Mobile phones and social media has become an indivisible part of our lives today. Whereas one one side, there are issues such as addiction, waste of time, etc, due to social media, it has also opened up new opportunities. Businesses use it to reach their customers, celebrities use social media to connect to their fans, and students too use Youtube, and even Twitter and Facebook to acquire more knowledge about a particular subject.
Smartphones and laptops have become a regular feature in our offices and homes, but remain out of the educational institutions. While the question ‘should smartphones and laptops be allowed in class?’ could spark a passionate debate in Indian academic community, many teachers in the West are actually experimenting with the idea. This new line of thought holds that rather than outright banning of smartphones and social media in class, students need to be educated about how to use these mediums wisely, and find ways to use social media for education.
North High School at Downers Grove, Illinoi, US recently tried this experiment, where it encouraged students to discuss English literature on Twitter. Sometimes when there are 50-60 students in class, not everyone gets a chance to voice their opinion. In such cases, the students can decide upon a hashtag, and tweet their views. As the class is on, the hashtag’s twitter feed is displayed on a wall screen for everyone to see. Look at the screenshot to take a peek in the discussion.
A similar experiment was tried at the University of Texas in Dallas, US, by history professor Monica Rankin. She found that not only are the students attentive in class and participate in the discussion, but also that the discussion continues on social media after class, increasing the students’ interest in the subject. So, students tend to be more participative and also increase their own knowledge by researching the topic further on the Internet, say those who support bringing mobile phones into the classroom. However, how does one make sure that all students are using phones to participate in class discussion, is a question that is yet to be satisfactorily answered.
Secondly, it must be noted that these results are of early experiments in the USA, where laptops are now allowed in class. Will such an experiment work in India where not all people have access to Internet? The temperament of Indian society is different than that of the West, and thus, it is difficult to say how Indian students will respond to the idea.
In India, it is generally agreed that cell phones need to stay out of the class at least for now, but Indian education is nevertheless adapting technology in other ways.