In Westernized countries, we don't think of mobile phones as a source of education; that's what our schools are for.
But in developing nations where schools may not yet be something that's available to every would-be student, a mobile phone can be a hand-held tool with infinite possibility.
How Mobile Learning Affects the Traditional Classroom
A mobile phone has many benefits to the student who is using one to learn. First of all, it allows for inquiry-based learning, which puts the onus on the student to ask questions and experiment with what they are learning in class. Using a cell phone, a student can access needed information at any time, making it much more likely that they will retain what they learn, as they can make meaningful connections to what they already know when not in school.
Secondly, mobile learning serves to transition the traditional classroom, freeing up much time so that a teacher can work on a one-to-one basis with their students as opposed to being at the front of the room, teaching a class in its entirety.
Textbooks have also been forever changed as a result of mobile learning. Instead of the massive weight of books that beleaguered students must lug back and forth to school, information can be made available on the phone via a Wikipedia-style resource. This allows the student to use several skills to find and comprehend the information in a way that is most comfortable for them.
Ways to Learn Via Mobile
Some of the common methods being employed by teachers are to send any items or materials they think will allow a student to be more prepared prior to attending class. These items could include key words and flashcards.
Interestingly, something just like this is occurring in Afghanistan, where women who have been deprived of a basic education are using mobile phones to learn how to read and write, as well as learn mathematics. The lessons arrive in audio and video format on phones which have been pre-installed with phrases, and their writing and pronunciation. Afghani students receive the phones for free. In this example, learning happens via mobile teaching software which has been installed on all phones that students receive.
Understanding why mobile phones have become so instrumental to the developing world comes first with understanding why mobile phones are so popular in these nations.
Mobile phones are very affordable, much more so than purchasing a computer and the equipment that goes with it. Granted, what's being talked about here is the older-style of mobile phone, and not the more expensive phones we are used to in the West. And the number of mobile phone owners in developing nations is growing on a daily basis. By far, more people have mobile phones than they do computers.
Additionally, in many developing nations it could be years before broadband becomes available. Since mobile phone technology is already present in these nations, using them for education is the most feasible idea. While not all countries have mobile education initiatives in place, there are many projects that have been developed which are showing much promise.
The Future of Mobile Education
There are those who support the ban of mobile phones in schools. But some say that we are really missing out on a highly-convenient and cost-effective way to educate our children. Mobile phones are being used in just about every job to complete numerous tasks on a daily basis. And not allowing them in schools now, they say, is negligent.
And the ever-increasing commonality of mobile phones in our daily lives means that the skills to use them will be mandatory. But in order for mobile phone education to be successful, there must be a change in the way the devices are perceived by both student and teacher. As well, we must teach our children how to use this kind of personal technology in a responsible manner.
Guest author Jodi Grant writes on a variety of topics, particularly related to technology. She also helps consumers locate internet service in their neighborhood by showing them a simple methodology for comparing plans, incentives and pricing.