27th January 2006 at 00:00
Pete Roythorne gets to grips with m-learning

If you're used to confiscating mobile phones that are being used in your classroom, you could be in for a shock, as the ubiquitous mobile looks likely to worm its way into day-to-day classroom life, in the shape of m-learning.

A number of projects have been run in recent years by organisations such as Becta and UltraLab (eg eViva), to study the potential for the use of mobile phones in the classroom. Official UK figures put mobile phone use above 80 per cent, while 55 per cent of households have internet access. In our search for wider access to technology, mobiles have a lot to offer.

Mobiles are powerful devices that many children already have access to, so rather than trying to remove them from schools, perhaps we should tap into using them as an extended learning tool.

Even the most basic phones nowadays offer text and picture messaging as well as digital photography. And many more offer web browsers, video capability, sound recording and high-quality graphical displays as well as the ability to download extra programs and add items such as keyboards and headphones.

And, of course, they are already fully mobile so you don't have to worry about being near a wireless network or having a short battery life.

Furthermore, with half a billion cell phones sold each year around the world, mobiles are hotbeds of feature innovation, so this is just the start.

Ideas for using them in class include allowing children on field trips to send multimedia messages back to class; or imagine watching and listening to a student in a school in France or Germany during a foreign language lesson. Students in China, the Philippines and Germany are already using their mobile phones to learn English, maths, health studies and spelling.

Companies such as Ectaco provide language games via mobile phone flash cards, as well as dictionary and phrasebook software. A number of museums are also now offering mobile phone tours - try typing "mobile phone tours"

and "museums" into Google UK.

Teachers could easily use text-message technology to provide mobile learners, individually or in groups, with information and clues in real time, for analysis and response in any context.

Problems, however, could centre on the costs of using mobile phones and also health scares about the safety of mobile handsets.

But the fact is mobile phone technology still offers huge potential for learning, and any issues could surely be overcome.

Useful links

Becta's Ferl

Handheld Learning


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