up at http://www.smspoll.net, a neat website that lets you set up polls that allow people to vote via SMS from their mobile phones. So, the first thing I did was pull up the first poll, ask the audience to get their mobile phones out, and to vote via SMS. The purpose of the whole exercise was 3-fold - 1) so I could get a feel for the audience, 2), to prime them on a number of issues I'd be discussing, and 3) to show them that mobiles can be used meaningfully for teaching and learning.
After the session, one of the delegates came up to me and said that she and a number of her colleagues had felt excluded (her word) because they didn't have mobiles, or that their mobiles didn't have the necessary functionality. I accepted her feedback, but also pointed out that it was almost certainly the case that any mobile would be able to send SMS messages, and that maybe they just weren't familiar with doing so. She was, however, clearly still somewhat upset at having been excluded. (Turns out that the polls received 24 votes out of about 80 people in the audience).
I must say I was taken aback. I hadn't anticipated that there would be anyone in the room who didn't own a mobile (though I anticipated that some of them may have left theirs in the staff room or whatever), but this is clearly the case. I've been pondering ever since whether I was unreasonable to expect all members of my audience - university lecturers - to have a mobile. So there's a question for you - was I being unreasonable?
In terms of a bigger picture, even if I personally was unreasonable to have that expectation, what should we (society as a whole) expect from our educators? The theme of the conference overall was "Designing Learning in the twenty-first century". So there's clearly a theme here: we know that our learners learn/live their lives differently from those in the 20th century, and we need to keep up with developments. So there seems to be an acknowledgement here that we need to understand our learners better in order to serve them better. If this is the case, then isn't it our duty as educators to farmiliarise ourselves with our learners' lifestyles? I'm not saying that all teachers should go out and buy themselves every games console under the sun along with all of the most popular games, but isn't mobile-phone literacy nowadays as much of a 21st-century skill as computer literacy? And how can we as educators prepare the next generation of the workforce if we're not comfortable with the major trends of today ourselves?
So, over to you - was I unreasonable in my first expectation (that all lecturers would have mobile phones), and do you think it's fair to expect educators to be familiar with current "currency" if they're the ones educating the next generation?
Thoughts and links to articles about a variety of ICT and education-related topics. Where an article or resource is referred to in the header of a blog post please click the header to read the article.
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