As I consult with several groups, one common thread is a serious consideration of how to support 1:1 mobile learning while confidently keeping the students who are bent on pushing the boundaries from getting into too much mischief. As the Big Mother theme highlights, schools and systems identify their philosophy of education with the stand they take on the “Clamp Down” to “Free Reign” continuum.
Essentially I am a pragmatic idealist. I believe the foundation of a school must be based on trust and belief that given the opportunity, people – students and staff – want to do the right thing. That’s the idealist part. On the pragmatic side, we come from all backgrounds, personality-types and motivation levels, so the foundation of trust includes the corollary that breaking the community’s trust carries grave consequences. With freedom comes responsibility.
Add to these points the belief that The New WWW (Whatever, Whenever, Wherever) provides a greater temptation for today’s students than previous generations ever faced. When a mobile device enables immediate gratification or stimulation 24/7, making helpful choices needs to be a metacognitive task. So one option I’m encouraging clients to consider is a compact with students to install Spector Spyware (or such) onto their tablets and laptops. Not, as the Big Brother it’s designed to be, but as what you could call a “Jiminy Clicket” (or not). Students will know that their online actions can be replayed and will be – not to catch them out, but for them to review and reflect upon.
The point isn’t to see if students ever Stumble Upon (or search) naughty bits, but to help raise their awareness that, for example, 2/3 of their time spent researching is clicking links and 1/3 skimming text. Or that the combined time spent peeking in on YouTube is greater than the time spent writing an essay. Maybe that real-time interruptions like MSN, chat or friends’ updates from social networks, combined with all the above, leave nothing longer than 3 minutes for focused concentration.
Thus the key is not to use spyware as a threat, but as a non-judgmental witness who records what we get up to. When it’s all too easy to amuse or intrigue ourselves, a little help from friends might be a useful strategy.
How are others addressing this challenge? I’d love to hear about places taking the highroad, not battening down the network, and how they go about it. This is especially tricky on a systemic level, beyond the culture of the classroom where students are “left to their own devices.”