mLearning to Enhance Disaster Preparedness Education in K-12 Schools

mLearning to Enhance Disaster Preparedness Education in K-12 Schools

Thomas Chandler (Columbia University, USA) and Jaishree Beedasy (Columbia University, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6300-8.ch006
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Abstract

Several of the most disconcerting and compelling news events of the 21st century pertain to natural and human-caused disasters. However, these themes are generally absent in the social studies, civics, science, or mathematics curricula of most U.S. K-12 schools. Similarly, discussions about ways to incorporate new digital tools, such as mobile tablet computers and apps into such discussions are also overlooked. This chapter provides a roadmap for considering disaster-oriented themes in the K-12 curriculum and then provides several examples of apps that can be included in classroom lessons along with guidelines for incorporating these digital tools into pedagogical practices. The authors have framed their analysis within the context of mLearning as a way to address cross-disciplinary themes via mobile technologies.
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Introduction

Disasters have been increasing since the start of the 21st century. From September 11th, 2001, to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, U.S. citizens have been faced with situations that have threatened their well-being, while also generating new realizations that there are several dangers for which they are truly vulnerable. As noted by McKibben (2010), this trend is likely to continue globally, given that the world's population is anticipated to grow from 6.8 billion to 9 billion by 2050. Likewise, the unprecedented growth of densely populated cities in the developed and developing world places more people in direct harm’s way from natural and human caused disasters, ranging from extreme coastal storms, to earthquakes, to pandemic influenza, to terrorism, among other concerns (STC 2012).

When considering ways to better prepare and respond to such catastrophes, a common thread involves enhancing our communication capabilities, particularly for instantaneous electronic messages that can be exchanged in real-time between citizens and response agencies during and after emergencies. Due to the rise of hand-held technologies, first with the iPad in 2007, and then with a wide range of competing tablet devices, it is now possible for millions of people to collaborate virtually to solve complex problems in ways that were once unimaginable. For instance, when Hurricane Sandy struck the New York region in 2012, several community groups used smartphones, handheld tablets and associated apps to coordinate the delivery of food, water, blankets, and flashlights to residents stranded in low income housing complexes. The logistical civic support provided via these mobile electronic tools was often conducted several days before New York City’s first responders arrived at the scene. Similar stories abound. In recent times, more often than not, it is community participants who are now at the forefront of disaster mitigation, particularly because they now have increased mobility for sharing text, photos, videos, and geospatial information online, in real-time, with their own hand-held devices (Cohen 2013).

Yet, although there are a plethora of examples in which community groups have used handheld technologies to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters, there has been little discussion as of yet about ways in which K-12 educators can become involved in the process of incorporating these technologies and themes into their teaching. While some of the most compelling current events of our time pertain to natural and human caused disasters, these topics are generally absent in the social studies, civics, science, or mathematics curricula of most K-12 schools. Similarly, discussions about ways to incorporate new digital tools, such as tablets and apps into such discussions are often ignored. This article provides a framework for considering disaster preparedness oriented programs in the K-12 curriculum using wireless hand held devices, and resources that are currently available. The authors have framed this discussion within the context of mLearning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices (Crompton 2011). In other words, with the use of mobile devices, learners can learn anywhere and at any time.

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