Special Series – The Impact of Mobile. Episode 2: Education & Learning with Sidneyeve Matrix

This is part of an on-going year-long special series examining the impact that mobile is having on certain sectors of the economy. These sessions bring industry experts to UNTETHER.tv to offer their thoughts on how mobile will be shaping their industries

In this session, Sidneyeve Matrix discusses the impact that mobile is having on learning and the practice of learning.

Some highlights of this session:
– Hear how mobile is impacting the campus culture
– Find out how the classroom of the future will leverage mobile to learn in real-time
– Understand the challenges facing educators and schools as a result of mobile
– Learn what the impact of the new student will have on the way we teach
– Get introduced to the next have/have not generation and the impact this will have on how we learn


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Raw Transcript

This episode is brought to you by Mobility Public Relations, the full service PR agency created specifically for mobility technology companies just like yours.

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Here’s the show.

Hallo everybody, welcome to Untether.tv. I’ve your host Rob Woodbridge, of course, and this is another episode in my yearlong series focusing on the impact mobile is and will be having on certain economic sectors. Today, I’m really excited about this, we’re focussing on education and we’re talking with Sidney Matrix. Now I’ll just give you a little bit of background about Sidney. I met her in Toronto a couple of months back at a mobile marketing conference but she’s the Queen’s National Scholar and assistant professor at the Department of Media and Film at Queens University. She teaches courses in mass communications and marketing, digital and social media. She has a master’s degree from the University of Western Ontario, a graduate certificate from Syracuse University, a PhD from the University of Minnesota. She’s an associate editor of the Journal of Professional Communications and she’s now teaching at the Queens’ School of Business Executive Development Centre and for Rutgers University for management development. That’s a long introduction but it’s well deserved. Sydney, thank you so much for coming on and sharing knowledge about this really, really, really, really important sector of the mobile space called ‘education’.

Sydney Matrix: My pleasure to be here.

Woodbridge: I’ve already spoken too much.

Matrix: And I’m thinking I work too much.

Woodbridge: Exactly. Based on going to your website and understanding where you’re involved in a whole bunch of these little pockets. It’s a full time job to stay up on this industry, isn’t it, on social media, mobile and the impact of all of these things.

Matrix: You have to love it and you have to live it every day to stay up on top of it. You really have to be loving it every day. It can’t just your job it has to be a lifestyle.

Woodbridge: I 100% agree and especially in the mobile space and that’s where we’re going to focus, it’s akin to the early web days where I used to jump out of bed at 4 or 5 in the morning simply to see what happened yesterday because so much changed. That’s what mobile’s like today, isn’t it?

Matrix: Indeed. Because the best part of the social web is that your friends are there, your family, your professional connections and it’s just this space of infinite curiosity.

Woodbridge: I love it. I don’t think that there’s going to be any greater sector impacted than the education sector as a result of mobile because of the fact that the kids that are growing up today are surrounded by this technology, there’s expectations around this technology and they know how to use this technology sometimes far better than their parents even at young ages. I can’t help but think that whatever is coming up in this generation of student will have such a tremendous impact on the way we learn, what we learn, when we learn and even some kind of physical change in a number of thousands of years as a result of what we’re embarking on today in the mobile space. And I’m hoping we can cover a little bit about that maybe not evolution, but certainly everything up until evolution around how mobile is going to impact the way we are learning and the way that we will learn in the future. So let’s get into it. What is happening out there today that you’re seeing in the education space that mobile is starting to play a role in? Are you seeing a lot of it out there?

Matrix: We’re seeing a lot of different innovations. I think when you use the word ‘impact’ it’s actually literally disruptive, this mobile technology. It’s changing the classroom, it’s changing the curriculum, it’s changing the whole campus culture and you could probably see that if I was teaching k -12 I’d probably say that you could feel the impact in that space as well.

Woodbridge: Why don’t we talk about those areas right away but when you talk about campus culture’ why don’t you explain that to begin with?

Matrix: The most obvious result of mobile technology on campus we saw a few years back when everybody was walking around with the earphones in and with their own personal soundtrack. Now everybody’s walking around with earphones and looking down so they can text when we walk. The movement on the campus, outside the classroom, is getting really interesting as people are checking in with geolocational, social networking, getting real time updates from their friends on twitter and Facebook and who knows? Buying books or downloading music because a phone is really a personal computer.

Woodbridge: And so much more. It’s a gateway isn’t it, and it’s always available. So that evolution has really changed the way that people interact with each other certainly in the university space. It used to be that your circle was the person next to you or the person that you saw in your class every day or the person or the group that you hung out with but really with the mobile technologies it’s advanced to the point where you can ask anybody any question anywhere at anytime and get somebody else’s opinion from around the world not just next to you. How is that impacting the way that classes are taught even at that point?

Matrix: I’m sure you’ve heard of the popularity of laptop bans in higher education. So the next that generation of text fasting that professors and faculties sometimes enforce is about mobile. So they’ll say, ‘No phones and no laptops in the classroom.’ We have that situation in some of the lecture halls across Canada but we also have other professors who are saying, ‘This is a technology we can leverage. We can accomplish quite a bit with it,’ everything from live quizzes, texting, to tweeting, live tweeting the course. Taking photographs, sharing them, posting things to the wall if you’re using Facebook to teach. Just so many different ways. Shooting QR codes. So many different ways.

Woodbridge: It’s impacting the campus culture obviously and it’s got to impact the way that the classes are taught themselves. It’s also within the classroom a whole other story. So what is the classroom of the future? When I walk in how what are we going to be seeing in there that is different from now? How is mobile going to completely change the way that a class operates?

Matrix: Well, for one thing we’re going to see a lot more iPads and tablets in the classroom than we do right now. Still pricey objects and so I’m not seeing a lot of them amongst the Gen Y on campuses in Canada yet. But in a few years though we’ll see more iPads, we’ll see more tablets. And that will change everything because those mobile devices are so media rich, they’re so multimedia, you have a different screen real estate, you have more elegant and multi-functional apps and people crowd around them and collaborate in ways that we don’t with our Smartphones.

Woodbridge: I’ve heard stories of, I think it’s Rutgers in the States and a number of them, that are giving away an iPad to every freshman that comes in every year. That’s a tide turn, isn’t it? It’s not widely adopted and it’s certainly not in the k-12 yet but there’s also a number of schools in the k–12 space that are giving everybody in their classroom an iPad as well. What does that do for the way classes are taught? You have all that information…there used to be that kid behind you or in front of you that would try to correct the teacher. Now everybody’s got the ability to correct the teacher and the teacher has to change the way they teach, don’t they?

Matrix: It’s an opportunity. The first thing to say probably is, ‘Wow, that sounds really threatening,’ if you’re used to be the sole authority as a teacher. ‘You’re supposed to have all the answers and that sounds threatening to me.’ But the next wave of teaching when you’re facing students who have computers in their hands or on their desks really id about taking advantage of that connectivity. For instance, you may ask them to spontaneously fact check or crowd source or spontaneously find another example of such and such or check the spelling or find a video so that you’re teaching them research skills and you’re teaching them how to evaluate the validity of the information that’s on the web. That kind of digital literacy is exactly what we need in the 21st century to be professionals.

Woodbridge: Absolutely. One of the things that I love about seeing this technology inside of the classroom is the…and I’m going to try to explain it property, the lack of bias or the lack of prejudice that it might engender in the younger generation because you’re going to get multiple perspectives from multicultural posts or videos or even a simple app like Instagram, for example, a photo taking and sharing app for the iPhone. When you start to befriend people around the world you’re seeing cultures that you probably never were exposed to before as they post pictures from their cities and their countries. I think that’s part of the education process that I never had. We read about it but we never got to experience it so mobile is a really great experience in a classroom for creating that loop on what you’re learning.

Matrix: It is and one example that comes to mind of what you’re describing is using Skype on mobile devices for language learning. So we do see some teachers experimenting somewhere else in the world where you can exchange nature speakers’ perspectives on whatever the topic of the day is. There’s nothing more valuable than hearing somebody speak in a language you’re trying to speak.

Woodbridge: That second or third dimensions of learning, the deeper learning, is what should be and if mobile can enable that that’s one of the greatest things this technology can do. I want to touch on a point you brought up earlier about and no laptops because I see that quite a bit. I think that the immediate assumption with a laptop is that whoever brings one is going to be searching the web and not focussing. And certainly phones, and Smartphones, will be texting instead of passing notes. How do we get beyond that so that we can embrace that technology and not think so negatively about opening up the laptop or the Smartphone.

Matrix: It may be a tall order but I think it’s important to think about how we have shifts in engagement for young people. And for not so young people like you and I. No offense. Shifts in our attention span because of the wealth of amazingness on the web. I think if you plan multimedia curriculum, if you’re thinking about engagement and it’s a real priority for you, if student interaction with the material and with each other with the prof is a real priority, maybe even a higher priority than delivering information, that’s the kind of teaching where folks will find it so compelling that they will plug in and be turned on by the class rather than constantly distracted by Facebook.

Woodbridge: We’ve all had those great teachers that have inspired us throughout our educational career and there are very few of those that I think can do it on their merit. The people that engender it. I had a history prof that told the story of history and the way that he told that story was something that I’ll never forget. It was the most amazing, rolling story. I don’t read fiction anymore because there’s so much great fiction out there that is relevant and better than some of the greatest fiction ever written. How do teachers have to modify the way that they’re teaching today to bring this in and not be threatened by it?

Matrix: One simple approach that I see some teachers taking is embracing the most popular social media platforms. So making sure that your class has a hash tag; simple move but does require a certain amount of digital finessing on the part of the faculty. Somebody who’s interested in micro blogging or citizen journalism, live reportage, those kinds of skills…if it’s relevant to the class. Then teaching on twitter, teaching on Facebook you know where the students can crowd source the information that’s relevant, connect the class to culture on the wall. Things like that. Bringing in YouTube video to the class. Nothing more compelling to us right now in Canada than watching YouTube videos. All ages.

Woodbridge: Certainly. My kids four years old now and learned about tornadoes and hurricanes from looping videos on YouTube; they didn’t want to watch TV they wanted to watch YouTube. I’m bringing them up this way so these teachers had better be ready for these kids…they’re also Woodbridge kids so I’d be very worried about putting them into the education system anyways. Teachers have to embrace this. Have you seen any great examples? How would they leverage this mobile platform to push it back to the students? You said you had some great examples in there about real time fact checking, engaging the students in finding information or videos on the devices. But how can, out of class, how can they empower the students to leverage this platform?

Matrix: If we think about the multifunctionality of a Smartphone, or even a feature phone, they have cameras. They might not have video but they have cameras. That’s one way that we could say, ‘Let’s go out and create some digital mobile video.’ That kind of creative opportunity is something I know students will embrace and be interested in. One thing that they’ve been finding intriguing are QR codes. So if you place bar codes in the classroom, outside the classroom, in the community and ask them to scavenge hunt them, find the stories that are embedded in buildings and campus places, the history of your town, etc., that kind of thing. It’s compelling. You get out of the classroom and you connect the curriculum to the real world.

Woodbridge: That really is the power of this. Technologies like Google Goggles, for example, when you hold it up to a building and you can get the history of the building. I’ve seen examples of it and used it here. I went to the Parliament buildings and held it up and got the history of the Parliament buildings as I was standing there. Everything is at your disposal right now. Even as parents how do you encourage that? How do you not dissuade your kids from reaching out and finding that information they need?

Matrix: The I generation, which would be your boys, the tiny people right now, I don’t even know that they need our encouragement. What they need is access and they need permission in order to indulge their natural curiosity because, of course, you can ask almost any question of Google and you’ll get a variety of answers. You have to go to your parents and say, ‘Which one is right?’ Just having access to the technology and having the freedom to explore. But as I’m saying that I’m kind of haunted by the notion of a digital divide because I’ve been talking as if every student has a laptop, every student has a Smartphone, every family has an iPad and we know that’s just not the case.

Woodbridge: It’s a really interesting question because before the Smartphone and the PC we were one of the first families on my block, in my class, when I was younger, to get a computer. We had a VIC 20 back in the day and a Commodore 64 and from the point that I can remember I’ve always had a PC or access to a PC wherever I am. So my kids will have that as well. What about the children who don’t have access to PCs, who don’t have access to Smartphones? It used to be that you didn’t have access to books and those who could afford them will read and benefit from them. What do we do about that digital divide? How do you remove that barrier?

Matrix: One piece of this is to recognize that it is more likely that students have a phone than have a laptop or tablet. That’s just another reason for educators to push for mobile learning opportunities and maybe to change, or cut through, some of the bureaucratic red tape that keeps them out of the classrooms or to challenge themselves to figure out, ‘How can I utilize this technology that my students already have?’ I think that’s one part of it. In Canada we’re still only at 25% Smartphone adoption so some of the wild ideas that educators might have might not be possible right yet but there are grants that folks I’ve known have applied for to say, get a class set of iPod touches. Refurbished models. There’s ways to get technology into classrooms. The problem is that if we adopt mobile textbooks, for example, and the students don’t have the devices to read them at home that’s going to present another problem.

Woodbridge: It really is because all the debate that’s going on right now is under the assumption that everybody has the right technology. So how do you overcome that? I’m in a content creation business. I don’t know how I got here but somehow I’m here and I distribute all of these different interviews and sessions in multiple ways. I do it in video, I do it in audio, I do it as a transcript in print, I do articles. Is that a way to embrace, as a teacher and as a school, do you have to start thinking about literally multimedia distribution not just in the classroom and, ‘Oh you missed it? Too bad. Get the notes from somebody else.’ That’s got to be front and centre in the way that teaching has to fundamentally change to accommodate this generation.

Matrix: It’s so controversial what you’re pointing to. The idea that if we embrace certain technologies they may be a disincentive for students to attend class is very, very controversial.

Woodbridge: We’ll come back to the flip side of this optimism that we share around this and we’ll touch on that but that is a challenge and we’re going to take the opposite approach in a few minutes to talk about what the of this downside is. In one of the presentations that you put together, and I’ll link to it from this post, but it was the Connect to Teaching, you talked about some great examples of ways…we’ve already talked about QR codes that would display additional information on a Smartphone about a location or even…what I loved about it was the equipment in a classroom. It was a perfect example about getting more information about that. What other examples have you seen that may be very effective for teachers and schools to start embracing to help the Gen Y learn a little bit easier?

Matrix: I think that one thing we can do is think about how to make the class more visually stimulating because we have a lot of visual learners out there. We have a lot of gamers out there. Never mind ‘out there’, in our classrooms. When you’re raised on web it’s a graphical world, you’re really interested. So one way we can use the mobile technology is to have students access some of the resources in the classroom on their phone or in a blended fashion. So we meet for a certain amount of time and then they access it on their own time on their mobile phone, say when they’re on the bus or when they’re just hanging around. Making sure that the content is available in morsels or ‘porsels’, little pieces that they could ‘snack on’ when they have moments of what I call ‘micro boredom.’

Woodbridge: It’s that gaming mentality. Certainly that’s why games are so popular on the mobile devices. ‘I’ve got two minutes. Let me play a quick game, a morsel of a game.’ Why not substitute that with a little bit of education at that time? You could do it through podcasts, video podcasts; you could do it through anything.

Matrix: Thinking multimedia is really important but also thinking about how to develop mobile optimized website, microsite. If you’re not on Facebook where the problem’s already taken care of for you, it’s mobile ready, then we do have to think about are we building mobile accessible resources for students?

Woodbridge: If you could talk to educators right now, people in front of the classroom, people standing there teaching this group of kids, a generation of kids, what would be the advice that you would give them on what they should be doing or how to reach these kids and make sure that they embrace education? And by leveraging mobile? What would be the advice that you would give them?

Matrix: One thing that we do in my classroom which is sort of silly but we embrace game show technology. We use clickers, the same kinds of gadgets you see on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? It’s a very simple technology but the results we can get from polling the audience or polling the audience or polling people who are there to learn together are profound. Things like that when you ask the question to ‘the audience’ and they check in it can change the direction of your teaching. It can change the direction of the meeting because it’s going to be different every time and the students are well aware that their voice matters. That’s just one example of a very inexpensive and extremely, elegantly simple mobile technology that has profound effects.

Woodbridge: Do you videotape your classes or do you keep an audio track of your classes?

Matrix: We have student videographers and student video editors who work on my classes. They take the class, they edit the class and they put it out for their peers so it’s peer co-creation, peer-to-peer. And that kind of authenticity really matters I think because I learn so much from them about what will make a video or a lecture compelling because they’re involved in the production of class.

Woodbridge: It’s so true. If they build something that they would watch why don’t we all emulate that? That’s the best way for them to tell you how you should be teaching, isn’t it?

Matrix: It is. And of course like any web girl or web boy I watch numbers pretty closely and I do watch when and how those videos are consumed. I do see that they are consumed mostly at exam time. This may not surprise you that my numbers spike at exam time which is really just I’ll say that you do sometimes want to see something live and then having a copy of it will serve a different learning objective. So it’s that kind of buffet approach where you spread out all your content and your opportunities for engagement and learning and then you allow students to take their pick based on how they feel they learn the best.

Woodbridge: I’ll bring up this prof who taught history at my university. I went in with an audio recorder and I’m not a great note taker. I’m a very visual guy. I sat back in every one of his lectures and recorded the whole lecture on tape but I just listened to the story. So this was years before podcast. Then I would take out the tape and I would put it on a shelf and I had every lecture that he ever did on the shelf and that’s how I learned. I would pop it in at night and I would listen till I fell asleep and I would capture the essence. It was literally like sleeping on the textbook and hoping it would soak in. That way of learning is so powerful and it’s just the way I learn. Other people learn better by reading or by taking notes but it was a different approach. I would share those and I loved the fact that you can do this now. I could have put those up as a podcast even and let people have access to that regardless if they were in the class or not.

Matrix: You’re the type of student that strikes fear into the hearts of many faculty who would be extremely concerned about their lectures being captured. I think it’s important to take a step back as educators and realize that as innovative as we may be in many instances we’re actually going to be responding because students will be out in front filling their educational needs and satisfying their own media habits and we’re going to be playing catch up.

Woodbridge: Let’s talk about the impact of this because it strikes me that there are going to be some students who embrace this naturally. So it depends maybe on their upbringing, their propensity to technology, their love of it, whatever it is. Are you able to, in the future, group students by grade anymore? Does it have this far reaching impact where a grade one student who’s exposed to this technology and embraces it and leverages it is going to be at a different learning pace than somebody who hasn’t? And can you actually split them up into grades or is there some other way that you’re going to have to classify these students in school? Is it going to have that kind of far-reaching impact?

Matrix: It could just be that disruptive. My expertise is not in the k – 12 area but definitely I already see that kind of breakdown of strict classifications from first to fourth year and beyond because students are already more comfortable and accustomed and they are expecting they can follow their curiosities and interests. I think that is a symptom of the ‘Google age’ where we can go to the web and we can ask our questions and follow our interests. I already see it in higher ed.

Woodbridge: This is the flip of that conversation now which is we’ve talked about the optimistic side and the optimism that mobile and that technology brings to me. But now I’ll echo words of my father who says, ‘This generation,’ including even me, perhaps, ‘are incapable of learning anymore. They’re incapable of accepting knowledge. They’re only capable of finding facts through Google. They don’t have an attention span long enough to read a book anymore or more than 500 words. We’re communicating in 140 characters now.’ Let’s talk about what the impact socially is on the way that we learn as a result of this technology from a bad side.

Matrix: At this point it’s still very, very difficult to face exams, to face testing, assessment, midterm, finals whether you’re in high school, whether you’re in higher ed.

Woodbridge: Are they relevant still? I never saw the point of an exam when I was going through school probably because of the pressure.

Matrix: This doesn’t surprise me about you at all.

Woodbridge: It shouldn’t. I just wanted to learn. I didn’t want to be tested on what I’d learned. Everybody learns different things for different reasons and you take what you want out of what you’re learning. And then if that teacher happened to ask the right question that I knew that was fine. If they didn’t, well it wasn’t so great. But are exams relevant now? Is that really the best way to test the knowledge of somebody? Let’s talk about that.

Matrix: That is the million dollar question. When anything can be Wikipedia-ed, facts can be Googled in a minute, is there any need for rote memorization? Should we be having huge exams where you’re tested on your recall of obscure facts and statistics and dates, etc. when you could just turn to Google and the answer would be there? The response many faculty have to those kinds of questions is some version of, ‘Higher conceptual thinking sometimes depends on you being able to have an instant recall of the building blocks of knowledge.’ So there are exams that are all about rote memorization but there are also lots of different tests and assessments that are about applied knowledge and problem solving and of course those are the ones that students find most compelling. Of course, those are not the kinds of questions that lend themselves to a Scantron so there’s another technological teaching aid that we’re working against, in a sense.

Woodbridge: It’s a funny thing. Why don’t you explain that?

Matrix: Having a Scantron is like filling in your exam like a Lotteria ticket and feeding it through a digital scanner. So the questions are basically going to be multiple choice: a, b, c, d, e. Sometimes students get really tired of that kind of testing when we know that what’s really interesting about the world is having great questions and debates and seeing how knowledge changes and shifts. That kind of testing seems very difficult. The reason I brought this up at all though is that, in the age of Facebook and having SMS and having YouTube, our attention spans do feel like they’re shrinking. When it’s time to sit down to cram for 10 hours, for 12 hours for a big, fat exam that can be very challenging when you’re just not used to it.

Woodbridge: Concentration comes in 45 minute chunks at best and the ‘always on’, ‘instant on’ world that we live in and the almost immediate distraction that a browser brings or a tweet deck or anything along those lines or Facebook is now brought into the mobile space. There’s many ways that you can be distracted. With that it comes down to the way that we learn…I believe that you have to learn how to learn and if you don’t have that fundamental basis you’re not going to be able to cope I would say later on in life because you don’t have that ability to focus and narrow and get stuff done. But there is that divide between dates that are relevant sort of but it’s the context of the date that’s much more relevant. Certainly having an ability to take a device like an iPhone or an Android device or anything like that, and walk up to a building or walk up to piece of art and scan that piece of art and get the history of it at that moment so you’ve enriched yourself a little bit more is certainly a benefit. Stuff that I don’t need to remember for life but stuff that I want to know right then and there. I think that the challenge that people are having right now is that people would look at these devices and that capability as the way that we learn all the time and that’s not right.

Matrix: It does make it a very digitally painful day when your battery dies, right?

Woodbridge: My knowledge is gone.

Matrix: It’s extreme digital pain. You’ve got the ‘blue screen of death’. Having continuous connectivity it is comforting, it is business as usual for many of us, even when we’re four years old, it’s part of our lifestyle. Unplugging can be extremely disruptive and extremely painful as I’ve suggested. Sometimes that’s exactly the type of situation we need to create in higher ed. We need to ask people to try to push themselves to learn a little differently so we will have moments where we will unplug and we’ll shut the laptops and we’ll try to things face-to-face or through reading a long, dry academic article because articles are mobile too, you know.

Woodbridge: I will often joke that a big innovation at Amazon with the Kindle is the ability to lend somebody a book now digitally. Or their ad campaigns right now are ‘books are portable’. Well, they have been since the day the first book was published. But you’re right; the ability to unplug and complement is that where mobile really does add value? What I’m concerned about mostly when I look at the education system is this perceived complete attention deficit disorder that’s going on, as you said before. There are so many distractions I can only focus on bits rather than larger chunks. But those bits on top of the knowledge that’s really where mobile can play.

Matrix: That and also in the ability for students to personal, to really personalize their experience. If you picture your last stock meeting or professional conference the boomers of the Gen X who are in the room they’ve all got their own personal media streams going while the speaker is addressing them. Of course, we’re just as bad as our students and as our kids in this regard. So the ability to personalize things and make them relevant that’s the real beauty I think of having mobile devices in a classroom environment because you’ll find that students will take a detour and they’ll go off into some land based on something that you said. That’s the kind of self-directed learning that educators have been trying to create and support for generations.

Woodbridge: And it’s right in front of them right now?

Matrix: There’s an opportunity there for sure. But at the k-12 level there are certainly more mobile phone bans than there are mobile learning opportunities. So this is pie in the sky for many teachers; they just simply don’t have the ability. Maybe the first foray into mobile at the k–12 level in a big way will be mobile textbooks.

Woodbridge: It’s interesting though; as with everything, governments for example, corporations, when there’s a wholesale change of we’ll call it ‘retirement’. When there’s a wholesale retirement or changing of the guard do you think that that’s what is necessary in the school system to be able to really take advantage of these technologies for good not for evil?

Matrix: Many of the teachers who are firmly set against using mobile phones in the classroom are living in very close proximity to young people, their own kids. So I think it’s not so much a generational divide and a need to sweep out the old guard and have the next gen educators. I think it’s that we need to have a better curriculum that’s engaging, we need to have perhaps a different structure for scheduling through the day and we need to abolish the grades. Something really innovative and crazy like you suggested. So we’re in a transitional time where there’s a tug-of-war going on in technology in the classroom. Mobile phones are a good example.

Woodbridge: I love the debate that this engenders because this is really what we should be talking about is how to make education or bring education to the students and get them to engage in learning. I’m a lifelong learner and I leverage mobile daily for that information whether it’s a phone number that I need to find, a location that I need to be at or information about a building or a piece of art. The last thing that I want to do is take that away from my kids when they’re asking to learn. It’s akin to me to taking away books or limiting the amount of books that my kids can read. I never want to do that. But I’m also on that balance where you certainly want to teach the kids to learn and that’s really what’s important here: that they distinguish between what they need to know for life and what they need to know right now to get stuff done. That’s the balance. I have these arguments with my father all the time about this generation of ‘attention deficit delinquents’ he calls them. It’s intriguing. So what happens going forward? What’s the long term, if you can? And long term is not 10 years or 20 years out. It’s two years out. What’s the implication of mobile in the classroom?

Matrix: The implications of mobile in the classroom will be profound if we have a whole, strong structural support for innovation in mobile learning. If we don’t we won’t see much progress because you know, how many years have we had 80, 90% saturation of mobile phones in the classroom? We’ve seen that for several years. Are we making great strides towards mobile learning in North America, in Canada? I would say no; it’s still early adopters and geeky ed tech educators and edupunks who are interested in trying to find out what we can do. I think we have to talk seriously about privacy concerns, about mobile optimization and access. We need to put all those supports in place so that busy faculty can use these technologies easily and feel supported using them in the classroom.

Woodbridge: So there’s no short term solution for this? This is really about redefining the way that this technology can and should be used in the classroom. Where are the opportunities would you say? If you’re an entrepreneur looking at this and saying, ‘Where can I play in this?’

Matrix: Some of the opportunities would be at the moment we still haven’t got an e-textbook solution. As far as selling e-textbooks that require students to have Wi-Fi connectivity at all times in order to access the book is not going to work. So we need an e-textbook solution that’s not Wi-Fi dependent. We also need a range of educational apps that are white labelled. So I know several educators who are looking for an app for their department or their conference, for their classroom but we are not mobile app developers, we’re not app wizards and so we’re searching for those white label opportunities and they’re starting to come up. But as far as an educational source for that kind of contribution to the app revolution? So far I haven’t found it. We also could use some content providers, like you, to advise us on optimizing mobile content for the web and mobile web design because a lot of professors are interested in putting up a website or a blog, WordPress blog, say. They just need a little bit of help in terms of ‘How can we create content with legs?

Woodbridge: I see massive opportunity in helping migrate the way that education is being pushed out to students today in the mobile space. Based on this conversation it’s not just as simple as turning on a switch and moving forward with it because you’re playing with people’s minds here quite literally and engendering some positive learning skills and those have to be there first. Whatever was taught 100 years ago still should be taught but the way that we gather information has to change and I think that there’s just opportunity after opportunity after opportunity.

Matrix: I think the first piece of that is not the students learning mobile learning, it’s the teachers. So everybody knows that teaching with technology, whether it’s a phone or whether it’s trying to embed a YouTube video in your PowerPoint takes an enormous amount of time and messing around time. Glitches happen. Teachers who are not necessarily super-tech savvy or just don’t have a lot of inspiration to revamp their entire course because it ain’t broke…they need support, they need inspiration, they need easy-to-use tools that don’t come with banner ads because those things won’t fly in a classroom. So the first step is support the educators then we can do our job.

Woodbridge: Then it’s embrace because the kids really know how to do this stuff. It’s really landing on the educators and the schools and the teachers.

Matrix: It is. Absolutely. And the phones are there already so we have an opportunity to use them. We need to have more conversations about this. Educators are excited about it; we just need a little bit more time to get on board.

Woodbridge: Sydney thank you. Just a great perspective because you’re in the classroom. You’re also socially adept online, you’re also socially adept in the mobile space and the insight is what’s necessary. This conversation, as you’ve said, has to get out there. We have to be talking about this. We have to be engaged and concerned about the way that these technologies are going to be implemented in the school and the way that our kids are using them. I appreciate you coming on and sharing your knowledge. It’s been great. I could talk to you all day I think but you’ve probably got stuff to do…

Matrix: It’s my pleasure to speak to you about these things. I’m passionate about it.

Woodbridge: And I can absolutely tell. So Sydney’s Matrix.com. Anywhere else that they can find you?

Matrix: You find me there and then it’s the portal to the rest of my web presence.

Woodbridge: Some great presentation and I want to draw attention to, especially on the there’s Social Mobile Tools to Engage Next Gen Learners. There’s a link off your website obviously on the right hand column. Down at the very bottom a marketing e-paper: Do We Half Teach Naked? which is a great quick read and very worthy for anybody who’s looking at trying to understand what the implications or what we need to do in order to be able to engage this next generation of learner. Sydney, just those two contributions alone I’ve appreciated them and thanks again for participating.

Matrix: It’s my pleasure.

Woodbridge: Thank you so much.

About Sidneyeve Matrix
Sindeyeve Matrix

On campus I work as an Assistant Professor and Queen’s National Scholar of Media and Film at Queen’s University. I am an Associate Editor (social media) for The Journal of Professional Communication: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/jpc

I have expertise in teaching large classes using digital, mobile and social technologies, especially: (1) video coursecasting and using iTunesU, (2) integrating Facebook and Twitter into course design, (3) using clickers in large groups to make lectures interactive, and (4) mobile learning innovations using smartphones and QR codes. I blog about teaching with technology for Macmillian Publishers at TheActiveClass.com

Wearing my MatrixMediaFX hat, I help companies conceptualize, design, launch, and manage their social media marketing and communications initiatives. And I train clients’ staff on how to maintain their social platforms. http://matrixmediafx.com

In my spare time I am busy tweeting, blogging, and public speaking about what’s new in social media and digital culture consumer trends, including social networking, gaming, and mobile technology. I’m a frequent media commentator, and my media contact page is: http://bit.ly/sidneyeve-media

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About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of UNTETHER.tv and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

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