Just from a quick glance, it is evident that the proliferation of technology within our society and lives is progressing rapidly, with mobile devices especially becoming increasingly commonplace. According to a survey conducted by Google in 2014, Singapore’s smartphone penetration rate is the highest in the world, with 88% of 1000 respondents owning a smartphone.1 Certainly, this is the era of the mobile device.
With the steadily increasing proliferation of smartphones and the advent of applications for numerous purposes, the power of the mobile device and its potential as a medium is clear. The sheer variety and number of applications available is a testament to the potential of the smartphone and tablet medium. Naturally, education too can be assisted and facilitated by taking advantage of this powerful and rapidly propagating medium.
In this article, the first of a series of three, we will be sharing with you how technology is shaping modern education, and how you, as parents, can use and maximise the power of technology to supplement your child’s learning. First, we shall be taking a look at the applications of technology in the context of self-study.
Technology has greatly facilitated the ease of self-study and self-directed learning. Self-study allows students to learn at a pace which is the most comfortable for them, and puzzling through the details of a question or a concept can help to create a stronger understanding of the concepts being learned, aiding in retention. It is no exaggeration to say that self-study is one of the most efficient and effective ways for a child to improve their grades, and with the advent of educational technology, an optimal self-study environment is now highly accessible to many students.
There are a number of advantages accorded by a mobile device that can be relevant to a child’s self-study efforts. The first, and arguably most useful, of these is the access to internet-based archives: by providing an outlet to access the internet on a mobile device, it becomes possible to reference information and self-study without requiring access to traditional materials, allowing for learning and referencing at any time, in any situation.
Some examples of such references which can be easily accessed from a mobile device with an internet connection include online dictionaries such as Dictionary.com – which provide references from multiple dictionaries, allowing for fast and easy referencing when coming across an unknown word – and online encyclopedias like Wikipedia, which has user-edited articles covering a wide range of content in a number of different fields.
With access to such resources, it becomes easy for students to take ownership of their learning and research, enabling them to search for information online at any time, from anywhere, unbound by the physical limitations of a computer or traditional learning materials.
Cross-Reference at a Glance
One important advantage possessed by internet-based reference options that sets them apart from traditional reference media is the ability to facilitate the process of cross referencing. Search engines such as Google and archives of scholarly articles such as JSTOR provide access to a multitude of different sources of information at a single click, streamlining the research process and facilitating the evaluation of information.
When trying to find online materials to supplement self-study, it is crucial to have access to multiple sources of information for cross-referencing purposes, to ensure the accuracy of the information and obtain multiple perspectives on a given issue. Not only does this practice lend one’s work academic merit, it serves as a way to inculcate and nurture habits of critical thought and content evaluation.
While traditional models of research, source evaluation and selection would require sourcing for and comparing multiple reference materials, the ability of internet-based archives to obtain and display multiple results at the same time allows for the querier to evaluate and select possible sources at a glance. This saves time, while training the child in fluency of critical evaluation, by teaching them how to make snap evaluations based on given criteria, to select the information sources which they require for their purpose.
With this, students can spend more time during their self-study sessions learning from the supplementary materials, rather than sourcing for supplementary materials, maximising the use of their revision time.
Separating Schooling from the Schooldesk
Possibly the greatest advantage of using the mobile device as a platform for learning lies in its name. Smartphones and Tablets are mobile devices, designed for ease of use while travelling. This mobility provides the greatest asset for education: the ability to learn, to clarify and to revise anywhere, at any time, is invaluable and revolutionary: learning and practice need no longer be fettered by physical constraints such as the presence of a workspace or learning materials. Learning can be done at one’s own pace, regardless of whether the student has access to physical learning materials and a desk.
This potential mobility presents clear advantages for self-study purposes. It serves as a great enabler for self-study, removing restrictions on learning. It allows the student to maximise their time they spend on commutes, on waiting in a queue, on waiting for an appointment. It converts time normally spent idle into time that can be used to revise, to learn, to improve.
Nonetheless, such mobility and potential can only be fully tapped if the resources to do so exist. Without a structured means of using this advantage to facilitate learning, the possibilities offered by the mobile platform remain nothing more than possibilities. What is needed is a way to present students with a structured learning programme that is accessible on a mobile device; a virtual classroom. A way to encourage them to provide a source of additional practice and revision, preferably with a means of motivating them to complete these practices.
There are a number of mobile-friendly web applications, such as our own Geniebook®, that seek to take advantage of the mobile platform as a medium for revision and academic improvement. By providing easy, mobile access to large databases of content information and opportunities for practice, the process of learning and revision can be supplemented and enhanced, increasing the efficiency of learning and revision. In addition, the data-reliant nature of web applications allows for numerous advantages which are not easily accessible for traditional methods of self-study, such as personal progress tracking, which in turn helps the students to learn and improve more quickly.
Technology is advancing in a way that presents a multitude of opportunities to change and revolutionise education – particularly in the case of independent, self-directed learning. With the vast variety of tools available to facilitate self-study, it is now easier than ever for a student to take ownership of their learning, to take the initiative in correcting their mistakes and conducting research to bolster their weaker areas. With the assistance of technology, students can work to improve their grades rapidly and effectively, anywhere, at any time. There’s an app for that.
1 “Consumer Barometer”. Consumerbarometer.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.