Friday, May 27, 2011

The future is mobile

Last year when I was doing kite making as part of MYP Technology, students were at the stage of designing and planning the materials they would need to make their kites.  As there were quite a few calculations involved, one student asked if he could use his phone as a calculator.  I was amazed that he asked this question and that he hadn't just automatically done it.  Having spent 4 years in a school with a tablet programme it was hard to think that any teacher might discourage a student from using any technology he happened to be carrying around with him.  And yet in many schools cell phones are banned in class.

The Horizon Report K-12, however, shows that the future is mobile.  Students are getting phones at a younger and younger age and the predictions are that in less than 2 years mobile devices will outnumber PCs - already in Japan 75% of internet use is on mobile "always connected" devices.  Phones that were at one time seen as a distraction in the classroom, that were at one time just devices for sending SMSs and for calling, are now the doorways to the vast content of the internet.  I would say it would be hard to find a high school student at our school who doesn't have such a phone.

The iPad has done a lot to transform the view of mobile devices into a tool for learning.  Already schools are using them with students as e-readers and places to view video as well as to connect to the internet.  Another feature of the iPads (or iTouches) is the vast number of educational apps that students are using and web content is now adjusting itself to being used on mobile devices too.  At the recent ECIS IT Conference I was talking to teachers and IT leaders from schools who said they were ordering hundreds of iPads for next school year.  They said they were leapfrogging over the 1:1 laptop programme and going straight into a 1:1 iPad programme.  Certainly this is much cheaper and needs less infrastructure and technical support, and it's even cheaper if students are allowed to bring in their own - schools won't even need to buy or maintain them.  In middle and secondary schools I can see iPads becoming part of what a student needs, in the same way that graphic calculators are used in maths and science.  I can see the hardware budget going the same way as the software budget has gone in recent years with the explosion of Web 2.0 tools.  This year, for example, our total spending on software has been less than $300.  If we are not having to buy desktops and laptops, I can see our hardware budget being dramatically cut too.

The great advantage of the iPad or other tablet is using them as electronic book readers with highlighting and annotation tools, dictionaries and so on.  Now they also have many apps for creation, images, audio and video which means students won't need to use a desktop at all.   Best of all is the size and weight of these devices - small and light enough to fit into a pocket or small bag.

Photo Credit:  iPaddr by Daniel Bogan AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike 

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