Raise your hand if you remember computer science classrooms where the devices still ran on the MS-DOS operating system. Now that you feel sufficiently old, think about how rapidly things have changed in the past 10 to 20 years. The phrase “Google it,” didn’t even enter most people’s vocabularies until well after the turn of the century.
Today’s mobile classrooms use technology integration to deliver a live classroom experience virtually anywhere in the world. They also enable young learners to showcase their knowledge in new and relevant ways. However, since not all students have access to a computer at home, some innovative companies are bringing the classroom to them.
The Need for Mobile Classrooms
When the news of the coronavirus pandemic broke, schools shuttered across America, and indeed, much of the globe. While online learning was hardly a new phenomenon, relatively few teachers and students took advantage of it. It remained the province of people with disabilities and learners who needed a nontraditional schedule. Overnight, it seems, virtual learning was the only way to obtain an education.
However, this situation created a significant problem for low-income households. Many of them lack home computers or internet access. Those who do have such amenities may find they don’t support the latest software needed to host an online classroom or provide a seamless streaming experience. The very students who already found themselves behind in what is deemed an essential skill — computer science — risked falling through the cracks entirely through no fault of their own.
The problem worsens when large families must shelter in place in cramped homes or apartments. Children might now have to learn in one room with multiple distractions competing for their attention. If they struggled with focusing on their traditional classroom, they might throw up their hands in despair in a less-structured environment.
Mobile classrooms offer a solution to both the need for improved technology and a distraction-free environment. These carry the necessary equipment, including wireless internet and smartboards — some even have complete science labs. When the truck pulls up, students suddenly gain access to all the tools they would have in a traditional classroom. They also enjoy a quiet, contained space to learn.
Thinking Beyond the Truck
If the current pandemic taught society anything, it’s that everyone benefits from learning to use technology correctly. Seemingly overnight, many jobs moved from the office to the home. Those who lack necessary technological skills risk being left behind, even though their only learning deficiency is lack of access to the tools so many take for granted.
Using devices like computers and tablets builds abilities beyond how to connect hardware and operate software. It also adds to the development of soft skills that are critical to getting ahead in the business world. Here are just a few of those much-needed skills:
What should you avoid saying on Twitter or other social media? Today, managing your online reputation matters, but those who lack regular access to the internet might not realize the far-reaching implications of a seemingly insignificant tweet. Many people have lost their jobs due to posting inappropriate material online, but ignorance is no defense to a pink slip.
Exposure to technology also teaches children how to build empathy in their communication. They learn how the written word represents a bridge between themselves and the reader and how challenging it is to convey tone accurately. They get firsthand experience in the way sarcasm is often misinterpreted.
While students can learn independently from a recorded lecture, once they graduate, they will need to work with diverse groups of people. Right now, with many students isolated in their homes, they lose the value of working with a team. However, online access empowers students to collaborate on virtual assignments, including doling out responsibilities and honoring everyone’s contributions.
Working with technology gives learners hands-on experience with the tools they will need when they enter the workforce. For example, math teachers can show students how to use Excel formulas to simplify intricate calculations. English teachers can help students create a virtual portfolio of their work that they can later use when applying for jobs.
As many opportunities exist in the field of computer science, learning how to use WordPress or code an app can open doors to students who might otherwise find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty.
Integrating Technology and Education
Along with mobile classrooms, educators, too, need to modify their teaching practices to make the transition to online learning beneficial to students. They must walk a delicate tightrope, providing the right amount of support and pressure through emails and instant messaging, while still allowing learners to develop their independence through trial and error.
They must explain complicated subject matter in a way that is both developmentally appropriate and understandable through multiple means. For example, visual learners might tune out during a pre-recorded lecture, but perform well with more hands-on activities, such as completing an online crossword puzzle.
Mobile Classrooms Offer a Solution for the Future
In today’s uncertain world, students need access to alternative learning platforms, and mobile classrooms offer a way for learners who might otherwise lack access to technology to get the tools they need to thrive. As mobile classroom practices expand, more young people will enjoy access to a quality education regardless of their family income or geographic location.