When I started teaching at CCSF 18 years ago, to record my students' presentations I borrowed a giant video camera from the library and made a VHS recording. To watch, I needed to call AV, on the telephone during office hours, and request a TV with a VHS recorder be wheeled into my classroom. We would watch the presentations, one by one, as a class. Sometimes I'd show a movie, and rewind manually to re-watch a scene. Or I'd tape a show off public radio and play it on a cassette player. Students would also record themselves on cassette and I'd have a backpack full of cassette tapes to listen to all weekend. These were creative uses of technology at the time, and I thought they were making my classes interactive and fun.
So much has changed of course. We now have cassette and VHS players in the corner of all our classrooms, gathering dust next to the OHPs, about a decade too late. And in my students' pockets are miniature computers that take pictures, record video and connect to an infinite number of digital platforms. (They make phone calls too!)
"Take out your phones" is one of my favorite things to tell my class, despite the giant sign by the door that says NO CELL PHONES. Students use their phones in innovative ways that assist in authentic language learning daily, from translations, to maps, to images. Students show one another photos of their families. They teach each other bus routes. They share videos of their weekend outings.
A lot of teachers fear mobile technology, the way my teachers feared pocket calculators when I was in school. The way their predecessors feared fountain pens replacing quills and ink, or maybe even papyrus replacing stone tablets. But I see mobile technology and digital tools as a means of enhancing our collective learning experience, and a way to build a deeper sense of community. Even in the last 5 years the technology has evolved to serve learning better. Students no longer need to call my office phone or send me an email. They can message me on Remind. They no longer need to save their video file on a flash drive or send me an email attachment, they can post to Flipgrid. And I don't have to haul game pieces around from campus to campus, we can play Kahoot.
The other thing I really like about the digital tools that I am using, is that they allow me to connect with my students outside of class, and for them to work in a way that is both autonomous and interconnected. Learning continues on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. They are going beyond homework with self-paced assignments on Newsela and Khan Academy. And they are documenting their own progress with Student Portfolios on Adobe Spark.
I still love having students get up and go to the board. And nothing can beat the laughter of our daily yoga and bhangra dance sessions. But now in our "smart classroom" we can dance along with Bruno Mars!