The coronavirus school closings taking place around the world are a huge opportunity for kids to do more future-oriented, cell/mobile phone-based activities. Yet too many schools will, I fear, waste this opportunity by rushing to use existing content-based computer tools to do more of the same old education they have been doing — ignoring the powerful new possibilities already in many kids’ pockets.
In the places where most kids already have cell/mobile phones, these powerful tools — too often banned — should be activated in service of kids’ education. Schools and districts can do this, and parents should encourage their kids to do this on their own. In places, or at ages, where fewer kids have phones, many could borrow a parent’s cell phone to do these activities. All our kids need to be thinking about what they can do with these tools.
Where to Start
Schools and districts can begin, for example, with an immediate phone blast to kids and parents asking all kids to immediately respond with their own ideas for mobile-phone-based activities during this time — activities that go beyond their normal schoolwork. I predict the best suggestions will come, bottom-up, from the kids — and these suggestions should be quickly sorted and implemented.
From a top-down perspective, here are some suggestions for possible starting points — educators can work with kids to make them better.
1. Every student could create a short a daily blog post on “My experience with the coronavirus,” on their phone — either by text, voice-to-text, voice, graphic, photo or video — and submit it, via phone, to their school. A student editorial committee (quickly elected or appointed by the school), working collaboratively from their homes, could curate these and turn them into a daily online publication, with contributions from all ages and classes. The result would become “Our school and the Coronavirus” a daily read and an historical record.
2. A different topic with the same output as (1) might be “My ideas for continuing our education in a time of lockdown — beyond just the same classes delivered online.”
3. All school students, communicating on their phones by group chat (or other means) could set up “school virtual teams” — each with one student from a different school (locally or around the world). One possible first output from each team could be “Our top three ideas for making school better.” They could then figure out how to group vote, and the school agree to implement the top three, showing students they have a voice in their own education.
4. Or, the same student teams could be more real-world focused and answer the question “How can we, in teams (and times) like this, go beyond the kind of shaming that Greta Thunberg has done, to making real climate (or other) difference.
5. Students — working in ways they create and organize themselves — could attempt to organize kids in the world on a larger scale. An example might be a Survey Monkey survey that tries to get over a million student responses. School kids could then teach themselves ways to analyze data of this size and look for observations.
6. Students could create a Survey Monkey survey that is internal to each school or district which every school student answers and which the kids analyze and compare answers by age, location. etc.
7. Each school, district, or cross-school team could come up — via cell-phone communication, with three ways for school to use upcoming new technologies, like A.I., V.R., A.R., blockchain, facial recognition, virtual worlds etc. and again, vote.
8. On the premise that “the best education is self-education,” we could ask each kid to do some self-education on their phone and write about it online.
9. The kids could create, on their phones, or using some platform, multi-age, multi school “interest-oriented” world student groups.
10. Kids could solicit, curate and compile recommendations, from as many kids as possible, of You Tubes they find valuable — and compile “100 (or 1,000) YouTubes Every School Student Should Watch — and Why” with a forum for those who watch them to share comments.
11. School kids could generate a list of “useful things to do with your phone that kids — or adults — often forget.
12. Every kid could submit a video-selfie on “the benefits of integrating ourselves with technology” making counter-arguments to parents and/or teachers.
13. Kids in a competitive mood could organize mobile-phone-based competitions between-schools. Others could initiate mobile-phone-based cooperation among schools to achieve something.
Schools and districts and parents should be asking: “What could our kids contribute to their education, and world, in the next few weeks (or months), by collaborating on their phones?”