The world of education has changed in this new age of mobility, as where before information was fixed and centralized. But how has education adapted with technology? Amid many fears that technology is making us dumb, or lazy, we forget the immense power we wield because of them. Mobile devices particularly have revolutionized their owners’ ability to traverse spaces, providing us with a limitless amount of tools to make life easier. But once again, I raise the question of how mobile devices in all their luxuries help us with interactions such as learning? Learning is a time consuming and difficult process that remains and relies on a tradition of interaction and collaboration for success; regardless of technology. I’d even argue that learning has become more difficult in the age of mobility because the information and the masters of their contents are no longer geographically fixed. The social dichotomy and communicative process is different in this new age, so the traditional practice of learning needs to evolve with the time and technology. Here is where I found my call to social justice, there is a clear need to have some tool to bridge the generational, social, and technical gaps in education.
Answering Social Justice
My answer to this problem is a mobile application I call, Educated Spaces, (ES for short) ES would be the mobile tool to bring learning back to its traditional roots. In essence, I would like to add a tool to mobile devices that allows its owner to convert their physical space into a hypothetical classroom, anywhere. So many people today already use their mobile devices to communicate, uploading, downloading, streaming, blogging, and documenting so many facets of their personal life. So why not extend those abilities to learning? The infrastructures already exist that we use to communicate globally, so why not engineer a social network for students to interact and collaborate both digitally and physically. ES would be tremendously helpful for college students because they live a hectic and stressful lifestyle, which is easy to be overwhelmed by. I imagine this tool to act as a counterweight to that pressure, as students would be able coordinate, communicate, and actively network throughout their college careers.
In the work of Masao, Kakihara and Casten Sorensen, Expanding the ‘mobility’ concept, I developed key points for my social justice application in their use of an important term. The term spoke about was “spatial mobility”, implying that, “the rapid diffusion of ICTs in general and mobile communication technologies such as mobile phones and PDAs in particular has further energized human nomadicity in urban life, business environments and many other societal milieus” (2001, p.33) Encouraging nomadicity requires a person to be well equipped in the first place, as what mobile devices allow us to be. But with college students who’re highly mobile, it may be difficult to receive the help they need. So when I thought of recreating the classroom environment, I envisioned molding spatial mobility. This became a vital part of my field research as I observed students interacting at Temple University’s TECH center.
I began my developmental research in the TECH center, initially looking to create an application to curb procrastination; which I eventually changed. Aside from my class related empirical observation I was already working there for 2 years. So I am accustomed to the patterns and ways in which people study, or tried to study, and it seemed counterproductive. It’s easy to understand in a closer analysis the TECH center, it can hold an occupancy of 800 students with different areas designated for the use of students with specialized skills. It’s a popular meeting hub on campus for students to congregate and socialize; often referred to as “club TECH”. As an educational study facility it can be a bit chaotic at times and the over socialization lead me to think about how it could be changed.
Students all amalgamated together in one chaotic symphony of text messages, laughter and typing made me wonder how anyone could get their work done. I’d conclude for the time being that it was procrastination, but in critique of my final project proposal I was enlightened to the idea that maybe students just wanted to relax. It was then I thought about creating a tool that encouraged productivity, networking, and assistance. These were things that stuck out at me the most in my observations as people didn’t communicate with others who weren’t either classmates or friends. I also knew people needed help from my time spent working there, but even the staff here isn’t prepared for some of the questions asked, they would be better answered or taught by their peers. Lastly, I know from my experience in my undergraduate career that the necessity of networking is overly important and students aren’t making an effort to meet new people. These will likely be the people they’ll either end up working for or with, so it would be in their best interest to befriend other students now. That’s what made me envision Educated Spaces as the most ideal tool for students who want to excel in college do so.
When I recognized that technology has impacted the process of learning I arrived at my other question of how the space changed. People nowadays are so tethered to mobile devices that physical interactions between strangers is becoming passé. Sherry Turkle spoke of this in her article, Always-on/Always-on-you: The Tethered Self, illustrating that, “A train station is no longer a communal space, but a place of social collection: tethered selves come together, but do not speak to each other. Each person at the station is more likely to be having an encounter with someone miles away than with the person in the next chair.” (2008, p. 122) This is comparable to my field observation at the TECH center, as many students were socializing but thru their mobile devices and not interacting with one another. In my design for educated spaces it was imperative to me that I try to use the medium to recapture the effectiveness of the communal environment and encourage cooperation. So in my design I incorporated a social media interface with user profiles, a system of ranking one’s knowledge or helpfulness, and feed to help facilitate questions.
Interfaces that inspired my design were based on popular social media applications like twitter and ‘rate my professor’. Educated Spaces builds on existing infrastructures like Twitter that have an elaborate but simple user interface, but with an academic twist. One important feature in the application is the rating system, which I’d like to gamify, it would be a way to reward students who help others achieve a type of status of notoriety. I think gamification is important as I noted its success in social media and implementation into actual learning, as noted in the work of Schoech, Boyas, Black, and Elias-Lambert, “The internet and smart phones have greatly expanded the ability of game developers to employ strategies and techniques that are in real time, multiuser, and social. Social network based games, such as FarmVille on Facebook, are among the most popular games (Shin & Shin, 2011). Many schools now use games as part of their curriculum, especially in subjects such as math, where the precise nature of the curriculum makes game development relatively easy (Bragg, 2003, 2007; Lee, 2012).” (Schoech et al., 2013, p.199) Among all of these features however I hope to also correct the stigmatized view held of mobile phones in the class room.
Historically people have criticized cellphone use in classes, but in my research and development of Educated Spaces I believe the need to adapt our classrooms is mandatory. As with many schools facing shortages on learning materials, understaffing, and a general lack of resoruces, mobile devices help us fill these voids. In a survey carried out by Deborah Tindell and Robert Bohlander they raise both points of criticism and positives of why cell phones are and aren’t needed in classrooms. In one section I feel they capture why they are needed, “Many cell phone proponents claim that these mobile devices can be used to enhance classroom learning. Some of the useful features advocated include the ability to access information, record data, and create podcasts (Pascopella 2009;Schachter 2009). Cell phones can also be used as a way to gather data for classroom experiments and demonstrations (Cheung 2008) and enhance interactivity in large classroom settings (Scomavacca, Huff, and Marshall 2009), serving asan alternative to the “clickers” used in personal response systems. Ferriter (2010) also argued that cell phones may be able to replace materials in short supply, such as dictionaries, timers, and digital cameras.” (Bohlander & Tindell, 2012, p.1) Students of the 21st century can no longer be bound to the norms of previous learning methods of past generations, so much has changed spatially, interactively, and socially that it demands us to rethink and help our youth adapt with mobile media.
Adaptations with our technologies seems to be something unique to every generation that has come to pass. Generations raised on the telegraph, radio, television, internet, and now mobile devices all share something kindred with their particular age and technology. Especially in this new age of mobility, we enjoy the fact that we can use our mobile applications freely in our world. Pertaining to Educated Spaces it relies on other mobile users to connect and interact with one another. My design takes advantage of the fact that students nowadays are constantly on the go that is the most convenient part of my mobile application. Students need a tool to be able to receive or arrange to get help with classes while building a useful social network.
Educated Spaces relies on the standard features of contemporary mobile devices, which many seem not to cater to the illiterate, visually impaired, and hearing impaired. Gerard Goggin exhibits this in his work, Cell Phone Culture, quoting the National Council on Disability, “There are limitations that make cell phone seither inaccessible or difficult to use (and therefore, possibly undesireable) People whoo have visual impariments may hav the most difficulty reading the display and accessing visual information. People who are deaf of hard of hearing my have difficulty carrying on a verbal conversation and detecting auditory alets. People with mobility disability may have difficulty making accurate inputs and simultaneously handling the phone an manipulating the controls. People who have cognitive disabilities may have difficulty understanding metaphors that are used and remembering how to access iinformation” (Goggin, 2006, p. 90) I’ve fully the needs of people with special needs because they didn’t stop being a part of classrooms when mobile technologies became integral in classrooms.
Part of what builds the foundation for my mobile application is people interacting with one another. So I would like to take the same principles and respects taught to us all in regards to those with disabilities and implement a buddy system into the application. The buddy system would be a tool that could ping trusted or high ranking members of Educated Spaces to go facilitate assistance for those who requested it. I see the human part of interaction as a failsafe in the applications design. Educated Spaces will be an educational assistive tool that anyone can utilize anywhere.
Educated Spaces will be a tool that works very much like an intranet, requiring very little user information aside from a name, year, and course of study. It isn’t a tool that facilitates the actual process of being social as I’d like to leave that option open to the user. Data collection will only occur to document who is actual helpful and does so often. However, I would entrust to the academic administrations the ability to survey their particular branch of Educated Spaces to ensure that things like cheating, plagiarism, and abuse are not tolerated. Overall I want users to trust the application thoroughly and feel comfortable using it.
Educated Spaces serves as a tool to bridge the teaching divide between a fixed generation and a newer mobile generation. The learning process doesn’t change regardless of the technologies we wield, though they make it easier there still needs to be regard for what works. This speaks to our ability to create technologies that are adaptive to our natural abilities, we need to continue to build and improve popular interfaces to make them serve us and not the other way around. Older generations need to be considerate that in this new age of mobility past habits will hinder the overall progress younger generations will make. The role and responsibilities indebted to younger generations requires them to be mobile, so they need these tools to be successful at it. Though at the same time I think we need to stop seeing mobile devices as problems in traditional settings and do a better job at incorporating them into the devices themselves. Which brings me to the point of accessibility, just because the world is fast paced and that its best suited for those able to manipulate it doesn’t mean we should forget the ones who can’t feel like imbedding a buddy system in my mobile application inadvertently teaches compassion, patience, and integrity by encouraging students to help those with disabilities. Before technology we answered social justice by discourse and action, so we must apply and build those same principles into our future; not just mobile applications.
Kakihara, Masao & Sorensen, Carsten. (2001). Expanding the ‘Mobility’ Concept. SIGGROUP Bulletin, 22(3), 33-37.
Turkle, Sherry. (2008). “Always-On/Always-On-You: The Tethered Self.” In Katz, J. E. (Ed.). Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. P. 121-137.
Goggin, Gerard. (2006). Cell Phone Culture: Mobile technology in everyday life. London: Routledge. Chapter 5, p. 89-103.
Schoech, D., Boyas, J. F., Black, B. M., & Elias-Lambert, N. (2013). Gamification for Behavior Change: Lessons from Developing a Social, Multiuser, Web-Tablet Based Prevention Game for Youths.Journal Of Technology In Human Services, 31(3), 197-217. doi:10.1080/15228835.2013.812512
Tindell, D. R., & Bohlander, R. W. (2012). The Use and Abuse of Cell Phones and Text Messaging in the Classroom: A Survey of College Students. College Teaching, 60(1), 1-9. doi:10.1080/87567555.2011.604802