The buzz around the pond these days isn’t coming from bees. It’s coming from middle-school students on a data collection field trip to a local pond. But on this trip they’ve traded paper and pencil for mobile phones and environmental probes. With their smartphones, students access interactive media such as video, audio, 3-D models and animations to learn about the ecosystem they’re visiting as well as answer specific and open-ended questions about their data collection activities. Their probes measure environmental variables that contribute to water quality.
Over a decade ago (somewhere in 2001), I used to attend meetings of a special group called EOE (Education Object Economy). This group of educators gathered once in a month to talk about learning objects, improving education and some of their studies. I recall one of the educators mentioning how in Bangladesh teachers used to ask the students to go out, observe specific parts of nature (the land, farm animals, people) and come back and write essays on their field trips. They did not have technology to help them. It is nice to see how technology is enabling a different kind of exploration.
“Technology in and of itself does nothing for learning, but it can be a catalyst,” says the project’s principal investigator, Christopher Dede, Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard. “We’re interested in why technology impacts learning as much as whether it does or not. We are always concerned with how effective we can make these technologies and what the limits are.”
I think there is a huge opportunity to increase engagement by students (right now they don’t fully relate to a lot of learning that happens in the classroom). I think we can leverage technology (smartphones, IOT, sensors) to help to make students life more fun and interesting. We need to provide them more context for what they are learning and why they are learning it.
We need to have students “Get out of the classroom” and explore. With technology, we can help them get more out of these explorations.