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This years most desired Christmas gift – a Blackberry of course!

December 8th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am very fond of saying that we must look at pedagogy first. Technology is just a tool. But of course it is an important tool. And despite all the interest in mobile learning, thus far practice has been limited. One reason for this has been the limitations of the technology. Of course that has changed with the iPhone and the release of other smart phones in the last two years. However these phones are expensive and way beyond the budgets of most students.Many m-learning projects have had to lend smart phones to learners. And most schools still ban the use of students own phones in schooltime.

This could be all about to change. Firstly there seems to be a growing realisation from school and college managers that banning the use of what are effectively mini computers may not be the future way to promote learning. At the same time there are more and more examples of effective practice in using mobile devices in the classroom. Jenny Hughes’ recent blog post on 25 practical ideas for using mobile phones in the classroom is currently the most popular post on this web site. And critically, the price of smart phones is set to fall. In Germany the Palm Pre is on sale for one Euro with a 20 Euro a month contract and the Motorola Droid, named the Milestone in Europe, running the Android operating system is set to go out at the same price. These phones have full support for GPS, wifi etc. and at least in the case of the Milestone, appear less locked down than the iPhone.

Research I have been doing in the UK suggests most young people of 16 and over pay for their own mobile phones from earnings form part time work. Phones are seen as a priority – over and above clothes and entertainment. With this new generation of cheap smart phones it is not difficult to guess that their will be a rapid take up by students. Strangely, gossip suggests that this years most wanted Christmas present is a Blackberry, which is now being seen as a status symbol and fashions statement by school students in the UK.

So – students are getting the phones, teachers are developing the pedagogy. The scene is set to take off. having said all that though, I still think the major impact of mobiles will be for informal learning in work. Advanced mobiles have the potential to allow te recording and reflection on practice in a way we have never yet really been able to do with Technology Enhanced Learning.

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