Mark Barnes is an internationally renowned keynote speaker and author of such books as Teaching the iStudent, Assessment 3.0 and The Five Minute Teacher. He is also known as one of the leading voices worldwide in the call to scrap traditional grades. We were lucky enough to speak with him about his views on mobile technology and more.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I taught middle and high school language arts for 20 years. After the success of my first book, Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom (ASCD, 2013), I left the classroom for full-time writing and consulting. Two years have passed, and I've written five education books for two publishers, with more on the way. I have the good fortune to work with educators around the world.
What lead you to develop the Learn it in 5 website?
I was teaching an online course through Lake Erie College in Ohio, called The Paperless Classroom. It helps educators learn how to create a learning management system and eliminate paper handouts and all files, while engaging students in a place they love. I use how-to videos to teach online courses, so I needed an online library for my videos. The library became Learn it in 5. I now teach three courses on web-based instruction, and all how-to videos for the courses are housed on Learn it in 5.
Then there's your Brilliant-insane site, where you blog about the latest practices in the digital classroom. Do you find that teachers are becoming more open to ideas that would previously have been dubbed insane?
Brilliant or Insane started as a hobby--a place to vent about education and share some of what I believe to be best practices. Yes, many have been dubbed insane. I think now, as books like Assessment 3.0 (Corwin, 2015) and The 5 Minute Teacher (ASCD, 2013) gain traction, the idea of student-centered learning in a no-grades classroom are becoming less insane daily. Meanwhile, B or I has a huge global audience that includes about 35 percent returning visitors monthly, so I like to think the ideas promoted on the blog are becoming sticky.
How important do you feel the use of mobile technology is in the 21st century classroom?
I have written two books for Corwin's Connected Educators Series--both about breaking down the barriers of learning using mobile technology and social media. Students today have billions of teachers and resources at their fingertips. This is a power that can't be ignored.
Tell us a little about your book Teaching The iStudent.
Teaching the iStudent (Corwin, 2014) is part of the Connected Educators Series--a collection of short format books about connecting teachers and students to improved learning opportunities both in and out of school. We live in the generation of the iStudent. She comes armed with mobile devices and the savvy to access resources in seconds from sources around the world. Still, we can't assume that these digital natives understand the power of the technology they wield. We need iTeachers to show our students how to curate content in ways that help them learn independently and make them teachers too, because iStudents are the teachers of today and tomorrow.
What are your views on BYOD and its relevance to modern schools?
The technology is a runaway train that can't be stopped. Asking students to leave devices at home or in a locker is a ridiculous notion that must stop. Teachers continue to complain that they don't have enough access to technology to use it in school. Yet students have the technology. We needn't tell kids to bring devices; they will bring them. I'm in favor of BYOD, as long as there is a plan in place to make it work effectively.
Are there certain apps that you always recommend to educators?
I always begin with Twitter. It's the fastest, easiest way to connect to a global audience. I'm a huge fan of Voxer, especially for teaching and learning. Kids love Voxer, because it's like a walkie-talkie. You can record your voice and share it with an individual or a group. I know teachers who use Voxer to give feedback about learning to kids and to have shy students share information that they might not typically share.
What would be your first piece of advice to an educator who is just starting to harness mobile technology in the class?
Be prepared and dive in. Many teachers say they'll get to it in the future; they want to spend time learning first. Students are wonderful teachers when it comes to mobile learning. This is their kitchen, and we have to allow them to cook. If you don't know something, tell your students you want to use it and let them help. There will be stumbling blocks, but there will be amazing learning too.
What's next for you Mark?
While I continue to promote the no-grades classroom and Corwin's Connected Educators Series, I'm super excited to launch my new book series this summer. It's called the Hack Learning Series. I co-authored the first book with the amazing Jennifer Gonzalez, publisher of CultofPedagogy. It's called, Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Subsequent books will include Hack Assessment, Hack Reluctant Learners and Hack Digital Literacy, and there will be many more books in this series, which I think is a game change in education.
How can people keep up to date with everything you're up to?