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Mobile Devices in Education

September 14, 2009

TV Kids -> Digital Kids - > Mobile Kids

Jim Henson's Muppets introduced the world to educational television almost two generations ago on November 10,1969.  Up until then televisioin as an education tool in the US was considered unproven.  Sesame Street came up with a winning approach, combining both education and entertainment.  As author Malcolm Gladwell has stated, "Sesame Street was built around a single, breakthrough insight: that if you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them". 

Today, Sesame Street is the longest running children's program on television having been  televised in more than 120 countries and receiving more Emmy Awards than any other television series, 118 to be exact.  A staggering 77 million Americans watched the series as children.

The secret to Sesame Street, "the single, breakthrough insight", that by holding the attention of children in some creative way, enables education to happen became the foundation for the transformation from TV Kids to Digital Kids in the 90's as Bill Gate's vision of a computer on every desktop began to take hold.  And as was the case with TV as an educational tool very few imagined that the PC had any connection to children. Pioneers like Seymour Papert envisioned children using computers as tools for learning. In 2005, Papert, together with Nicholas Negroponte and Alan Kay launched the One Laptop Per Child, an initiative to provide $100 laptops to every child in the developing world.

Today our kids may be on the cusp of another transformation from Digital Kids to Mobile Kids.  As the University of Michigans Elliot Soloway puts it " The kids these days are not digital kids. The digital kids were in the '90s. The kids today are mobile, and there's a difference. Digital is the old way of thinking, mobile is the new way." 

On Duke University's Center for Instructional Technology web site a section on Mobile Devices in Education states that "mobile devices offer an opportunity to further educational goals by leveraging and building upon the functions of technologies already adopted by and considered indispensable to a majority of students."

The site lists the following "blue-sky" (where have I heard that before) examples of mobile technologies and how they can be used as tools in education.

  • One-way text messaging for announcements and updates like ClearTXT.
  • Interactive two-way messaging to check availablility of school resources, search campus directory, check transit system schedules, or use Google's SMS service to search from your phone.
  • Flexible mobile content delivery like Guide by Cell which produces auior tours of libraries museums and outsoor spaces, access lessons, test prep or just-in-time look up information.
  • Practice excersises for study and review using iQuiz or Study Cell which enables teachers and students to create flash cards online and then download to their phones.
  • Mobile creation and publishing of media like Gabcast which is an podcasting and audioblogging platforms accessible through mobile phones.
  • Context-aware computing like Mediascapes from Hewlett Packard Labs which

The Kindle DX is being tested in Pilot Programs at 7 official sites, Pricenton, Darden Graduate School of Business, University of Washington, Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Reed College and Pace University


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