Mobile Learning – Never Too Early to Start?

18 01 2007

Justin Oberman at the Mopocket blog has come across a report from RCR news (December 25th 2006 page 20), highlighting the utility of mobile phones as an educational tool for infants:

A new study by PBS found cell phones may be useful as an educational tool. Eighty parents with children between the ages of three and four were given video enabled Sprint PCS phones and  asked to listen to literacy tips and allow their children to watch streamed letter video clips at least three times a week for two months. The study was designed to test the level of acceptance of using cell phones for educational content to parents of preschool children. Parents surveyed during the study said the video increased their children’s knowledge of the alphabet and provided them with tools to help their children with literary skills.

Children aged three to four? Using mobile phones? Many of you will be sceptical about this claim, but I was visiting my girlfriend’s family over the holidays, and her two-year-old sister was already using one of her dad’s out-of-service mobiles as a toy – pressing the buttons and making “calls”. She’s not alone: Emily at textually.org relays Information Week’s report that kids as yound as 2 years of age are downloading content to cell phones, computers, and portable digital music players:

“About 15% of 2- to 5-year-olds use cell phones and 62% of 11- to 14-year-olds use the devices, according to a new study by NPD Group.”

Indeed, some entrepreneurs are even targeting babies and infants as comsumers of mobile phone functionality; for example, the Mobile Baby Toy uses a real mobile phone to provide a baby with entertaining pictures and sounds when they press the buttons, wherever you happen to be. Young children now have a range of handsets which parents can give them, with functions that allow parents to regulate who they call, and who calls them until they’re ready to graduate to a full-blown mobile (apparently, in late childhood or early teen years).

The ramifications for adult education and workplaces around the world are clear: it won’t be long before we have young adults in our companies and institutions who have grown up with mobile phones all their lives. In the same way that the landscape of information technology is being engineered and revolutionised by people who have grown up with home computers such as Amigas, Amstrads, and the Apple Mac IIe, we can expect that mobile information technology will undergo revolutionary change in the next decade, spurred by the expectations and understanding these “mobile natives” will undoubtedly bring.

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