I’ve been thinking a lot again about phones and about the disruption they are already creating for most schools (high schools at least) and about the huge brain shift we’re going to have to through collectively to capture the potential for learning in our kids’ pockets. A few particular items have kind of come together of late that have been pushing the conversation in my head pretty hard.

First, this kinda cute little YouTube video titled “Phone Book.” Not sure who or what it was that led me to it, but it’s worth a quick couple of minutes to watch it.

Now take that concept and mix it with these four ideas:

  • Apple’s next iTouch is coming out with 64GB of memory, and the iPhone won’t be too far behind that.
  • In the next five years, every phone will be an iPhone. (And let’s not forget that there are already over 100,000 apps for that little sucker, many of them with relevance to the classroom.)
  • We’ll soon be seeing what Steve Rubel is calling a “dumb shell” that takes the book idea in that video and creates a netbook sized (at least) keyboard and screen that your phone simply plugs into.
  • According to NPR, the Pew Hispanic Center says that there is a definite trend toward phones being chosen over computers as computing devices, especially for those on the wrong end of the current digital divide. (The article makes more sense of that than I just did.)

All of which leads me to ask a whole bunch of questions:

  • If at some point in the fairly near future just about every high school kid is going to have a device that connects to the Internet, how much longer can we ask them to stuff it in their lockers at the beginning of the day?
  • How are we going to have to rethink the idea that we have to provide our kids a connection? Can we even somewhat get our brains around the idea of letting them use their own?
  • At what point do we get out of the business of troubleshooting and fixing technology? Isn’t “fixing your own stuff” a 21st Century skill?
  • How are we helping our teachers understand the potentials of phones and all of these shifts in general?

And finally, the big kahuna, are we in the process of transforming (not just revising) our curriculum to work in a world that looks (metaphorically, at least) like this:

I wonder how many educators look at that picture and think “OMG, puhleeeese let me teach in that classroom!” (I suspect not many.) I wonder how many of them already do teach in classrooms that look like that if we consider the technology in kids pockets (or lockers) as the access point. (I suspect, more than you think.) The problem is, and I can guarantee you this, 95% of the curriculum currently being delivered in those classrooms would waste 95% of the potential in the room that we could glean from that access.

All too often we get hung up on the technology question, not the curriculum question. Here in New Jersey, every district has to submit a three year “Technology Plan” and as you can guess, most of them are about how many Smart Boards to install or how wireless access will be expanded. Very, very little of it is about how curriculum changes when we have anytime, anywhere learning with anyone in the world. Why aren’t we planning for that?

So I’m asking. When do we stop trying to fight the inevitable and start thinking about how to embrace it? Or, as Doug Johnson so eloquently suggests, when are we gonna saddle this horse and ride it?