Put them away or take them out?

This past week, I attended and presented at the Dalhousie Conference on Teaching & Learning. The theme of the conference was: “Fostering Deep Learning with Technology.” When the call for presentations was circulated, it caught the attention of myself and the rest of the Purdy Crawford Chair team because of our use of social media and smartphone technology with our mentorship program, the Business Network for Aboriginal Youth (BNAY). I was very much looking forward to this conference, and it certainly did not disappoint! It was great to see what others are doing around technology integration. There were many great presentations, with topics ranging from blended learning, flipped teaching, MOOCs’ (Massive Open Online Course), social media in teaching, and many focused on the best practices of technology in education. 

One question that came up repeatedly during the conference was: “put them away or take them out?” And by “them” I mean electronic devices (smartphones/tablets/laptops). At each presentation I attended (including my own) there were questions/concerns about students using electronic devices in class. Many told stories about how their institution recently had a policy prohibited any electronic devices in class. Some of the same people were forced to do a complete 180 and no longer tell people to put them away, but to now take them out.
Regardless of the opinions on electronic devices in post-secondary education, they are here to stay. Yes, there will always be concerns related to tests/exams. However, I feel strongly that the good certainly outweighs the bad in this case. The BNAY links Aboriginal high school students with Aboriginal business mentors and explores business concepts through social media and smart phone technology. Without technology, this program would not be possible. The focus of this conference was on post-secondary education, as opposed to high school, which is what this program is geared towards. Regardless, much of what we have used in the BNAY can be adapted for university. For example, there are various stock market simulations available that could add value to an introductory business class. In addition, there are many other business simulations available for smartphones and tablets that would be suitable for university, such as:  GoVenture CEO and GoVenture Micro Business
Like it or lump it, technology is here to stay. How you choose to use it is entirely up to you. I for one, say “take them out!”
-Allan MacKenzie