Networked Schools 2: Mobile phones before laptops

We’ve made our capital purchases for the year, but if I was doing it again, I’d put my money into mobile phones, not laptops.

More and more, it seems to me that computers are tools for production. They do that job very well, but compared to a mobile phone, they seem like clunky communication, data capturing and (maybe) searching tools: not even the lightweight web-books will fit into a jacket pocket. And if networked schools are not brick-and-mortar schools, I’d think we want something that’s easy to pack along because who knows where we’ll be when we want to search, capture, share, talk and so on.

I have a feeling we’ve only begun to see the power of the mobile phone. Much of middle school  education (that’s my expertise, but it’s probably true K-12) is about exploring and a mobile may be a better tool for doing that. I’m certainly not saying mobiles are a magic bullet; but so far as I want technology in my classroom, I want it to be mobile phone technology.

Again, I made this diagram in Webspiration , a beta online version of the desktop program, Inspiration.  If you’d like to help revise the diagram, send me an email at SITS and I’ll add you to the list of editors.


  1. Reply
    Chris Corrigan January 2, 2009

    iPhones for all. I agree…what is need is basically the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, with tools attached so that students can add content as they go. So iPhones, not Macs.

  2. Reply
    Bob Cotter January 3, 2009

    Mobile phones? I’m thinking more along the line of the iTouch. I know that one would need to have ready wireless access, but in a school environment that is easy.With a phone, there MAY be service charges depending on how well they can use an existing wireless network, but I’m also wondering what ‘phone’ type applications might be used… ‘phone a friend”?

  3. Reply
    Brad Ovenell-Carter January 3, 2009

    I realize data plans are expensive–just don’t know how to get around that. And wireless in a school is easy, as you say. But what happens when you don’t want to be in the school building? In principle, at least, you can use a phone anywhere. And why should we carry two devices–namely a mobile phone and an iTouch? Maybe the iTouch is a good interim step?Some intersting ideas here at MobileEd: the end, data plans are going to have to come down in price or this sort of connected school thing is moot.

  4. Reply
    tyfn January 4, 2009

    As a student that has had my blackberry since last Spring, I have found it to be indispensable for everyday life. I am able to respond to emails via gmail, I can plan meetings with the calendar which can be synced with google calendar, I use it as an alarm clock to wake up in the morning and to time food I put in the oven.I don’t buy newspapers as I like to read google news when I’m on the bus or working out on a bike at the gym. I also like being able to have a true keypad to send text messages to friends as I hate to talk on the phone as I have very limited minutes each month.It is also cool that I can use google maps to point out my location and find an address when I’m on the way there on the bus. I have also used google maps to help a tourist on campus find a location.It is easy to put in a URL to find a website or to click on a link in twitter to read someone’s blog. I like to keep the images off though to save on the amount of data I’m receiving.I also like how I can take pictures and send them to friends. I haven’t used this feature too much though. Although, I was in Safeway once and took a picture of the bulk bin number for some peanuts I bought, so that I would remember it when I went to checkout.I also use the notes feature to keep track of the location where I meet people and their names (I have a bad memory). Also, sometimes I will be sitting down trying to organise my thoughts and I find that jotting notes in my BB, really helps organise my information.Basically, the value of a Blackberry won’t be understood until someone has it. I was given mine by a friend and it just sat on my shelf for a couple of months because I didn’t think I would have a use for it. I really like my Blackberry and don’t regret not having an iPhone. I don’t have wifi at home, so having an iPhone wouldn’t be of much use here.Phillip

  5. Reply
    Rob De Lorenzo January 5, 2009

    The critical component to the success of mobile technology in teaching and learning is the ability to both consume and create digital content. However, the cost of data services provided by telcos are too expensive to be practical in a K-12 environment. As it is possible to create content without being constantly connected to the wireless network (i.e. camera and mics for recording of data, keyboard for data input, etc.), using an iPod Touch is practical in a K-12 setting as students can create the content in the field and then use Wi-Fi in the school to post their finding to the world in a blog, wiki etc.The major restriction when not constantly connected to a wireless network is the research/consumption of content but that can be done prior or after the out-of-school activity, depending on how the lesson is structured.

  6. Reply
    Brad Ovenell-Carter January 5, 2009

    Thanks for the comment, Rob. I think this will have to be the compromise–as a matter of hard, practical fact. I like the idea of students having access to the web when they’re away on a field trip. It would be nice to look up data right when we needed it; and I like the idea of anything that breaks down classroom walls. But, students are not out that often. Even here at IPS where they’re out at least once a month, it’s be hard to justify $70/month/kid.

  7. Reply
    Recanting…& Remodelling My Ideal Classroom | A Stick in the Sand March 20, 2009

    […] while ago I said that if I had my druthers,  I’d prefer 1 smart phone-per-child over 1 laptop-per-child. I’m recanting. Sort […]

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