Time-to-Adoption: Two to Three Years
Mobiles as a category have proven more interesting and more capable with each passing year, and continue to be a technology with new surprises. The mobile market today has nearly 4 billion subscribers, more than two-thirds of whom live in developing countries. Well over a billion new phones are produced each year, a flow of continuous enhancement and innovation that is unprecedented in modern times. The fastest-growing sales segment belongs to smart phones — which means that a massive and increasing number of people all over the world now own and use a computer that fits in their hand and is able to connect to the network wirelessly from virtually anywhere. Thousands of applications designed to support a wide range of tasks on virtually any smart-phone operating system are readily available, with more entering the market all the time. These mobile computing tools have become accepted aids in daily life, giving us on-the-go access to tools for business, video/audio capture and basic editing, sensing and measurement, geolocation, social networking, personal productivity, references, just-in-time learning — indeed, virtually anything that can be done on a desktop.

It is increasingly common for young people to own mobile devices. In the upper grades, it is not at all unusual to find that students carry mobiles, even if they are not allowed to use them during class, and younger students often carry them as well. The unprecedented evolution of these devices continues to generate great interest, and their increasing capabilities make them more useful with each new generation of devices. The ability to run third-party applications represents a fundamental change in the way we regard mobiles and opens the door to myriad uses for education, entertainment, productivity, and social interaction.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, or Creative Inquiry

  • At the secondary level, nearly every student carries a mobile device, making it a natural choice for content delivery, reference material storage, and even field work and data capture.
  • The suite of tools available for mobile devices, particularly smart phones, continues to grow, adding to the list of references, flash cards, games, and quiz applications available for nearly every subject.
  • Mobiles make it possible for students to do meaningful fieldwork, taking measurements and sharing data and findings in ways similar to those used by researchers.

Mobiles in Practice

For Further Reading

The Mobile Campus
(Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed, 21 September 2009.) One year after implementing its campus-wide policy of issuing each freshman an iPhone or iPod Touch, Abilene Christian University challenged instructors to integrate mobile learning into their classes and surveyed the campus community about the results.

MoCa: Gathering Instant Student Feedback on Mobile Devices
This case study from the University of Texas at Austin describes the Mobile Ongoing Course Assessment (MOCA) tool developed by the Division of Instructional Innovation and Assessment. MOCA is used to assess student learning and engage students in discussion and may be accessed from any web-capable mobile device.