The Light Bulb of Public Education: Mobile Devices and Informal Learning
When the light bulb was introduced, its competition was the candle. Candlemakers scoffed at the early adopters, citing the logistical nightmares awaiting any organization or individual opting to evolve.
Like the lightbulb, the field of education faces its own fierce competitors. The difference, however, is that our competitor is silent and somewhat hidden, hoping never to be exposed. It’s these competitors that we should fear the most because they’re the most difficult to characterize.
“Who” is this competitor? Old, worn out models of learning.
School funds, policies, structure, and time spent in legislation focus on a model of learning reflective of societal needs in the 1700’s. For many schools, this translates into these numbers:
- 10% of knowledge and skills learned are obtained from formal learning, but 80% percent of budgets are allocated toward formal learning opportunities.
- 90% of knowledge and skills obtained comes from informal learning, but only 20% of budgets are allocated toward informal learning opportunities.
Furthermore, the numbers below compare and contrast where learning happens:
- 70% is on the job
- 20% through relationships
- 10% through formal education
We can debate data and to which schools this is applicable, but those numbers are so strikingly unbalanced that it’s obvious reform is needed. Informal learning is critical, but is clearly being ignored.
Why? Many would blame standardized testing, but even this isn’t our most important battle to fight. When we realize that standardized assessments are merely a byproduct of what we’ve deemed as being important, we can focus our efforts – our “battle” – on more critical components. Focusing on assessments would provide at best a band-aid fix; we’d be masking the symptoms of the “disease,” but not providing a cure.
Our biggest battle to be won is shifting paradigms to a model more reflective of the realities of true learning.
Mobile devices provide and enhance informal learning opportunities. Learning is no longer isolated to a 20 ft x 20 ft classroom; it’s everywhere you go. Checkout lines, stop lights, and doctor’s offices are prime examples.
I am not a person who thinks schools are “bad;” I just know they could be so much more. So many new teachers come in with noble intents only to be jaded by a stifling system. My passion for the process of learning serves as my catalyst for advocating for reform and paradigm shifts.
Furthermore, I don’t have the plan for reform. But if we’re advocating for making data-driven decisions, it’s time to evaluate the data and begin developing a strategy. The Goliath we face is fierce, but we have data and a solid team of Davids to take us beyond the rhetoric and make school reform a reality.