Byline: Shahid Naqvi
It was the kind of statement that made you sit up in your seat. 'The technology is only four to five years away when you will be able to record everything in your life,' said Professor Mike Sharples.
He went on to describe a future in which everyone is equipped with a handheld computer 'log book' used to scribble notes, sketch drawings, and record personal voice notes or bits of other people's speech.
They may also have a mini camera fixed to a coat button, allowing them to take pictures and video images that would also be stored for future reference.
Then in the future -perhaps 20 years down the road when their memory begins to fade -a touch of a button or series of voice commands would allow the user to retrieve this information.
Prof Sharples was, in effect, describing a handheld extension to the human brain.
'The real issues are social and ethical,' said the professor, well aware of the implications of this brave new world.
'How can you manage all that information? If you can remember everything, what about forgetting? How can it be turned into useful knowledge?
'And what about privacy -it would be like having a CCTV camera wherever you go.'
Despite such concerns, Prof Sharples believes it is only a matter of time before the mobile learning (m-learning) revolution takes place.
As director of Birmingham University's Centre for Educational Technology and Distance Learning (CETDL) he is well placed to know.
The centre -which recently received a visit from Education Secretary Charles Clarke -is a world leader in the field. It is sponsored by computer giant Microsoft, keen to be in on the cutting-edge work developing the next generation of laptops and palm-held computers for use in classrooms, seminars and lecture rooms.
Ultimately, however, Prof Sharples believes the m-learning revolution is likely to be led by computer-savvy youngsters bringing their own high-tech equipment into classrooms.
The fuse is set to be lit this Christmas, when Nokia releases a handheld games console called N-Gage aimed at children that allows multiple gaming through the Internet.
If -as is being predicted -the game phone becomes as much a part of the paraphernalia of modern schoolchildren as mobile phones are, schools are in for a shock.
'These will be powerful multi-media devices,' said Prof Sharples. 'Every school will have a dilemma whether to ban them or to use them in learning.'
Prof Sharples is convinced mobile technology will be the next phase in teaching.
'In the early 80s, the Government's goal of putting a computer into every school was pretty radical,' he said. …