Mobile Learning: Will Millennials Lead The Way?

» Posted by Jeanne Meister  » Posted on 02.17.09

mLearning

One of my recent posts entitled From e-Learning To m-Learning talked about the enormous potential for m-Learning. This topic was debated recently by a panel of experts including Chad Hurley, CEO of YouTube, and Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, at the World Economic Forum last month.

The current estimates for mobile phone penetration are impressive: today 3.2 billion people have mobile phones and about 10% of these are smart phones, which are web enabled. In fact, Zuckerberg estimates that among the 200 million unique visitors to Facebook each month, 25 million are using mobile applications to post updates and share photos and videos. And as devices continue to enter the market, new features and new capabilities are, and will continue to be, appearing at an accelerated rate. For example, there are now custom applications that allow students to turn their mobile phones into sophisticated calculators. Programs such as Space Time and QuickGraph are just two examples.

But the bar is being raised once again. As reported in the New York Times in an article entitled Industry Makes Pitch that Cellphones Belong In Classroom, Qualcomm, a producer of chips for mobile phones, is funding a million dollar research project targeting Millennials in an attempt to understand how cellphones could be used in high school to augment or even replace computers.

This is a significant opportunity since K-12 schools now spend hundreds of millions of dollars on computers to provide an average of one computer for every three students. Think about the potential if schools spent even a percentage of their budget on mobile phones instead of computers. But also think about the impact on corporate learning and human resources as Post Millennials (those now aged 12-18 years old) enter and college and then the corporate world with the expectation of using their mobile phones instead of their computers to work, communicate, and even learn. Already there has been a buzz in the market as some companies are asking sales professionals to use their mobile devices for every day computing needs instead of their laptop. And many road warriors say they are willing to entirely ditch their laptops in favor of their mobile as the technology improves, which it has been doing by leaps and bounds.

Finally, food for thought: In a report published in January by research firm In-Stat based on a survey of 1,402 technology users, 52% of respondents to the In-Stat survey said they could envision using a smart phone in the future as their sole computing device, provided handset companies make improvements like better keyboards, expandable screens and applications that work as well as they do on PCs.

What are you waiting for to develop your m-Learning strategy?

Share your thoughts with me in your comments, or over email.

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1 Comments

  1. Rob Campbell, February 20, 2009:

    Good post, Jeanne. There seem to be two threads here - moving to mobile phones as the sole individual computing device, and the use of mobile phones in the classroom, both K-12 and professional. The first appears to be inevitable. The second runs the risk of falling into the same trap we encountered when introducing the computer into the classroom - we brought in the technology, but it took us awhile to figure out how to use it intellingently. I think mobile phones do have a place in future K-12 education, but perhaps not specifically in the classroom. It feels like forcing a fit between two very different paradigms. The point to mobile phones is that they are mobile. Anytime, anywhere. The classroom is not. Fixed time, fixed place. It would kind of be like pulling a car with a team of horses - trying to preserve an antiquated current state while embracing disruptive technology that should be changing it.

    What if mobile phones were used in K-12 education, but less for classroom activities and more to support learning that happens naturally or by assignment outside the classroom? This leads to the broader question of how much K-12 education should be occuring in a formal classroom at all?

    In industry, as we begin to embrace mobile technology for learning, it is clearly being leveraged more in this way - as a new mechanism for supporting learning in smaller chunks, on the job, providing just-in-time support for real-world tasks. It has great potential, as long as we make the accompanying shift in our paradigm for learning.

    Rob Campbell
    VP & CLO, Cerner Corporation

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