Mobility in Education: Good for Students, Teachers - and Vendors

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Ten Phones That Put the 'Smart' in Smartphone

Makers of smartphones, tablets and other types of device makers are interested in the educational market. This is probably for two reasons: These people have kids and certainly want to contribute to the welfare of young people. This altruistic impulse is furthered by the assessment that there is great corporate value in getting young folks accustomed to using their products.


These two drivers - which clearly are not mutually exclusive - are leading to a decent amount of activity. This week, Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., said that it will provide the class of 2016 with Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phones and AT&T service upon which to use them. Two apps - SHUmobile and the Freshman Experience - also will be provided to the students.


This commentary at Education Week's Digital Directions argues that a reflective negative attitude toward mobile devices in general and smartphones in particular held by educators must change. The writers, international education experts, may be writing more about developing nations than the U.S. But the thinking that they point out - such as the image in schools of a cell phone with a red line through it hung in some schools - surely survives here, albeit a bit more subtly. This must be reversed, they say:

Banning mobile devices in an era literally saturated with them is no longer a viable option, not for individual schools or for larger education systems. Engage we must.
The harder question of how to use the devices to enhance learning will probably take years to sort out, but that task needs to begin in earnest. And educators, not technologists, are the ones who should blaze the path forward; they are the experts in learning and development. The Nokias, Apples, and Samsungs of the world have provided us amazing tools at affordable prices. It is now our job to figure out how these tools-the ones we use every day-can further and deepen not only the education of students around the world but, indeed, our own educations.

That's undoubtedly good news for the Nokias, Apples, Samsungs and other device makers of the world. It is important for technical folks to understand that educators move slowly. An idea that seems second nature and self-evident to technical folks - that mobile devices aids, not hinders, learning - still is not universally accepted.


The thinking seems to be all over the place. For instance, some interesting thoughts on the relative merits of iPads and PCs are on display at The Arizona Daily Star. The person posing the question seems well meaning, but stuck in the year 2008 or so.


One person who clearly is not behind the times is Frederick Feraco, a teacher at Columbia Secondary School for Science, Math and Engineering in New York City. This story at Transforming Education Through Technology describes the series of apps he has written that aim to aid student preparations for the Regents exams. In essence, the idea is to approach students through what they love, which is their mobile devices:

Each Regents app contains six primary features: basic lessons organized by topic, interactive Regents "fun quizzes" with questions from past tests, YouTube videos with relevant content, newsfeeds sourced from subject-specific media, vocabulary flashcards, and the option to share the app on social media.

Expect to see more of this. The marriage of mobility and education is a good one for the students, the teachers and a mobile ecosystem that is looking to create long-term customers.

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