by Sam du Busc
It was once said that every student should have their own textbook to best learn in school. Fast-forward to 2012 and you will find that some education experts are wondering the same thing about mobile devices. History has shown that methods of education are slowly, but ever-evolving. The recent explosion in the popularity of mobile devices (specifically Apple iPods and iPhones), along with their accessibility and relative ease of use, have caused educators and developers to test iPods as a medium for education. Currently there has been very little research on the topic so far, but results are looking promising. I believe we are on the brink of a paradigm shift in education and that mobile devices, whether made by Apple or not, will become a new medium in which students assimilate information.
I believe the biggest reason that mobile devices may become a new standard is the younger generations’ aptitude with electronic devices in general. Even if students younger than 25 did not have a computer at home when growing up, schools, libraries, and other institutions heavily rely on computers and encourage their use. The environment in which children grow up today is vastly different from the environment 20 years ago. Because of this, they have an almost intuitive understanding of the devices we use everyday. In most cases, this is an advantage, but in others, not so much. In a generation that gets news from the Internet, reads books on tablets and e-book readers, and listens to lectures online or an mp3 player, it stands to reason that students prefer to interact with a computer or iPod over a textbook.
This leads us to the question: Are computers and mobile devices effective tools for learning? One simple conclusion is that there is no reason they would not be. Electronic devices allow for vastly more flexibility than textbooks. In fact, a platform like the iPod allows for nearly endless possibilities in terms of organization and presentation of content. Another simple conclusion is that mobile devices are not effective tools for education. There are various arguments in this vein, such as one made by Bill Gates recently. His argument was that PC’s were better suited for educational purposes. Others may bring up the issue that buying iPods or iPads for an entire school is still very expensive. However, this issue is diminishing, but more importantly, mobile devices should have a much longer lifespan than a textbook or backpack full of them. Still, I have yet to see an argument that convincingly explains why mobile devices cannot become a new medium.
The next step is to find or develop a method or methods of use which prove most effective in teaching. This is where developers can truly get creative as the number of ways in which a collection of iPods can be used in an educational setting is rather surprising. Students can use the devices to complete activities or drills, takes quizzes, ask questions, and collaborate, to name some methods. The way in which I am interested in developing is using games as a means for learning. Sometimes referred to as “edutainment,” concepts are presented in a way that is both educational and fun. The challenge is creating a game that not only holds a child’s attention, but also presents information in an effective manner. These games must also be intuitive and easy to use, otherwise a child may quickly become frustrated with it.
As mentioned before, using mobile devices in education is a relatively new field. Many mistakes will be made, but ultimately, educators will be able to use them in an effective manor. Who knows how education might progress from there?