What are Mobiles?

According to a recent report from mobile manufacturer Ericsson, studies show that by 2015, 80% of people accessing the Internet will be doing so from mobile devices. Perhaps more important for education, Internet-capable mobile devices will outnumber computers within the next year. In Japan, over 75% of Internet users already use a mobile as their first choice for access. This shift in the means of connecting to the Internet is being enabled by the convergence of three trends: the growing number of Internet-capable mobile devices, increasingly flexible web content, and continued development of the networks that support connectivity.

Mobiles continue to merit close attention as an emerging technology for teaching and learning. The devices available today are multi-functional and robust, but the story of mobiles is no longer solely about the devices we carry. Mobiles — be they phones, iPads, or similar “always-connected” devices — are doorways to the content and social tapestries of the network, and they open with just a touch. The 2010 Horizon Report placed mobile computing on the near term horizon, with an emphasis on the wide range of activities that are now possible using mobile devices. This year, mobiles are here because so many people use them as their first choice for accessing networked resources. The impact of mobiles is being felt in every part of the globe and by more people than ever before. Active mobile accounts continue to grow dramatically, and the supporting infrastructure continues to expand both in urban and remote areas.

The number of mobile devices produced and purchased each year continues to grow, and the new devices like the iPad and its counterparts are expanding our notions of portability. With increased screen real estate, battery life, and input options, these new mobile devices have rapidly become a viable alternative to heavier, more expensive laptop computers. It is not uncommon to find that someone carries both a smart phone and a tablet; when a quick glance at email, social networks, or other tools is needed, the smart phone fills the bill. For more involved web browsing, reading, watching videos, or to use any of the tens of thousands of Internet productivity and lifestyle applications, the tablet provides just enough extra space to enable comfortable use over longer periods of time.

For most people in the developed world, a mobile is always close at hand and available with speedy Internet access whenever it is needed. Mobiles are easy to use for web browsing; much of the available content seamlessly adjusts for optimal display on whichever device is used to access it. Mobile and wireless data networks continue to evolve, supporting faster connections and higher bandwidth throughput; the forthcoming 4G network promises the highest speeds yet, and 4G devices are already beginning to appear on the market.

As more people choose to reach for a mobile rather than sitting at a desk to access the Internet, our views and behaviors about that access are shifting. Specialized applications are available that, for many, replace a standard web browser for mobile access. It is not unusual to use several different applications to access online financial information, read and contribute to social networking sites, check email, browse and upload media, and so on. Tasks that once were gathered into a single piece of software — the web browser — are now distributed among many specialized (and optimized) applications.

Easy mobile access also means that the full range of networked information and applications accompany us wherever we go. The Internet is no longer something that is piped into homes and offices via a cable anchored to the wall; it is a pervasive, ever-present entity, accessible from anywhere there is a cell signal.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • This is one of the single technologies that I would say has the most potential to have a huge impact on teaching and learning in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education, pK-12. And note, that I'm not including the pK-6 part of that out of habit; this may be particularly true for young children and most essential since this is a time when many kids develop a point of view that STEM has nothing to do with them. This technology is particularly relevant not for the reasons described above - that mobiles are an easily accessible and portable way of accessing information but rather, that they are an accessible, portable way of COLLECTING information. Mobiles can be THE KEY to how we make a shift from leader-directed learning to learner-directed learning. Further, they are one of the most essential devices that will help build the "bridge" from learning in what hopefully will soon no longer be delineated as "formal" and "informal" devices.- jeanne.century jeanne.century Feb 19, 2011
  • Time Person of the Year--The Mobile Phone. (- michael.lambert michael.lambert Feb 19, 2011)
  • I recently surveyed students from a school in a lower socio-economic area (in Australia) and found that just under 60% said they had a smartphone, so these are an untapped resource in schools. When I talked to the Principal she said that she knew they had to change the mobile phone policy.....yes they were banned in a technology focussed school. Like Jeanne says the phones are a great data collection device for science, physical education, geography and history. I recently took video and stills, used iMovie to create a pretty darned good movie, and did this all on the iphone4.- garry.putland garry.putland Feb 21, 2011 This issue of banning of mobiles stems from the perspective that the phone is a communication device, rather than a learning device. Underlying the ban or a circumscribed use of the mobile (eg only in certain places and only at certain times of the school day) of course is teachers' concern that the mobile would be a distraction to learning in the classroom. But those were the days when a mobile was only good for voice and text messages; the school rules have not evolved with the pace of change with mobile technology. Most mobiles today are smartphones or even iPADs and can do much more than communicate. It needs a paradigm shift in how schools view these devices as learning tools, rather than sources of distraction - julie.hoo julie.hoo Feb 28, 2011
  • There has been a lot of discussion about "extended learning time" and this is often cast in terms of extending the school day or school year. Not surprisingly, more time on task (often) equates to more learning. To me, this is the promise of these technologies, to create one-to-one computing opportunities at relatively low cost but to do it it in a way that extends learning beyond time and place.- chris.brown chris.brown Feb 21, 2011
  • I'll only add to all the above that when we surveyed our students here at our private 6-12 school in São Paulo, 90% of them said they have an iPod, over 50% have a smartphone, and 26% of them already have an iPad (which started selling much later in Brazil). We already work with laptops in the library and other spaces, and offer wireless connection everywhere. We encourage teachers to think about how to teach with the smartphones, instead of prohibiting them. That way we teach kids to use these gadgets responsibly. We've been having kids use their phones to shoot videos and take pictures for years now. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Feb 21, 2011
  • In Germany, I teach English to 4 to 10 year-old children who are at the beginner level of English. I am also a teacher trainer and travel worldwide to work with young learner teachers to motivate them to use mobile technologies with their English language learners. With various apps geared towards young learners, I found my students were motivated to use English versus their primary language. I have asked other young learner teachers worldwide to practice using apps such as the Talking Tom app to see if their students would also be motivated to speak English. Here is the result of students who participated in the experiment in Spain, http://vimeo.com/18997301. We found that a majority of English language apps did not motivate children but apps that had children play and talk or make videos or upload pictures motivated them best. We also found that the parents supported the use of mobile apps when the children recorded themselves speaking and mailed the recording to their parents. We also encouraged the children to e-mail the recordings to their grandparents and friends. Some teachers also embedded recordings on a wiki or blog. Some parents who have access to these apps on their phones will allow the children to use them in the home setting to provide them with more practice in learning English. Overall, the use of mobile apps to help young learners speak English has been quite positive and has increased the English proficiency level of young language learners. - shelley.terrell shelley.terrell Feb 28, 2011
  • - shafika.isaacs shafika.isaacs Feb 28, 2011In Africa, mobile phones, given their increasing accessibility among poorer communities, are gaining increasing interest in their applicability for enhancing learning and teaching. Here the exploration is focused on the range of uses that lower end phones can have in resource-poor learning environments. Some pilot projects have been tried in Kenya, and more extensively in South Africa, through chat programs like MXit.

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • I alluded to a missing theme in my response above - that a key role of the mobile is its role not only as means of accessing information, but also as a means of collecting information. Mobiles have already been used as part of "citizen science projects" that engage ordinary people in collecting data for authentic (meaning, real, unanswered questions of interest to scientists) investigation. This will (or at least should) only increase and then be another step toward more learner-directed engagement with data collection, analysis and visualization of all types. Check out this interview with Debra Estrin: http://www.mobilethinkers.com/2010/10/mobile-sensing-with-smartphones/ and "What's Invasive" that uses mobiles to contribute to a database of invasive species. [[http://whatsinvasive.com/- jeanne.century jeanne.century Feb 19, 2011]]
  • I agree. http://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/education-update/feb11/vol53/num02/Can-Mobile-Devices-Transform-Education%C2%A2.aspx- jan.morrison jan.morrison Feb 24, 2011
  • I keeping with Jeanne's comment above, while access and connections are very important, mobile devices are also evolving with new applications that toss out the idea of expensive lab equipment. Vicki Davis last fall remarked on a Popular Science article about using the optics in cellphones as a microscope (http://bit.ly/9zMkJF). Huge implications for science classes. - bwatwood bwatwood Feb 20, 2011 As a science teacher, I totally agree. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Feb 21, 2011
  • A trend that is emerging is the BYOD (bring your own device) trend whereby kids bring the devices they own to school. This may be a win/win for school systems and students but only if both are prepared and willing to trust and compromise. It's a three-legged stool of device, flexible school platform/network and mobile content. - chris.brown chris.brown Feb 21, 2011 Great point. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Feb 21, 2011 Independent schools in Australia have been doing this for some time (eg Scotch College in Adelaide) I wonder whether we have moved beyond 1:1 and will soon have at least three personal form factors in schools. They will be laptop, tablet and smartphone. So an important issue will be authenticating students from multiple devices and from any place. That is why, as soon as we align mobile devices, with single sign on to services, broadband connections, delivering content and services via the cloud we will really have a tipping point for change.- garry.putland garry.putland Feb 25, 2011 Absolutely agree with Garry - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Feb 26, 2011
  • I'd echo Jeanne and Jan above on mobile science inquiry using sensors as a fast-growing area of development - with Pasco product the SPARK Science learning appliance, and other mobile inquiry research projects such as LETS GO and the UK's Personal Inquiry project [- roy.pea roy.pea Feb 27, 2011]
  • QR codes are revolutionizing the way people interact with everyday objects. At the British Library, attendees can scan the QR codes with their phones and have access to audio recordings, videos, and other forms of information that support the exhibits. This post reveals more about the impact of QR Codes, http://www.emoderationskills.com/?p=246. Here is a reading list for more information on QR Codes, http://themobilelearner.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/qr-codes-a-brief-reading-list - shelley.terrell shelley.terrell Feb 28, 2011
  • - shafika.isaacs shafika.isaacs Feb 28, 2011In an African context, the educational value that lower end mobile phones can add to resource poor environments would be worthy of further exploration

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • Mobiles will continue to have a broad and deep impact our notions of both what a computer is and how we use computing devices. There are so many ways mobiles are game changers. This will only be magnified as more people adopt these devices and find creative ways to use them. At the very least, these devices enable us to access information and communicate almost from anywhere, giving us the ability to turn this information into knowledge on the fly. This opens up many areas for contextual learning and for satisfying the curious "inquiring mind" that educators have. http://www.ericsson.com/news/1430616 - KeeneH KeeneH Feb 15, 2011
  • Mobiles are here! We just need to find a way to use them more in the classroom. With shrinking budgets, districts are turning to students to bring their devices to school. This will have an impact on the way we design our networks or which network gets used during the day (i.e. cellular network). alice.owen- alice.owen alice.owen Feb 19, 2011
  • As I mentioned above, mobiles finally give us the tools to put learning, truly, in the hands of the learner. Yes, there is still much to be done, but the ability to collect geographical, sound, photo, and all kinds of sensory data (depending on what aps become available) can open a world of exploration...not just for people engaged in more traditional "STEM" areas, but for people who are artists, musicians, sociologists, anthropologists...and young people who have the potential to become these things...or anything else. - jeanne.century jeanne.century Feb 19, 2011
  • Most students have a mobile phone/iPad/laptop. Currently, when possible, students who are ill or unable to attend school will Skype-in for the first 10-15 minutes of class to get an overall view of the class. This allows the students to understand the assignment in class and ask questions. The impact is less instructional time is missed. (- michael.lambert michael.lambert Feb 19, 2011)
  • The potential impact lies in the mobility of the mobile devices. Education can branch out from the classroom. Collecting data in the field, would be the key. For example, collecting local water samples in a 3rd grade class biology class. Students not only can take water samples, but can also document the water levels, pollution, fish population, etc. through images and email the data right back to the classroom. - virginie.aimard virginie.aimard Feb 21, 2011
  • Most important, keeping kids from having to "power down" when they get to school and letting them use their already considerable skills.- chris.brown chris.brown Feb 21, 2011
  • Some kids have been learning how to make apps for iPhone and iPads - real world applications and context, and learning how to design a game. Win / win. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Feb 21, 2011
  • Mobiles provide the 24/7 device for seamless learning, whether contributing new media, or having learning experiences, or collaborating with others [- roy.pea roy.pea Feb 27, 2011]
  • New advances in apps are continuing to transform learning. Several educational apps allow students to collaborate or interact with the world around them. Students move around with the apps instead of sitting down in one area for long periods of time. These apps promote a better lifestyle for students and encourage them to be creative and move around. Here is an example of one of the SendFecility app, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LDHy5XGrWw&feature=player_embedded - shelley.terrell shelley.terrell Feb 28, 2011
  • - shafika.isaacs shafika.isaacs Feb 28, 2011I think mobile communications have significant potential to increase motivation to learn among African learners, as have already been shown in the few pilots that have been tried; however whether this will translate into significant empowerment of African learners remain overstated at this stage.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • I give homework assignments with the mobile phone in mind. For example, students take a brief video or photo of an object. Next we create titles/captions/metaphors of one another’s work. Definitely becomes a social media moment in class coupled with engagement, learning from others and motivation to do ‘this’ again. (- michael.lambert michael.lambert Feb 19, 2011)
  • The CoSN Emerging Technologies Committee is developing a brief on "Flexible, Mobile, Platforms" which should be available in April.- chris.brown chris.brown Feb 21, 2011
  • Global Gincana ([[@http://www.globalgincana.org/)- cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Feb 21, 2011]]
  • http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/03/18/26smartphones.h29.html Research shows that a project to use the devises as teaching tools in some NC districts has had a measurable impact on student achievement in math.- jan.morrison jan.morrison Feb 24, 2011
  • Excellent summary report from a 2010 mobile learning conference [- roy.pea roy.pea Feb 27, 2011]
  • I am currently using mobile apps with young learners to motivate them to improve their English proficiency. Here is my presentation, http://technology4kids.pbworks.com/MobileLearning - shelley.terrell shelley.terrell Jan 2, 1970
  • - shafika.isaacs shafika.isaacs Feb 28, 2011the Math on Mxit project in South Africa and the sms project supported by University of Wolverhampton in Kenya are worth mentioning

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