It’s fantastic for students to have access to powerful software tools that help them develop their skills; and it’s even better if the software is free. A prolific developer of mobile applications, Tea Vui Huang, provides the tools he develops for free via his website; and many of his applications are either very useful for education, or are made-for-education. Here is just one his tools, (which are generally authored for the Symbian mobile phone platform):
“…the use of graphing calculators is being incorporated into the education syllabus of mathematic subjects such as algebra, trigonometry and calculus. Graphing calculators are more expensive than the already costly scientific calculators… (but) to paraphrase One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) association’s message – Students can do a lot of self-learning. A common handheld device found these days is the mobile phone, and most students have one – even if it’s an entry-level model.
Though it maybe unexpected, entry-level mobiles these days do have the processing power and display screen appropriate for emulating a graphing calculator. Take for example a HP 49g+ graphing calculator with a resolution of 131 x 80 pixels, and contrast it with an entry-level Sony Ericsson J300i with a resolution of 128 x 128 pixels. Mid-range cell phones offer even higher resolutions of 176 x 220 pixels (that’s over 3.5 times more pixels than the HP 49g+).
Cost-wise, the commonly recommended graphing calculator for educational purposes is the US$100+ TI-83 Plus, US$130+ TI-84 Plus and the US$150+ HP 49g+. In comparison, an entry-level Sony Ericsson J300i retails for US$75+, or free with a 2-year service agreement.
If anything, CNN reported in January 2006 that Microsoft founder and Chairman Bill Gates believes cell phones are a better way than laptops to bring computing to the masses in developing nations.”
The developer’s view of m-learning is spot on – mobile phones are cheaper and often more powerful than graphing calculators; and most students already own them. And the quality of the graphs created by this free tool are excellent. Here is a comparison of the output from this application on a low-cost handset, compared with graphing output from a real graphing calculator (the HP49g+):
Download this tool using your mobile web browser from http://teavuihuang.com/tvh-72g/download.php, or from the project’s web page. Other applications available to use for educators and students include podcasting, photography, and document-creating tools – even a small application that allows a user to create the basic curves for generating 3D Maya models.