(3) Why Mobile Is a Must: We Need a New Educational Model That Makes Learning Personal and Motivating, and Helps Secure Our Students' Future in the Knowledge Economy. Mobile Technology Opens the Door to It

Article excerpt

IMAGINE A GROUP OF KIDS working together on a retrospective of the Civil War. One student is at the public library, going through microfilm of newspaper articles from 1861 to 1865. She finds a reference to the political ramifications of a certain battle--notably, a picture of an influential officer. The student then uses her smartphone to snap a picture of the microfilm screen and sends the picture and caption to her group for additional research.

Meanwhile, a second member of the group is reviewing gravesites and comes across some ambiguous headstones. He takes out his tablet computer and, after a quick bit of online research, locates the appropriate person. While all of this is happening, yet another student is conducting a face-to-face interview with a relative of a Civil War veteran. Rather than hastily throwing together handwritten notes, this student is using his MP3 player to record the conversation. Later, he'll upload it to the group's web-based project space for the other team members to hear.

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What makes these authentic, intimate learning opportunities possible? Mobile technologies. Mobile devices provide the platform and, as importantly, the incentive for students to take personal ownership of the learning experience. The lessons absorbed form deep connections for students and add to their cognitive framework in ways that no lecture ever could.

A Desktop in Your Pocket

Today's mobile technologies bear little resemblance, functionally or physically, to first-generation cell phones. They include a broad array of devices such as music and video players, cell phones, smartphones, tablets, and netbooks, all with access to cellular carrier networks, WiFi, or both. And while features and performance continue to climb, prices regularly drop, making mobile devices virtually ubiquitous.

The potential enormity of this user base has attracted software developers large and small. Nearly every available mobile device supports third-party application development, providing a rich selection of productivity, entertainment, and education applications, along with core functionality such as instant messaging, e-mail, calendar, and web browsing. And advances in processor performance, storage, cameras, and sound have all contributed to providing users the same rich media experience they've come to expect from desktop systems. The integration of QWERTY keyboards is making obsolete the days of pecking out text messages using a numeric keypad. Also common are large, high-resolution displays that offer onscreen keyboards, multitouch gestures, and the ability to clearly view the screen both indoors and out. All of this combines to create the equivalent of a pocket desktop, in a portable, always-connected form factor.

So what is all of this doing for K-12 education? Nothing short of disrupting and transforming the established teaching and learning paradigm. To start, mobile technology is helping to solve the two challenges facing education today: students' desire to learn differently, and students' need to learn differently.

Kids today are captivated by the personalization and socialization of online tools--the ability to build large networks of friends; share their thoughts, feelings, and goals; and communicate as they wish.

Students have become so invested in mobile devices that our society has coined a new term for them--digital natives--to represent their having only known a world where all of this is possible. And not only is it possible, it's possible anytime and anywhere, via a plethora of devices and widely available cellular and WiFi networks.

The upshot is, these digital natives now have in their hands the tools to shape their own education in once unimagined ways. They have the ability to interact with other learners at their convenience, with differences in time and place presenting no hurdle. They can research, on the spot, any topic of interest. …