Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
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, Internetcapable 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.
Relevance for Teaching, Learning,Research, or Creative Inquiry
Mobiles embody the convergence of several technologies that lend themselves to educational use, including electronic book readers, annotation tools, applications for creation and composition, and social networking tools. GPS and compasses allow sophisticated location and positioning, accelerometers and motion sensors enable the device to be used in completely new ways, digital capture and editing bring rich tools for video, audio, and imaging — more and more, mobiles encompass it all, and innovation in mobile device development continues at an unprecedented pace.
The potential of mobile computing is already being demonstrated in hundreds of projects at higher education institutions. At Ball State University, computer science students can study mobile applications programming, creating usable applications in a single semester; recent examples include games, a reference tool for birdwatchers, and an English-Spanish tutoring program. At Oberlin College, faculty may borrow iPads to evaluate their potential use in courses. Countless applications are available for self-study, reference, drill and practice, fieldwork, and research in hundreds of disciplines. Cultural heritage organizations and museums are also turning to mobiles to educate and connect with audiences. The Museum of Science in Boston, for example, collaborating with researchers from Tufts University, has created Firefly Watch, a mobile application for visitors and native Bostonians that allows them to serve as local “citizen scientists” to aid real scientists in a large regional study of firefly populations.
Mobiles allow very simple tools to be easily integrated into classroom activities with no need for involvement of IT or support staff. Twitter, a short-message microblogging service that is very easy to use on phones, is a good example, finding ever more common use as an in-class discussion tool. Students participate by sending messages to ask and answer questions or expand on thoughts. Another simple tool, Poll Everywhere, turns mobiles into personal response systems, enabling teachers to quiz students, assess their understanding before, during, and after a lesson, and reveal patterns of thinking in the classroom. Any mobile will work for these purposes; all that is required is the ability to send text (SMS) messages. At Abilene Christian University, attendees at a recent performance of Othello were asked not to turn their phones off during the performance, but instead to use them to receive messages throughout the performance. Cast members behind the scenes sent messages to clarify Shakespearean language, share scene summaries, and interact with the audience through a live blog.
The increasing availability of network access means that the growing capabilities of mobiles are available to more students in more locations each year. Educational institutions around the world are investing in the infrastructure that supports mobile access, sponsoring programs that provide devices to students who do not already have them, and commissioning custom mobile applications to serve their communities. Mobiles are recognized as advantageous tools for learning and study, and mobile offerings are quickly becoming a selling point for prospective students considering educational options.
The unprecedented evolution of these devices continues to generate great interest. They are increasingly capable tools for learning that schools often do not have to buy or maintain: virtually 100% of university students worldwide come equipped with mobiles. The sheer power of these devices is what makes them interesting, and that power derives from their ubiquity, their portability, the wide range of things that can be done with them, and their ability to access the Internet nearly anywhere. A sampling of applications of mobiles across disciplines includes the following:
- Chemistry. Reference applications assist students studying chemical formulae, allowing them to review and take notes on what they learn, visualize 3D structures, see the reactions taking place — and then test their understanding.
- History. Mobile applications using locationbased data and augmented reality help students discover historical information about places they visit on field trips.
- Journalism. A team of sixteen faculty and students across three academic departments at Abilene Christian University collaborated to produce the first university student newspaper designed expressly for the iPad.
Mobiles in Practice
The following links provide examples of how mobiles are being used in higher education settings.
100 Most Educational iPhone Apps
This is a comprehensive list of mobile applications that can be used for study in a wide variety of disciplines.
ACU Business Students Integrate iPads into Innovative Study Abroad Experience
Abilene Christian University business students studying in Oxford are using iPads to deploy research plans, present product concepts, and conduct market research. As part of the program, the students will evaluate the use of the devices for education and research.
Bucks County Community College
Bucks County Community College has developed a mobile application for the campus community. Early features focus on library use, allowing users to browse the library collections, map a route to BCCC campus locations, and communicate with library staff. The application will be expanded to include course offerings and other campus resources.
This application, designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch, is used to explore the 1610 English Canadian settlement at what is now Cupids, Canada. The application includes an interactive map, details about the settlement of the area, and historical information in a variety of media. Visitors to Cupids using the application can use the map to explore real-world locations of the original settlement.
LIU Brooklyn Campus Extends iPad Program
Following a successful pilot in which freshmen were issued iPads, Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus has improved the campus wireless network and committed to subsidizing iPad purchases for its 11,000 students.
Mobile Devices as Emerging Educational Tools
Computer science faculty members at Ball State University are developing mobile applications for political science, computer science, and chemistry. Once the applications are deployed, the faculty plan to conduct longitudinal testing to evaluate the effectiveness of mobiles as a study tool.
For Further Reading
The following articles and resources are recommended for those who wish to learn more about mobiles.
Abilene Christian University’s 2009-2010 Mobile Learning Report
(Abilene Christian University, 2010.) Two years after launching an innovative pilot program to issue mobiles to every student, Abilene Christian University has published a comprehensive report detailing the program and its impact on campus.
AdMob Mobile Metrics Highlights 2010
(AdMob Metrics, 30 June 2010.) This report analyzes data captured by AdMob, a mobile research unit owned by Google, to discern trends about mobile uptake and use.
Follow this link to find additional 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 “hz11” and “mobiles” when you save them to Delicious.
Designing mLearning: Tapping into the Mobile Revolution for Organizational Performance
(Clark Quinn, Pfiiffer, February 2011) This new book offers a comprehensive guide for designing learning for the mobile platform.
Global Mobile Statistics 2010
(MobiThinking, October 2010.) This compilation of independent research on mobile uptake and usage includes global statistics related to mobile use. Of special interest is a section of reports about the ‘mobile-only generation,’ or those consumers who only use a mobile device to access the Internet.
Pew Internet Research Report: Mobile Access 2010
In this article drawn from his 2005 Clair Maple Memorial Address at the Seminars on Academic Computing, MIT President Emeritus Charles Vest discusses open content and outlines the promise and opportunity that drove the creation of MIT OpenCourseWare.
Smartphones Give You Wings: Pedagogical Affordance of Mobile Web 2.0
(Thomas Cochrane, Roger Bateman, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 7 June 2010.) This paper examines how mobile Web 2.0 tools can be used in higher education.
The State of Mobile Apps 2010
http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/the-state-of-mobile-apps (The Nielsen Company, Nielsen Wire, 1 June 2010.) This report identifies global usage patterns for mobile applications by mobile device type.
World’s Largest Open University Goes Mobile
(Press release, PR-inside.com, 29 October 2009.) The Indira Gandhi National Open University, in partnership with Ericsson, offers courses on mobile phones to more than 2.5 million students.