The use of mobile phones in Australian schools has been a divisive topic.
While some schools have recently banned phones based on classroom distractions and anti-social behaviour, others are beginning to view mobile phones as a fascinating opportunity for modern teaching and learning tools.
Below Jeromy Wells, founder, CEO and chairman at Whispir, a cloud-based communications platform, outlines five mobile technology trends in education that schools should be aware of.
Mobile communication with students and parents
Mobile messaging – SMS and rich messages – can advise parents of forthcoming activities, absenteeism, excursions and permission slips, extra-curricular activities, or even fee-related issues. Schools can target mobile messages at specific groups such as sports teams or the P&C to update meeting times or warn of last-minute cancellations.
In the many cases where a school may wish to contact a parent or guardian, they can be reached directly via SMS. Likewise, a parent may need to inform the school that they will be late picking up their child. A well-managed messaging system will route such information to the right staff member for appropriate action.
Embracing virtual reality
Although still relatively new, classroom use of virtual reality (VR) is seeing an increasing number of companies create learning tools based on the technology.
The Blurred Minds educational program is trialling a VR game called Perfect Pour in Queensland. This VR experience teaches adolescents about the risks of alcohol and drug abuse in ways that transcend traditional textbook and presentation methods.
To enhance conventional lessons, a geography teacher can take their pupils to Paris for a virtual tour along the Seine or to view the Eiffel Tower. Ancient history comes alive when students enjoy a virtual walk among the ruins of Machu Picchu. English classes studying Shakespeare can gain insight by visiting Rome and Juliet’s Verona. Learning becomes fun through this three-dimensional experience, which has endless possibilities.
Mobile communication for safety and emergencies
According to Forbes, 91% of smartphone users keep their devices close at hand. Other reports claim that 98% of all SMS messages are opened, compared to only 20% of emails. And 90% of those messages are read within three minutes, making SMS an ideal way to disseminate information quickly.
Educators face an unpredictable combination of critical emergency situations including severe weather, natural disasters, disease outbreaks, technological breakdown and threats of violence. With the unfortunate rise in safety risks at schools, parents and teachers need to work together to protect and support students and the wider community.
Mobile messaging platforms are being used to quickly keep parents, teachers, students, emergency responders and government bodies apprised of any current or potential threats, ranging from environmental to criminal.
Artificial intelligence might become the new teacher’s pet
Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the way we approach almost everything, and it offers remarkable promise for education. Mobile learning apps with built-in AI will analyse students’ progress. With a massive database to draw upon, AI will propose lesson adjustments to suit individual needs.
With the analytics available, schools can identify progress or any concerns and work with parents to act before a minor stumbling block in a subject becomes a hurdle.
AI will be able to assist students who may be struggling with a subject. If an answer is incorrect, it can identify possible issues by analysing the way the answer was derived. It will then adjust current and future lessons accordingly. When the syllabus next touches on a topic that may present similar challenges to the student, AI-based apps will use knowledge of the previous difficulties to help.
The potential of AI to tailor education to the needs of an individual within the classroom environment is not as far away as some might think. It is already being investigated by IBM, Apple, and others. Apps are available today to monitor real-time analytics at the student level. In the UK, similar technology is being used to help thousands of students who are struggling with maths.
Education with Google
The same Google products that are being embraced by organisations all over the world to improve collaboration, simplicity and mobility are now also being embraced by educators, and this is likely to continue. Google’s free education and classroom apps help students collaborate on team projects and share their assignments with teachers. Teachers, too, are finding the cloud-based technology easy to collaborate and share great ideas with other teachers around the world.
Jeromy Wells is the founder, CEO and chairman at Whispir, a cloud platform for automating intelligent, rich communications.