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Over the last decade there has been a major shift in the way teachers teach and students take their classes. Smartphones, tablets, and even laptop computers have become the perfect companions to pencil-cases, notebooks and textbooks. In some cases they have replaced them altogether. There is no doubt that classrooms are experiencing a profound “digital revolution” that extends from student to teacher and from tablet to electronic whiteboard.
However what really matters is not the evolution of technology we use in the world of education, but the way this development has changed the learning process. Many education experts have found that the way we use digital devices, and smartphones and tablets in particular, is changing the way our brain processes information. We are getting used to paying attention to a larger number of stimuli, to reading texts faster but in less depth and to receiving much of the information in multimedia content –and not just text and still images.
The changes in the way our brains are processing this information, requires us to adapt our teaching methods to this new reality. Fortunately, the same tools that have given rise to this development can be used to stimulate anyone’s learning, but especially in younger students whose brains have greater plasticity. Smartphones and tablets are part of their everyday life, so introducing these devices to the learning process allows them to feel more comfortable and helps to remove the barrier that has traditionally separated leisure time from study.
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Used correctly, mobile devices can help to remove many of the restrictions associated with the traditional teaching methods for good. One of the key points is that they allow teacher and student to keep closer contact by using the messaging apps that we’re all familiar with, promoting immediacy and interactivity. Thanks to these resources teaching is no longer a homogeneous process that students must conform to, but one that becomes a personalized experience that allows each pupil to progress at their own pace –rather than one that’s dictated by the majority of his or her peers. Needless to say this huge advantage can be crucial for preventing dropouts and increasing the success rate in compulsory education.
Many psychologists and educationalists agree that it is absolutely impossible to hold the attention of students at its optimum level for several hours without them getting up from their desks. Ideally, younger people should not have to remain seated for more than 30 minutes, but frequent short breaks do not have to stop the learning process. Quite the opposite, those moments of stimulation can be used to promote interaction among students through mobile devices, and similar options.
Another important change that many teaching professionals are beginning to take advantage of, is the removal of school’s physical boundaries. Using the same tools inside and outside classroom means that, in a certain way, the material boundaries of these spaces vanish, so learning can continue not only at home, but also in any space where they can use a mobile device. The students can interact with each other, and also with the teacher, creating an instantaneous and constant communication connection that did not exist before the arrival of these new technologies.
Our world is evolving at an increasingly faster rate, and this development will inevitably change the way we live, behave, think, communicate, and, as we have seen, also the way we learn. Technology can’t supply or fix everything but in terms of teaching methods, it can help us deal with the advent of what many experts define as an evolutionary process towards a “digital brain”.
The mSchools programme is a multi-year, multi-faceted mEducation initiative by the Mobile World Capital Barcelona. The mSchools programme is designed to lower dropout rates, improve student attainment in schools across Catalonia and throughout Spain and, ultimately, to better prepare students as they pursue further education and employment in today’s digital world.
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