Learning with Web and Mobile Technologies

teaching with the tools kids really use

Book Review
Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use: Learning with Web and Mobile Technologies.
By Susan Brooks-Young.
Corwin Press, 2010. 137 p.

How can teachers ensure that students acquire the skills they’ll need while making the learning environment engaging and – shall we say it – entertaining?

In Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use, Susan Brooks-Young starts from the point that students’ learning environments will continually need to evolve to keep up with new technologies that take root in the workplace.

Brooks-Young encourages school administrators, teachers, and support staff to consider the educational uses of the mobile technologies and Web 2.0 tools that students already use away from school. She speaks from experience as a prekindergarten through Grade 8 teacher, site administrator, and technology specialist, and has written for a variety of education journals.

Each chapter in Teaching with the Tools provides basic information about an emerging technology or tool; offers strategies for classroom use; closes with a series of discussion points; and includes references to books, web sites, and online documents.

We hear a lot about 21st-Century skills. Brooks-Young defines these as the “content knowledge and applied skills that today’s students need to master to thrive in a continually evolving workplace and society.” As educators work to align curricula to such knowledge and skills, she says, it’s important to remember that these do not replace content area standards; “they support them by emphasizing the important of using modern tools and strategies to achieve academic goals.”

Brooks-Young discusses how mobile technologies including cell phones, netbooks, and mp3 players in classrooms can contribute to higher-order learning and how teachers can discourage using them to cheat.

Social networks, virtual worlds, online games, blogs, and wikis can support student collaboration and communication, Brooks-Young says. She shows how effective use of such tools prepares students for workplace skills like professionalism, work ethic, critical thinking, and problem solving. At the same time she cautions that teachers first will need to invest time reviewing  teaching students collaboration techniques. A chapter on digital citizenship addresses legal and ethical uses of technology, including how to deal with online bullying and privacy issues.

Brooks-Young also explores the critical yet often touchy relationship between educators and IT staff, noting that both groups would benefit from knowing more about the other’s needs and assumptions.

I particularly appreciate Brooks-Young’s well-thought-out decision-making and implementation model, which closes the book. This exercise walks educators through questions that apply when considering adopting any technology:

What are the reasons for using this technology?
What are the concerns about using this technology?
How can we enhance or expand our ideas about using this technology?
How can we address our concerns about using this technology?
What questions must be answered before we pursue use of this technology?

An Appendix provides URLs for web sites covering 21st-century skills, educational uses of cell phones, MP3 players, netbooks, social networks, virtual worlds, etc.

I also recommend:
Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, Curtis W. Johnson. McGraw-Hill, 2008.

Digital Citizenship in Schools. Mike Ribble and Gerald Bailey. International Society for Technology in Education/ISTE, 2007.

Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Will Richardson. Corwin Press, 2006.

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