moving toward mobile, slowly

'Bolotwa, South Africa' photo (c) 2007, Randy OHC - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/At an NMC webinar this morning on using technologies in STEM education development in Africa, there were a number of alarming statistics noted, such as that there are about 2012 local languages to address with educational content, that class size can vary from 1-100, and that teacher preparedness is inconsistent from one country to another. But there was one thing that stood out and shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did–mobile phones are the primary  and most reliable means of delivering rich educational content.

I have known for years that Asia was way ahead of us in using smart phones, but I had the impression that we were catching up. Maybe that’s because I recently acquired one, myself. I know that in the United States, the computer has been the primary electronic device in education, and still is, even with the flood of iPads (I have one of those, too), other tablets, and more full-featured smart phones. It seems that here we really are, as the recent Horizon Report puts it, in the midst of “a revolution” in “software development,” particularly in mobile apps. Perhaps we will catch up with the undeveloped world, then, where reliable electricity and Internet connections are scarce; another statistic I heard was that 15% of schools in Rwanda, for example, might have only 4 electrical outlets!

I am amazed that I can bring up one of my Voicethread recorded presentations on my phone and like to imagine a student lounging about somewhere listening to the same presentation on his or her own time and then stuffing the handheld device back in a pocket. The possibilities for ubiquitous educational content certainly will shake up education and I hope we, as faculty, are ready for that shake up.

This morning, I was imagining the typical National Geographic image of African plains, undeveloped except for a group of 8 year olds walking around with their cell phones playing math games. What a world.

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Categories: education, mobile learning

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