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Today, thanks to the tremendous progress in information technology, the access to and ease of use of the information are unprecedented. The scope of the phenomenon is so prominent that it is common to refer to it as the information age (Oliva & Gordon, 2013). Interestingly, its influence is not restricted to the academic segment but instead reaches far out into the consumer domain, with more than 80% American students having cellphones and actively using them to access the Web (Wiles & Bondi, 2015). Nevertheless, the usage of new technology is still relatively scarce in educational process despite considerable effort in this direction. It is thus important not only to recognize the opportunities the new technology offers but also to acknowledge the changes they require in curriculum design to successfully bring them into classroom.
The routine use of portable devices capable of accessing the Internet has become a worldwide phenomenon. Since their computational and multimedia capabilities these devices offer are superior to those commonly present in the classroom, it is reasonable to expect their use in educational process. In reality, however, the resources allocated for integration of new technologies into the learning process are inconsistent with the outcomes. In most schools, the use of computers is restricted to specific classes and projects, and the cellphones are considered a distraction or even a sophisticated cheating device (Wiles & Bondi, 2015). One of the reasons behind such inconsistency is the fact that the new information technology does not fit well within the existing curriculum. The traditional understanding of the learning process still relies at least to some degree on the paradigm of the institution delivering and interpreting (i.e. controlling) information (Wiles & Bondi, 2015).
Simply put, the current learning standards indirectly discourage the use of information technologies such as cellphones to their full capacity and restrict their utilization to narrow standardized fields, which comes in visible conflict with the current understanding of learning process. The demands put forward by the rapidly changing global environment necessitate the development of literacies such as effective management of information, proficiency with technological tools, and a revision of ethical issues connected to innovation (Oliva & Gordon, 2013). At the same time, the new workplace favors knowledge, problem-solving capacity, and critical thinking skills all of which can be aided in their development by utilizing capabilities of new technology. Therefore, to better prepare the students for the challenges and requirements of the contemporary world, the use of devices such as cellphones must be incorporated into the curriculum design.
Benefits of Cellphones
Cellphones are usually among the last to be recognized as means of learning. Unlike computers, which were traditionally associated with workplace and, to a lesser degree, education, phones are traditionally perceived as means of entertainment. In most schools, the use of mobile devices is discouraged or forbidden as they are considered a distraction. This, however, leads to a paradoxical situation where children routinely use their cellphones (along with similar devices such as tablets) to aid their learning outside the school but are forbidden to extend this practice in the place where the learning process is facilitated. Such setup is considered a backward progress by some educators (Hswen, Rubenzahl, & Bickham, 2014). In a sense, removing cellphones from the classroom creates potential barriers in the future since this technology is likely to become even more ubiquitous over time.
More importantly, the use of cellphones can introduce several specific benefits. First, cellphones offer versatility and interactivity which is unachievable by traditional means. The market already offers a wide range of apps for developing skills in arts, math, languages. In addition, several major software solutions exist which are designed specifically for the use in classroom. Essentially, this allows boosting the educational process at relatively low cost. Next, the portability and ubiquity of these devices coupled with their multimedia functionality such as recording and image capture offers help in data gathering and processing and eliminates the need for dedicated equipment.
The fact that students are able to carry their cellphones with them at all times further streamlines the process of independent inquiry and aligns well with the concept of lifelong learning. Another advantage of modern cellphones is their ability to serve as a platform for simulations. The latter are important for preparing learners for the diverse reality of the modern world. By exposing students to unfamiliar situations which demand contextualizing, recognizing the relevant approach, and applying obtained skills, the educators are able to improve the applicability of knowledge and develop problem-solving capacity (McNeil, 2015).
Finally, the economic benefits of such step must be recognized. Currently, the amount of funds allocated for modernization of classrooms can already be measured in billions of dollars (Wiles & Bondi, 2015). Personal mobile devices, on the other hand, make it possible for students to use their gadgets in the process. This can significantly cut down the cost of innovation.
Similar to most information technologies, cellphones offer significant improvements to the learning process. In addition, their versatility, ubiquity, and familiarity to the population creates a new set of benefits. At the same time, its presence in students’ lives is likely to increase over time. Therefore, their inclusion in curriculum development is both desirable for achieving relevant learning outcomes and necessary for keeping up with the requirements set by the modern world.
Hswen, Y., Rubenzahl, L., & Bickham, D. S. (2014). Feasibility of an online and mobile videogame curriculum for teaching children safe and healthy cellphone and internet behaviors. Games for Health Journal, 3(4), 252-259.
McNeil, J. D. (2015). Contemporary curriculum in thought and action. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Oliva, P. F., & Gordon, W. R. (2013). Developing the curriculum. London, England: Pearson Higher Education.
Wiles, J. W., & Bondi, J. C. (2015). Curriculum development: A guide to practice. London, England: Pearson Higher Education.