This originally appeared as a guest article I wrote for ELTjam in July 2015.
The movement towards mobile computing is a great opportunity to rethink our relationship with technology and our relationship to digital and physical spaces. Computing and connectivity are no longer just personal, they’re increasingly pervasive.
The shift from the immobility of PCs to the mobility of tablets and smartphones allows digital space to interact with material space, both in and out of the classroom, in entirely new ways. At British Study Centres in Oxford, where I work, this was an important consideration in our decision to integrate mobile technology into the everyday practice of language teaching. We wanted to create learning spaces configured for doing, in which the elements of the environment would facilitate a multiplicity of interactive possibilities between learners, technology, teachers and course content. Places where instruction, social interaction and digital media could be woven together flexibly and seamlessly. This has taken a lot of thought and planning.
Computer Rooms and the Rhetorics of Space
In The Production of Space, Henri Lefebre writes ‘space is not a thing, but rather a set of relations between things (objects and products)’ and that ‘space is neither a “subject” nor an “object” but rather a social reality — that is to say, a set of relations and forms.’
A good illustration of this is the ‘computer room’, a place where students are taken intermittently to ‘do technology’. These spaces rose dramatically in popularity in the early 1990s and are still a staple in many language schools across the world. Until recently, the principle way that our students would access technology was through the portal of the computer room and, as far as computer rooms go, it was quite a nice one.