Mobile Phones and Learning (Another Round Up)

 lake victoria solar payphone by abaporu.

As I’m getting ready for Handheld Learning 2008, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading online about the use of mobile phones for teaching and learning. I didn’t realize how much is being written about this topic until I started digging a little deeper. Here are some highlights of what I’ve run across in the past few days:

  • One of the first posts I read that got me thinking about mobile phones some more is this one by Steve Dembo. In it, he provides a run down of features that he has on his phone, including web browsing, Google Maps Mobile, geocaching, live broadcasting, music, astronomy, Second Life, and fitness. While in itself this isn’t particularly earth-shattering, what is good about Steve’s post is that he discusses these features within a teaching and learning context. Definitely worth a read.
  • Another, somewhat older post, is this one by Terry Freedman, who discusses good practice guidelines that fall into three categories (a) School-oriented use of cell phones; b) safety guidelines; c) etiquette. I think that it is crucial for any educator wanting to use mobiles to address all three of these. Too many schools ban phones because they don’t (want to) address one or more of these categories.
  • This post by KJA includes an interesting calculation of his students’ ages using a variable called cell phone years, as well as his opinion that

it makes more sense to find a way to bring these devices into the educational fold rather than stripping these students of one of the ways they communicate and recieve information effectively. These devices can be used for education; however, the companies that make the products have not had to dedicate attention to educational possibilities and teachers (myself included) have not spent enough time seriously considering these devices as an educational tool. It is my guess that when this happens the impact will be enormous.

Although many people blame these unavoidable problems on the technology of cell phones, I believe that it is actually an issue of respect. These issues will never be resolved until students begin to respect the boundaries of the classroom. As we live in a world that promotes instant gratification, we can never truly learn the rules of when and where it is okay to text our friends until we learn to value the art of face-to-face communication.

This is an interesting comment, in that it makes me wonder how he thinks about learning outside of the classroom, which is exactly what mobile wireless technologies like cell phones can amplify. However, I do agree with him that we focus too much on instant gratification today (current financial crisis, anyone?), and that f2f communication is still extremely important.

  • And then of course there is the video Mobile Phones, Mobile Minds, which is written about here by Steven Yuen. Also take a look at the comments, although I think the last part of the third comment sort of defeats the point of technology for learning: “I can see it now, “Class, will you please open your mobile website and click on 1863, today we will be studying the Gettysburg Address.”
  • To get some information about the teen’s point of view, see this CBS News article about the Nielsen survey on teens and cell phones. Cost is definitely an issue, although I wonder how many parents are paying for their children’s phones. Make sure to read the comments!!
  • From Taiwan comes this research about the use of mobile phones in social life:

It becomes a cognitive and affective embodiment (funny word in this context) of the social life itself. Say “radio” to someone of a certain age and I guarantee they will be able to describe in detail what their first radio looked like, why they listened to music with, where they were when . . . Say “45” to someone else and they’ll tell you what the record player looked like. My first computer? Oh, definitely. And, for kids, now, that cell phone, that place of intimacy and privacy, away from the surveillance of adults . . . a tiny taste of freedom.

Of course, this is only a handful of posts. I’m amazed at how much is being written about the use of mobiles in education today, which, I think, is a good thing…

Image Credit: “lake victoria solar pay phone”, from abaporu’s photostream,


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