There are some astonishing new facts about mobile technology:
- 417 million cell phones were sold in the third quarter of 2010, up 35 percent from the third quarter of 2009. Almost half a billion cell phones sold in 90 days! Almost 20 percent were smartphones. Smartphone sales effectively doubled in comparison to last year.
- The amount spent on mobile ads doubled in 2010 compared to 2009 to $750 million, and the number of Google queries from mobile devices increased 400 percent.
- Sales of smartphones (not cell phones, but full-fledged, computing-capable, Internet connected, hold-in-one-hand devices) are predicted to pass PC sales in 2012.
The growth of mobile is greater than that of any other technology, even the Internet. The Internet is a roadway; without a car, a roadway is useless. Mobile technologies are the cars for the Internet roadway. By 2012, more people will access the Internet via smartphones than via PCs.
Based on Project Tomorrow's Speak Up survey of 400,000 educators, parents and students, the organization's CEO, Julie Evans, says that mobile learning is at a "tipping point." The theme at this year's Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators (HECC) conference was "Mobile Learning: The Next Generation." And submissions to ISTE's 2011 conference that describe mobile learning activities are up 200 percent over last year.
While the world is experiencing tremendous change, K12 education isn't. Why do schools think that moving from textbooks and whiteboards to digital textbooks and electronic whiteboards is substantive change?
There are school districts in the United States that have thoroughly integrated mobile learning devices, and they are reporting— hold onto your hats—upwards of 30 percent improvement in standardized test scores. While such numbers must be taken with some serious salt, there is no question that time on task by students and teachers sees a healthy increase in mobile learning classrooms. And increased time on task leads to increased understanding, which leads to increased student achievement.
Slick and cool as they may well appear, today's smartphones are, relatively speaking, still Model Ts!
Why will students spend more time on task using a mobile learning device (MLD) than they will with pencil and paper? There isn't a simple answer. But, since students are competent and confident using MLDs outside of school, they can use those same skills on their schoolwork inside of school. Clearly, more research is needed.
Mobile Learning Takes Leadership
We hear from school districts that they don't have the money to move to mobile learning. Indeed, with bond issues not particularly popular, raising new money is a real challenge. But we are seeing superintendents who recognize the value of mobile learning make hard decisions about what to buy and what not to buy. Putting a school district on the right side of the 21st century takes real leadership.
We predict that within five years, every child in every grade in every school in America will be using an MLD 24/7 for educational purposes. You know it, your teachers know it, and your students certainly know it.
Cathleen Norris is a Regents Professor at the University of North Texas and co-founder and chief education architect at GoKnow Learning in Ann Arbor, Mich. Elliot Soloway is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan and co-founder of GoKnow. (In the next installment of this guide, they will address the cost and pedagogical issues that enable essential one-to-one computing.)