Mobile thoughts

I was astonished when I read in the Commonwealth of Learning’s ‘Connections’ news sheet that “two-thirds of mobile phone subscribers live in the developing world, with subscriptions in Africa growing fastest.” What immense opportunities for socialisation and mobile learning! I’m sure you agree, Dick Ng’ambi (at the University of Cape Town).

Then I noticed that the Learning Lab at Wolverhampton University is holding a symposium in Telford, Oct 14-15, for those just starting to do research in mobile learning (Mobile Learning Early Researcher Symposium <>). Yes, we do need more research into what is feasible in using mobile phones in this way.

Learning by ear

An older technology still offers much to learners who are mobile: a distance-education programme delivered by radio, Learning by Ear <>, is reaching out to a potential African audience of more than 33 million people. The productions are based around ten key themes, including: globalisation in Africa, environment, women and girls in Africa, health issues, political participation, and computer and Internet technology. The programme’s popularity lies in its broadcasts of true-to-life stories on these themes, whether as features, interviews or even soaps.

New for old?

But what if some kids swap their iPod or MP3 player for an old Walkman <>?  Thirteen-year-old Scott Campbell swapped for a week, discovering: “As I boarded the school bus, I was greeted with laughter”; “I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was used to switch between different types of cassette”; and “It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape.”

The Tablet, not the Pill

Is Steve Jobs about to launch the Apple Tablet (The Independent, August 26, 2009)? If so, will it be able to serve mobile learners as a phone, a radio and an MP3 or MP4 player? As well as doing everything else we wish for in mobile learning? What an opportunity for creativity!

David Hawkridge

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