MarilynHerieThis is a guest post by Dr. Marilyn Herie, Academic Chair, Department of Community Services at Centennial College. It was originally posted on September 22, 2013 on educateria.

The third type of digital divide and why mobile devices should remain on:

Much has been written about the digital divide. And we are now seeing research and publications focused on the “second-level digital divide” as mobile devices become increasingly ubiquitous. Now we’re talking about the structural inequities among not just who has digital access, but rather, the kinds of access and digital access skills.

In addition, the pervasiveness of mobile computing means that North American post-secondary classrooms are increasingly a site for a third kind of digital divide: between instructors struggling to wrest students’ attention away from their mobile devices, and students as tied to said devices as day traders to the Nasdaq. Maybe it doesn’t have to be one or the other: mobile computing can add value to any classroom.

Here are 7 ways to leverage mobile capacity from the very first class:

1. Ice Breaker: App Show and Tell

People love apps (estimates for 2013 range from somewhere between 54 – 86 billion downloads). Ask students to stand up, mingle around, and query someone they haven’t met “What’s your favourite app and why?” What are the most popular apps represented in your class? What does this say about commonalities and differences?

2. Course Playlist

Playlists are the contemporary equivalent of mixtapes. What song(s) symbolize the themes of this course? Put together a collaborative playlist. Play a song at the beginning and end of every class.

3. In-Class Twitterchat

Individual reflective activities are regarded as productive and constructive. Why not take 10 minutes and move the conversation into the social-digital realm? #yourcoursename

4. Open-search-engine pre-test

Mobile devices are banished from final exams — rightly so. Yet the skill of locating credible information efficiently is essential in any profession. Invite students to preview a modified final exam at the beginning of the course using their mobile devices to access information (they can work in pairs if not everyone has an Internet-enabled search engine on their phone). Extra points for the instructor if the pre-test is designed more for critical understanding/analysis than fact-memorization. Optimally, students will directly experience why attending class is a value-add over just reading the text.

5. Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Collectively develop an innovative idea based on the course content, or identify a community project or cause, and work with them to secure funding. Try to fund development using crowd-sourced micro finance (such as Kickstarter).

6. Social Justice

Identify a cause and create an online petition. Or locate, critique, endorse petitions. Reflect on the challenge of consensus building, ethics, values, decision-making.

7. Collaborative Learning Assessment

Invite students to collaboratively co-create the final exam throughout the course using a mobile test-maker application.

All of the above strategies are aimed at addressing classroom engagement and leveraging the reality that students will bring and access their mobile devices, whether sanctioned or not. But most important, these strategies can address the skills gaps identified in the concept of second-level digital divide. And they do so in the spirit of new and emerging teaching and learning frameworks.

Dr. Marilyn Herie is the Academic Chair, Department of Community Services at Centennial College in Toronto, Canada, Assistant Professor (Status Only), University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, and a member of the International Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT). Her past roles include Director of the TEACH Project at CAMH and Director of the Collaborative Program in Addiction Studies at University of Toronto. Dr. Herie is a dynamic keynote speaker and facilitator of professional training courses and workshops throughout Canada and internationally. Among numerous other publications, she is Executive Editor of the 2013 textbook Fundamentals of Addiction: A Practical Guide for Counsellors, first author of the Oxford University Press book Substance Abuse in Canada and the clinical treatment manual Structured Relapse Prevention (SRP): An Outpatient Counselling Approach.

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