Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mom Explains How She & Her Kid's Are Getting Smart with Cell Phones

, The Unplugged Mom

Okay I do think we as a culture have slipped into a bit of an over-dependency on artificial stimulation and ‘devices’ to go about our lives.  However, I will admit that if we remember the fun of good old fashioned intrinsic experience and keep perspective about us, then innovative technology can be sorta cool.   (barring the radio active potential hazard).
While at Seaworld recently,  I stood with my kids admiring some jellyfish in a tank.   My seven year old asked “Do they have brains?”  I reached into the archives in my mind… and came up blank.  I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t sure, so I said so.   “Then how do they exist?”  He asked.  Then the rest of the questions came “How do they eat? Do they digest? Do they poop? How do they have babies? Can they get hurt?”   and I was stumped.   I felt a little stupid.  How could I not know these Jellyfish facts?  Alas, I did not.  What could I do?  We could buy a book from the giftshop… or… I can Google it!
What? Right there? In the aquarium? I can Google Jellyfish?  Yes!
So I pulled out my Droid and punched in the search.   We spent the next 40 minutes reading about Jellyfish, learning about their physiology, how they live, eat, reproduce and more.

We watched a video while we watched the actual jellies, we did a quiz, we laughed and we learned.
While riding some of the coasters on our recent vacation, my daughter asked about the wildest coasters in the world.  What could she go on? What would really thrill her?  What makes roller coasters so darn fun for many folks?   I didn’t know off the top of my head, so out came the smart phone and we both learned everything we wanted to know and more about thrill ride rating systems, accident incidents, the physics of constructing coasters and more!
While on line for some snack, a woman speaking broken English started a conversation with me.   I used a translation application on my smart phone to have some fun conversation!
While at dinner with my family, there was some confusion over the difference between conch, calamari, squid and octopus salad.   Again I whipped out the Droid and cleared it all up in minutes!   This stared an interesting conversation with the waiter about conch shells being a protected endangered species and conch fishing off the coasts of the tropical Islands.
Okay, I can concede that smart phone technology can indeed be quite useful in education :)
Not to mention keeping track of wait times for rides at the amusement park so that a family can maximize their time most effectively to experience more for their money! :)
What does this all mean?  It means independent, self-sufficient learning is the future folks.  
School is so obsolete.
For additional ideas, resources, and workshops outlining effective ways to use cell phones for learning, including research-based strategies, lessons, and more, check out Teaching Generation Text


  1. One of the things I learned in school was not to make hyperbolic blanket statements based on ridiculous leaps in logic (I also learned what "hyperbolic," "blanket statements" and "leaps in logic meant").

    Congratulations on being able to use a smart phone, and I am sure that the mega-corporation that owns your service thanks you for the free publicity.

    Now let's get real. These are great tools but in no way do they make school obsolete. Someone had to go to school to discover these things about animals and roller coasters and people will have to continue to receive schooling in order to be the next generation of scientists that will continue to either discover more about animals so we can have fun watching them in captivity or eat them; or use the laws of physics to give people a more thrilling experience at an amusement park.

    Will your smartphone encourage on-the-spot learning while out and about? Yes. Will it replace school? No.

  2. @Tom
    Did they really have to go to school to discover things about animals and roller coasters? Perhaps instead they worked on a farm or worked their way up in a company that made roller coasters. Perhaps they went into the wild like Jane Goodall to learn things she couldn't learn in a school about Chimpanzees.

    Most of what I've learned in my life I didn't learn in school. With the access to information at our fingertips information is connected to people not places like school. For many of us school is no longer necessary and instead we are able to go out into the world rather than a building to learn.

  3. @Ernest,
    For many of us technology has replaced schools for learning. Why must I go to building to learn when I can do so from anywhere I choose?

  4. Tom --
    The author of this post didn't do quite the leap of logic that you assumed. Her kids don't go to school, and she made the choice to keep them out of what she sees as an obsolete institution after, I assume, research about education and learning and school systems and homeschooling. Anyone who takes the time to research learning will find that our public school systems and most private schools are not set up to optimize children's learning. These schools are not set up to optimize development of creative, innovative thinkers and doers and entrepreneurs. Schools, as they now exist, ARE obsolete and need a huge overhaul or, perhaps, wholesale replacement.

  5. Technology is just a tool. Like a hammer, or a curling iron. Humans are tool-users by nature. Using tools to create, destroy and accomplish everything that we can conceive.

    So, can tools be integrated into classrooms? Yes, of course.
    Can tools replace conventional classrooms? Yes, of course.

    People think that home education or unschooling is some kind of anomaly that has nothing to do with the perspectives of education as it exists in the current system. the ridiculous leap in logic is trying to escape the logic that all it takes is ONE exception. ONE human being - educated without school - to disprove the axiom.

  6. Nothing has to be either or. It also only takes one parent who does a poor job of educating to show that it isn't the answer either.

    There are plenty of parents who wouldn't or couldn't take children out to take advantage of learning experiences like this one. I makes me sad to realize that schools often can't do these things anymore because of budget cuts.

    My main question from this is, what is the difference between learning and information retrieval/look up? And secondly, wasn't there anyone around to ask, an expert right there in the space, who could have engaged personally with your family? I know they aren't often there, but I was just curious (they are probably suffering from budget cuts as well).

  7. I am a teacher and, at first the sentence “School is so obsolete” offended me because I am a part of that institution; but, truthfully it is a bit out of date. While the internet on the phone in no way replaces school it does bring out the point that kids and parents have “anywhere, anytime” access – as called by David Thornburg - that we strip from them in school (Laureate, 2008). Now, I by no means think we should allow the kids to pull out their phones whenever they have a “question,” but, the fact of the matter is, teachers are not the only ones that hold the answer to students’ questions anymore. What we can do however, is ask questions that students would not ask themselves otherwise. I do not teach math because I think every student wonders how to factor a polynomial, but I do teach it because it teaches advanced pattern recognition – a general skill that can help them in many other areas of their life. It would be to our benefit to use technology as a motivational supplement – a phone would not be my first choice but the mom gets a point across whether she intended to make it or not.