Dr. Nabeel Ahmad is a learning technologist and developer at IBM and a Mobile Phone Learning Instruction at Colombia University Teacher’s College, who took some time to give insight on how social media and mobile technology can be used to enhance learning processes. Interview highlights can be found below.
Could you briefly describe to our listeners the courses you teach at Colombia Teacher’s College?
I teach a few different courses. Mobile Phone Learning has been around for about 2.5 years, where we look at how you can use mobile phones for educational purposes. This past spring, we introduced a course called Social Media & Learning. It introduces students how they can use social media such as Twitter or LinkedIn for educational purposes. This summer we are looking at a spinoff from the Mobile Phone Learning class called Cognition and Handheld Devices. This course plans to look at general handheld devices such as tablets or portable gaming devices and how you can use them for educational purposes.
What is the ideal way that mobile phones can be used in the classroom?
I think the ideal way is for mobile phones to be used outside of the classroom. In the classroom, though, it is an excellent tool for engaging students. If you think about it, these kids are on their phones all day outside of the classroom; if you try to limit their use inside the class, it becomes difficult, but if you embrace mobile technology and use the phones as a way to engage students, you easily maintain the students’ attention. For example, a live polling could be used for students to answer questions via their mobile phones. This would prove beneficial for working around students’ shyness or cultural barriers.
I have seen many teachers use mobile technology inside the classroom and transformed students’ education. It is important to keep in mind though that mobile technology should only be used if both the educator and the curriculum are capable of supporting the technology.
Many of the countries in the Middle East and South Asia struggle with funding, resources and overpopulation when it comes to schools. How can technology be used to combat problems in the education system in these emerging markets?
I think many people see technology as a solution to any problem, despite the characteristics of the problem. I see technology as a means to an end. It will help facilitate a process; you start to see technology act as a driver. It is not the cause of events, but rather it serves to accelerate events to ensure that they transpire more uniformly and quickly.
Are there any recent developments in edtech research or online and mobile learning that educationists in emerging markets should keep an eye on?
Mobile technology is arguably the hottest area right now. I like to call it the ‘Wild West,’ as it is quickly rising as companies compete in a quick race to come up with the newest and most exciting innovations. It is important to make sense of what can actually be utilized for educational purposes.