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View Full Version : Mobile Gadgets Offer New Lessons

Janak Parekh
05-29-2003, 07:00 PM
<div class='os_post_top_link'><a href='http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2940936.stm' target='_blank'>http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2940936.stm</a><br /><br /></div>"Using mobile phones and handheld computers to teach basic skills could help a generation of youngsters turned off by traditional education. That is the hope of those involved in the 4.5m euro (3m) m-learning project, an EU-backed initiative taking place in the UK, Sweden and Italy. The aim of the project is to see how mobile devices can be used to teach basic numeracy and literacy skills to young adults that have dropped out of the education system."<br /><br />It looks like they're planning on using a variety of handheld devices, from phones to PDAs. Do you think this is a gimmick, or a potentially compelling alternative educational tool if done right?

05-29-2003, 07:14 PM
Someone who has dropped out of school may be overwhelmed by the idea, not only would they need to catch up on what they missed but learn an entirely new way of doing things with computers, the abstract nature of it is generally difficult to grasp by the novice.

05-29-2003, 07:40 PM
It seems from the article that the results of the study indicate that kids prefer to learn in a group environment anyway. Often during a class something that one student asks helps numerous other students who may not have thought of the question or were too afraid to ask. I do think this plan has some very valid applications though. There may be students that are afraid to be in a group environment. Perhaps a pregnant teen who may feel ashamed (I'm not trying to be judgemental) but perhaps she may want to learn 'remotely'.

05-29-2003, 08:47 PM
For a while I worked with high-schools developing a network system for at home learning. I worked at the host ISP, so I don't have all the stats, but I know it was pretty much considered an abyssmal failure.

The reason was that in order for someone to learn at home, they have to be _more_ motivated to learn than those who trot off to classes every day. I don't know if it was social interaction that helped motivate the kids at school, or if it was the distractions (TV, computer games) at home that hindered the kids at home, but the result was that a bunch of kids were effectively a half-year behind at the end of the project when they pulled the plug.

If someone was so unmotivated at school as to drop out, I can't imagine them being motivated enough to bother with this stuff outside school.

Now, this is not to say that learning on a handheld doesn't work for the motivated. I took an accounting course last fall at the local university's extension faculty, and the instructor (after seeing me with my iPAQ) asked me to help beta test the courseware software they were developing for Macromedia Flash on PocketPC. It was awesome. It helped me learn. I was really impressed, and missed having the material for the second half of the course--they weren't done developing it.

I have been exposed to computer learning since I sat in front of a Commodore PET in grade 7, and always thought it was useless. The accounting courseware wasn't really any different than other modern computer-based courseware. The mobility factor, however, adds SO much because you can pull it out any time you want: on the train, in the doctors waiting room, on the patio at the local Starbucks, or just in front of the TV during commercials. It stops being a chore because it is so flexible. I liken it to the difference between reading an e-book on the computer screen (which I have never been able to stand) and reading an e-book on a handheld (which I have done almost every day for the last 9 years).

05-29-2003, 09:36 PM
This is another example of how sometimes the feedback you guys give ends up being more interesting than the article. The experiences and opinions that you guys are sharing here are extremely valuable as I am kind of involved in a similar project (although just starting).

05-29-2003, 09:47 PM
This reminds me of when Calculators were introduced into classrooms. Teachers fought to ban them, but in time they were part of the supply list.
I can see PDA's one day being a requirement.

As someone stated, if you're not motivated enough. What's going to turn me on except maybe the games.