Mrs A's Blog

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Using Smartphones in the Classroom

As part of my masters research I was required to put my research (see last week’s post) into the use of mobile phones into practice in my classroom. Here is how I applied it…

My Classroom

Teachers often decide to use technology because it is available or looks “cool” not necessarily because it is in the best interests of students.  With the need to embrace the smartphone and integrate mobile technology into the classroom, this essay will discuss the idea of using smartphones in the classroom using the Technological Pedagogical And Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework as a method of critically thinking about the issues and implications of the initiative for the new Queensland Economic General Senior Syllabus.  The TPACK framework integrates the three primary forms of knowledge, Content, Pedagogy and Technology in order to ensure that there is ‘effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter’ (Koehler, 2012).  The relationship between these components of knowledge differs from context to context (Koehler, 2012).  The context presented for this essay is a large K to 12 private school on the outskirts of Brisbane, where all students in the Senior Economics course have access to a smartphone.  The focus for the Economics General Senior Syllabus will be the Modified Markets Unit (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018).

Within the Modified Markets Unit:

Students explore the imperfections within markets and the economic concept that markets do not always deliver socially desirable or efficient outcomes. They investigate the causes and effects of market failure and the measures and strategies that may be used to modify markets in attempts to maximise economic and social well-being.  Various market interventions are evaluated in terms of their effectiveness in minimising the short- and long-term consequences of markets not delivering socially optimal outcomes. (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 20)

The content descriptor which will be the focus is that students will ‘analyse and evaluate government strategies and/or interventions to address inequality and measures aimed at alleviating inequality and improving living standards’ (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 24).  Essentially students need to understand (or know) the strategies and interventions required to address the market failure of income inequality while being able to use the skills of analysing and evaluating.  The Economics General Senior Syllabus identifies Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) skills as part of the 21st-century skills and attributes ‘students need to prepare them for higher education, work and engagement in a complex and rapidly changing world’ (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 5).  Ultimately students need to be ‘productive users of technology’ (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 7).

The initial focus is on the three primary forms of knowledge, content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and technology knowledge (Koehler, 2012).  Content Knowledge is the subject matter required from curriculum documents (Digital Learning Futures, 2010). In the case of Senior Economics, the content descriptor is that of government strategies and interventions to address inequality.  Students need to know the eight government strategies which address inequality and be able to analyse and evaluate their ability to improve living standards.  Pedagogical knowledge looks at how the students learn best and what strategies and techniques will meet their needs best (Rodgers, 2018).  The pedagogical strategy utilised with this year eleven cohort is collaboration or working with others (Luckin, et al., 2012).  Being able to collaborate and discuss their ideas, the students find the concepts more accessible.  The digital and non-digital tools available to use in the classroom or Technological Knowledge will focus on video presentation tools and the use of the smartphone (Digital Learning Futures, 2010).  With the primary forms of knowledge set in place, the focus now moves to where they intersect.

The next tier of the TPACK Framework identifies how each of the forms of knowledge interacts together to ensure technology is used with purpose.  Pedagogical Content Knowledge is about ‘understanding the best practices for teaching specific content to your specific students’ (Rodgers, 2018).  In teaching, how the government addresses the problem of income inequality students need to discuss what each of the strategies and interventions are and how they solve inequality and improve living standards.  As there are no incorrect answers in economics, it ultimately comes down to how the answer is justified, having discussions and asking questions ensures students expand their understanding and viewpoints.  Once they have an understanding of the concepts, they are then able to analyse and evaluate.  From here, Technological Content Knowledge is considered, as there is a need to understand the technology available to transform the content and how students interact with it (Rodgers, 2018).  To facilitate the discussions, students will use their smartphones and record their responses and questions in small groups, using the Flipgrid app (Microsoft, 2019).  With eight workstations for the students to work through, the use of smartphones makes the process more comfortable as they do not need to lug their notebooks around the room.  The Technological Content Knowledge that is required is how to record and edit a video to include titles and stickers, along with how to upload the video.  The last interaction is Technological Pedagogical Knowledge, which asks an educator to understand how to use technology as a means to the desired learning outcomes and experiences (Rodgers, 2018).  By responding using a video discussion platform students share and discuss the content and also have a way to revisit the discussions long after the lesson has finished (Microsoft, 2019).  Students also have the opportunity to learn skills that they can apply to other online video platforms.

The last step is to put it all together; Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge enables powerful learning (Digital Learning Futures, 2010).  In order to ensure students can ‘analyse and evaluate government strategies and/or interventions to address inequality and measures aimed at alleviating inequality and improving living standards’ (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 24) students will work through eight workstations each focused on a different government strategy.  At each station, students will review the strategy in small groups by discussing how the strategy aims to alleviate inequality and improve living standards.  They will then record using their smartphones and the Flipgrid App their analysis and evaluation of the government strategy along with any questions they have on the topic.  Once completed students then have the opportunity to review the collection of videos on each of the strategies and respond to their peer’s questions further enhancing their understanding.  All students had access to this low-floor, high-ceiling task allowing everyone to engage and succeed, realising their potential while contributing to the learning of others (Boaler, 2019).

Utilising the new Senior Economics course and the Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework, a pedagogical approach for implementing the use of smartphones and mobile technology into the classroom has been developed.  The result was a low-floor, high-ceiling transformational task that ensured that technology was utilised with purpose and not for the sake of integrating technology.


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