Toys to Tools: Serious Games Connecting Cell Phones to Education

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by: Eliane Alhadeff

Once the scourge of classrooms, cell phones are now part of the lesson plan

Burr Snider reports that some forward-looking educators have begun to push the subversive idea that the high tech wizardry of mobile phones can be a powerful multipurpose mechanism for learning.

Serious Games Pushing Non-Traditional Mechanisms for Learning

Via: Edutopia – Learn2luvcell: A Powerful Multipurpose Mechanism for Learning

Podcasts, video interviews, polling, quizzes, even homework assignments, can all be accomplished via cell phone to enhance students’ learning experience, while the phone can also act as a versatile electronic aid to the teacher.

"Kids mostly see their cell phones as a social toy, not as a learning instrument," says Liz Kolb, adjunct professor at Madonna University, in Lavonia, Michigan, and author of Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education. "But if you can get them thinking of cells as an anytime, anywhere, Swiss Army knife-type data-collection tool, it can open up a whole new world. If their phones work so well for them outside the classroom, we need to get them thinking about bringing these tech tools inside and putting them to good use."

Author Liz Kolb sees cell phones as powerful technology in the hands of students. Ignoring, or worse, demonizing a technology that students willingly and actively use in every other aspect of their lives is not a winning educational strategy. Tapping into the ubiquitous power of modern communications technology and merging it with the flexibility and excitement of the Interactive Web (Web 2.0), Kolb provides a vision in which engaged students use the tools of their choice to enhance learning both inside and outside of the classroom.



Kolb cites the example of a student studying ecosystems in science class. When he goes on spring break, his teacher can instruct him to take pictures with his cell phone camera of the various insects he encounters and upload them to an Internet site such as Flickr. When he comes back to class, everyone can share his pictures and discuss his findings.

"In schools, we’re saying no to cell phones when instead we should be telling students that this thing they use to text their friends could actually become something that’s helpful in the twenty-first-century job force," says Kolb. "Instead of banning their use, let’s put structures around them and create learning activities with them."

Exploring Non-Traditional Mechanisms for Learning

“Teachers may be the masters in the classroom, but when it comes to mastering technology, a growing number of schools are turning to students. Schools tend to react to emerging technology by restricting student use with a heavy hand… (But) to improve education, we must put real digital-age tools in student hands,”

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