Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
Mobile devices have come a long way in the past few years. From portable (if bulky) telephones they became slim little cameras, audio recorders, digital video recorders, pocket datebooks, photo albums, and music players. Now they are video players, web browsers, document editors, news readers, and more. The technology and infrastructure have developed to the point where mobile devices are becoming essential tools, bringing the whole of the Internet and all your social connections to the palm of your hand.
We have followed mobile devices with interest for the past several years. In 2006, the Horizon Report described how multimedia capture had come to mobile phones, bringing the capability to record and play video, audio, and still imagery to small, portable devices that people carry routinely. A year later, mobiles were established as the storehouse of our digital lives, holding our calendars, to-do lists, photo and music collections, contact databases, and more. Driven by the innovation only possible in a market where more than a billion devices are built each year3 the feature sets of mobile phones continue to expand enormously.
Today, mobiles are increasingly about networking on the go. Better displays and new interfaces make it easier to interact with an ever-expanding variety of content—not just content formatted specially for mobiles, but nearly any content available on the Internet. Mobiles now keep us in touch in almost all the ways that laptops used to: with email, web browsing, photos and videos, documents, searching and shopping—all available anywhere without the need to find a hotspot or a power outlet.
Newer, longer-lasting batteries keep our mobiles alive for longer trips between charges. Today’s mobiles are smaller, slimmer, and more powerful than ever before. Storage capacity has significantly increased, and some mobiles can even store and play back multiple feature-length films—perfect for long airplane rides.
Even the days of having to buy a new phone to take advantage of the latest features are coming to an end. As more features are embedded in the software, the physical device will become more flexible simply by receiving the latest software updates. Open APIs (application programming interfaces) are already encouraging the creation of special add-on software that will offer even more services; those “widgets,” combined with the growing array of webware applications will make mobiles as capable as computers for doing many everyday tasks. Smaller and less expensive than a laptop, yet increasingly useful, the mobile is fast becoming the ultimate portable computer.
Relevance for Teaching, Learning, and Creative Expression
The fact that many students already own and carry mobiles remains a key factor in their potential for education. Added to that is the tremendous pace of innovation in this sector, where intense competition is driving continual advancements. The feature sets of the most recent high-end phones have moved these devices into an entirely new class. Just as we have seen with cell phone cameras, as innovation continues, prices for established features will drop considerably. Over the time frame of this adoption horizon, it is expected that mobile broadband, full-featured Internet, touch-screen interfaces, remotely upgradeable software, and high-quality displays will become as common as cameras are today.
Mobiles, of course, were always designed to enable people to keep in touch, and in addition to voice, today’s mobiles offer a multitude of ways to connect with peers and colleagues. Users now use their phones to post to their blogs, send updates to services like Twitter and Utterz, add appointments to online calendars, find friends in their immediate area, signal the campus police to keep an eye on their whereabouts as they move across campus, and more. Students doing fieldwork are using mobiles to take notes and photographs and send them directly to a course blog, where they receive instructor feedback; colleagues using virtual collaboration tools have access to materials while traveling or otherwise away from their computers. The combination of social networking and mobility lets students and colleagues collaborate from anywhere they happen to be. Add to that connectivity the multimedia capacities of phones, and the storage they offer for podcasts, videos, photos, PDF files and even documents and spreadsheets, and it is not hard to see why phones are increasingly the portable tool of choice.
A sampling of learning-related mobile broadband applications includes the following:
- Engineering. Broadband-enabled cell phones can be used to remotely monitor structures, equipment, and processes in real time, and via web control interfaces can even be used as remote control platforms.
- Museum Education. Mobile phones are being used in museums as a delivery platform for supplemental content, with podcasts, multimedia, and video learning being delivered directly into the gallery. The promise of handhelds as an alternative to wands and audio tours is being fulfilled by phones that have geolocation capabilities.
- Service Learning. A planning, public policy and management course at the University of Oregon uses GIS-enabled mobile devices to collaborate on projects with the community in Eugene, Oregon. Students work with community members to develop resources such as safe walking route maps, reports of local area conditions, and sidewalk walkability surveys.
- Social Sciences. Students and researchers can use their mobile phones as data collection devices for fieldwork in the social sciences and related disciplines. Interviews, sites, and artifacts can easily be captured in short video or audio segments; similarly, photographs can record events or evidentiary information. Broadband-enabled phones allow rich media to be shared in close to real time. With field access to the Internet, field workers can enter data directly into databases as it is collected, or access experts and knowledge banks as needed.
Examples of Mobile Broadband
The following links provide examples of mobile broadband applications.
Montclair State University
Initially, Montclair State University started requiring students to own mobile phones as a campus security measure. Now, mobile technology has become an integral component of project-based learning activities in several disciplines that involve blogging, polling, and video podcasts. Course groups are created that allow students to discuss study-related questions; the Office of Information Technology reports that since many of MSU’s students commute, mobiles are very effective tools for creating a feeling of connectedness with the university.
Pocket Virtual Worlds
Faculty and students at Bowling Green State University and Case Western Reserve University have developed a program that creates a 3D virtual space which they can explore via a screen on their mobile phone; the representation of the virtual surroundings changes as the user moves. The goal is to enable classroom-bound students to take “virtual field trips” of locations like the Amazon rainforest, with classroom projects and discussion launched from what they “see” around them. Since the program can use digitally-created images as well as photographs, students could also theoretically explore outer space or locations in history.
Wiki City Rome
MIT’s Wiki City Rome project maps events and movement through the city in a 24-hour festival period using cell phone and other data. The Notte Bianca implementation allows people to access the real time data on dynamics that occur in the very place they find themselves in, in that moment, creating the intriguing situation that the map is drawn on the basis of dynamic elements of which the map itself is an active part.
ZoneTag is an application for mobile phones that enables photos taken on the phone to be instantly tagged with location information and uploaded to Flickr, right from the phone.
For Further Reading
The following articles and resources are recommended for those who wish to learn more about mobile broadband.
iPhone vs Mobile Web
(Richard MacManus, Read/Write Web, August 7, 2007.) This blog post summarizes and comments on a Forrester report comparing the iPhone, which can browse normal web content, and content designed specially for mobiles.
Invention of the Year: The iPhone
(Lev Grossman, TIME, 2007.) This article cites five reasons why the iPhone is “still the invention of the year” for 2007.
Mobile Productivity Toolbox: 45+ Mobile Productivity Tools
(Johsua Ho, Mashable, August 21, 2007.) This is an annotated list of mobile tools for phones and WAP enabled web sites, grouped by what the tool is designed to do.
So Much More than Phone Calls
(Chris Betcha, Betchablog, October 10, 2007.) An Australian educator shares the tools he uses on a broadband-enabled cell phone.
del.icio.us: Mobile Broadband
(Horizon Advisory Board and Friends, 2007.) Follow this link to find resources tagged for this topic and this edition of the Horizon Report, including the ones listed here. To add to this list, simply tag resources with “hz08” and “mobile” when you save them to del.icio.us.
3 Jaques, Robert. (2007). One Billion Mobile Phones Shipped in 2006. Computing, January 26, 2007. Retrieved December 2007, from www.computing.co.uk/2173516.
Posted by NMC on February 3, 2008