The third type of digital divide and why mobile devices should remain on
Much has been written about the digital divide. And we are now seeing research and publications focused on the “second-level digital divide” as mobile devices become increasingly ubiquitous. Now we’re talking about the structural inequities among not just who has digital access, but rather, the kinds of access and digital access skills.
In addition, the pervasiveness of mobile computing means that North American post-secondary classrooms are increasingly a site for a third kind of digital divide: between instructors struggling to wrest students’ attention away from their mobile devices, and students as tied to said devices as day traders to the Nasdaq. Maybe it doesn’t have to be one or the other: mobile computing can add value to any classroom.
Here are seven ways to leverage mobile capacity from the very first class.
1. Ice Breaker: App Show and Tell
People love apps (estimates for 2013 range from somewhere between 54 – 86 billion downloads). Ask students to stand up, mingle around, and query someone they haven’t met “What’s your favourite app and why?” What are the most popular apps represented in your class? What does this say about commonalities and differences?
2. Course Playlist
Playlists are the contemporary equivalent of mixtapes. What song(s) symbolize the themes of this course? Put together a collaborative playlist. Play a song at the beginning and end of every class.
Individual reflective activities are regarded as productive and constructive. Why not take 10 minutes and move the conversation into the social-digital realm? #yourcoursename
4. Open-search-engine pre-test
Mobile devices are banished from final exams – rightly so. Yet the skill of locating credible information efficiently is essential in any profession. Invite students to preview a modified final exam at the beginning of the course using their mobile devices to access information (they can work in pairs if not everyone has an Internet-enabled search engine on their phone). Extra points for the instructor if the pre-test is designed more for critical understanding/analysis than fact-memorization. Optimally, students will directly experience why attending class is a value-add over just reading the text.
5. Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Collectively develop an innovative idea based on the course content, or identify a community project or cause, and work with them to secure funding. Try to fund development using crowd-sourced micro finance (such as Kickstarter).
6. Social Justice
Identify a cause and create an online petition. Or locate, critique, endorse petitions. Reflect on the challenge of consensus building, ethics, values, decision-making.
7. Collaborative Learning Assessment
Invite students to collaboratively co-create the final exam throughout the course using a mobile test-maker application.
All of the above strategies are aimed at addressing classroom engagement and leveraging the reality that students will bring and access their mobile devices, whether sanctioned or not. But most important, these strategies can address the skills gaps identified in the concept of second-level digital divide. And do so in the spirit of new and emerging teaching and learning frameworks:
(Also on Slideshare)