Mobile devices key for tomorrow's educators

By Oscar Guerra
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 4, 2012
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"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." (Alvin Toffler)

We live in hasty times. New information travels at speeds beyond our imagination, and thus, the definition of literacy is quickly changing. The way we conceive the world has changed from local to global and from passive to active. But do we really understand the impact of new technologies?

Oscar Guerra [photo courtesty of Oscar Guerra]

Oscar Guerra

Ironically, given our relationship with technology, we are still quite ignorant of its evolution and its growing impact upon our lives. How, for example, does technology affect the way we learn through various methods of communication?

While more research is needed, especially from lesser-developed countries, I firmly believe that the implementation of new mobile technologies will improve both formal and informal education methods.

Tec de Monterrey University in Mexico City is currently developing educational content that can be uploaded onto personal devices such as iPhones, iPads, BlackBerries, other mobile phones and computers. Researchers are testing some of these methods at low-resource neighborhood schools in order to improve the quality of their lessons. One of their educational methods is called "Active Learning"; an educational strategy through which the student develops a protagonist's role in the learning process. In this way, the student's experiences, under the guidance of the professor, lead to the acquisition of knowledge. Thus, the student assumes responsibility and ownership for what he or she learned.

The Tec de Monterrey University study suggests that using mobile devices might be an effective way to increase a student's role in learning process. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from participating students and schools begs the question: what would happen if educators applied this model on a macro level?

According to the research firm Gartner, more than 472 million smartphones were sold around the world last year. Over a billion people in China use cell phones, representing 75 percent of the population. This number does not include any other mobile devices such as tablets and represents a great potential for any kind of mobile initiative, especially mobile education.

Lower operating costs in China compared to those in Europe or America make China an attractive market to new app developers as well as a prominent testing ground for mobile education platforms.

Bruno Ben, investor and co-founder of Shanghaivest, said that the number of foreign entrepreneurs working on mobile projects in China doubles every year. Chinese mobile users move faster from product to product compared to users in other countries, so the Chinese market is an ideal place to test new apps, Ben said.

There is an urgent need for research in two main areas before large-scale education technology projects can be initiated: one is to explore how the educational content can be produced, given new and available technologies. The other is to examine how to make the learning process more efficient, effective, and appealing. In this equation, we cannot forget to adapt to a constantly moving technology curve.

With the advent of new technology, new educational methods are constantly being developed. People have become the producers and distributors of their own content with the aid of social networks and other online platforms. Despite the current trend of scattered online entertainment set forth by the digital age, methods by which people teach and study today are increasingly diverse and interesting. By understanding, developing and executing models that embrace new mobile technologies, we will be able to take advantage of these emerging trends in education.

Oscar Guerra is a 2nd year PhD student from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds a master's degree in Marketing from Tec de Monterrey University.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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