MobileEd.org was at SXSWi last week, moderating a panel on the No Child Left Inside Act (NCLIA) and use of mobile phones for environmental (and STEM) education. The bill, inspired by Richard Louv’s concern over children’s “nature deficit disorder,” hopes to enhance the environmental literacy of K-12 students and “foster understanding, analysis, and solutions to the major environmental challenges.” The panel brought together a thoughtful group of mobile learning researchers and practitioners:
- Jared Lamenzo, President/Co-Founder The WildLab/Mediated Spaces Inc.
- Rebecca Bray, Interaction Design & Strategy, Smithsonian Institution
- Drew Davidson, Professor and Director at ETC, Carnegie Mellon University
- Richard Scullin, Founder, MobileEd.org
- S. Craig Watkins, Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin
The conversation was framed in part by a question: What would Henry David Thoreau, the quintessential American naturalist-scientist, think of mobile devices used to study Nature?
The group covered good ground in its discussion. Some notable topics/questions:
Davidson: Are people starting to lose specific skills due to their relationship with new mobile technologies (maps)—the ability to give and understand directions, for example?
Lamenzo: Could the connected mobile device alter learning, perhaps (re)creating a guild-type model for distributed learners. [I’d like to hear more about this.]
Watkins: How are mobiles altering learning in the context of digital media, equity, and diversity, particularly around the shift from the digital divide to the participation gap?
Bray: Won’t students with mobile phones just text their friends? Or provide more of a barrier between them and nature instead of less? How do know that this is engaging enough that the technology would not be a distraction?
I also enjoyed the discussion of mobiles enabling game layers over the world, and more specifically, Davidson’s reference to Jane McGonigal’s distinction between “gameification” and “gamefulness,” the latter emphasizing the positive attributes (skills, collaboration, thinking, ethos) that arise through engagement with games. See Reality is Broken for more.
Also: thanks to Omar for some good coverage in the Austin American-Statesman: Austin 360.com.