So the research I have just begun for my thesis is starting to take me in all directions. When you begin to do some preliminary research, it is SO easy to wander off track as you discover new ideas. What startled me initially was the fact that several of the journal articles I have been reading suggest that Social Studies teachers are in fact the most reticent when it comes to using technology. What?

Then I started to reflect. In fact, I have to admit that the rest of my department (with the exception of the brilliant Darren Ward) seem to look at technology like it may give them leprosy. For many Social Studies teachers, that textbook fits the bill. But, as John Sutton Lutz from the University of Victoria points out, asking students to learn from old mediums is a bit like asking them to get into a Porsche, but insisting they can only read the manual…

So true. Students these days use technology from sun up to far, far past sun down. On the way to school, if they take a bus, they might help out a fellow student who is struggling with calculus and called out for help on Facebook. They make plans for lunch using text messaging or even Twitter. Then they get to class, sit down, and with a sigh, pull out their textbook that is undoubtedly 5 years old and is, well, dry.

There HAS to be a better way. Enter mobile learning. I am convinced that mobile learning will continue to grow exponentially, and that there IS a role for it to play in Social Studies. My plan? To work on a thesis about encouraging historical thinking in Social Studies through mobile learning. Why?

1. The best part of mobile learning is that it is mobile. No more trying to access overbooked computer labs, or resigning yourself to the whiteboard in your classroom. It is possible to have students learn anywhere…
2. …and anytime! Students can continue learning long after the bell has rung. Sure, it is possible to do so using home computers, but students could even check out videos or listen to podcasts on the bus, or in Starbucks (where they would bump into me, most likely).
4. It’s cheap. Well, for school boards, that is. And in this age of budget cutbacks, that has to be good. My school is comprised of students from every conceivable income bracket, but mainly from the middle class. And I would estimate that the number of students with an iPod Touch or smartphone would be at at least 60% at this point. That would mean that there would most likely be one mobile gadget for every two or three students – and that’s all I need. Sure, I plan to harass my school board incessantly until they buy me a class set of iPod Touches or (and I’m dreaming big here) iPads, but in the meantime, I could use what is already available. And many mlearing experts predict that in a few years, almost everyone will have a smartphone. Even my mother is planning on getting one…
5. It is a content generator. Sure, it’s always helpful to have something that disseminates information. But students learn far more when they are able to take that learning and make it meaningful for themselves. Cognitively speaking, it’s vital to get students seeing, hearing, and interacting with information. Mobile technology can allow students to record podcasts, shoot videos, and take pictures. The mind gets dizzy with the possibilities…

So the plan is to do some research on the value of mobile learning, and attempt to link it to historical thinking, a key component of the high school Social Studies curriculum. My goal is to focus on World War One, and develop some strategies that could be tested on local Social Studies teachers. Hopefully, it can help bring a technology discussion to what are apparently the school’s most reluctant techies..

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