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Mobile Computing

June 15, 2010

Power in the palm of your hands – The age of mobile computing

Mobile Computing, in general, and mobile-learning (m-learning), in particular, is my innovation of choice. Mobile computing is the use of network-capable devices that most students carry to access school, public, and private networks for communication and collaboration. Parson and Ryu (2006) broadly defined m-learning as the delivery of learning content to learners utilizing mobile computing devices. M-learning is made possible by the existence and application of mobile hardware and networking technology. By exploring the capabilities of these technologies, it is possible to construct a picture of how different components of m-learning can be implemented. With over 4 billion subscribers worldwide, of whom more than two-thirds live in developing countries, mobile computing will see an unprecedented flow of continuous enhancement and innovation. Smart phones and netbooks are among the growing list of portable tools for productivity, learning, and teaching. In September 2009, the fastest-growing sales segment belonged to smart phones with a 27 % increase in sales when compared to regular mobile phones. This growth is indicative of the increase in the number of worldwide users who will have wireless access to a network from virtually anywhere. With applications in education ranging from cyber universities (Martin & Samels, 2009) to North Carolina State University mobile libraries to filling medical prescriptions, mobile computing is an innovation that is changing the way students learn and educators teach.

The portability of smart devices and their connectivity to the internet from almost anywhere makes them ideal as a digital repository of reference materials and learning experiences, including general-use tools for fieldwork where users can record observations via voice, text, or multimedia and access references in real time. A current application of mobile computing includes library access at Ball State University as described in their Mobile Computing Project PowerPoint presentation (see their mobile site). Additionally, following the model of Japan’s Fukuoka-based cyber university, colleges in the United States are planning full, media-rich course delivered via smart phone (see Martin and Samels’ article).

Problems and challenges

Web format – An ongoing need is for the modification of web pages to work better on small screen devices. That means, more short pages, easy-to-read fonts, easy-to-navigate, minimal images, and anywhere access. In other words, users cannot fully utilize web content without these modifications. Consequently, educational web developers need to redesign web pages with mobile computing and m-learning in mind if users are to view and interact with their web content.

Procedural/Administrative – The main issues to overcome for successful diffusion are concerns about privacy, classroom management, and accessibility across networks. The upcoming ISTE-2010 conference in Denver, Colorado includes sessions that address mobile computing and how to overcome the issues for diffusion.

(See “Experts Talk About Mobile-Learning Challenges” Education Week’s interview with Christopher Dede, Cathleen Norris, and Elliot Soloway)

Societal needs met and benefits

The current mobile devices are better, faster, and smarter, in concert with higher capacity networks. Using Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, and WiMax, providers can stream video over mobile networks. Additionally, present-day cost/performance for device ownership and subscription fees is better than ever. Students have embraced audio/e-book services and are taking mobile search for quick facts, virtual tours, video tutorial, instructional videos, entertainment, etc. for granted. Mobile computing is increasingly supporting teaching and learning (CMS). Information is available everywhere.

Enhancing mobile computing

While the issues identified are part of the developmental process as users adopt an innovation, they are not “pitfalls” per se. Perhaps a new NETS standard for m-learning will pave the way for expectations and requirements in teaching and learning with mobile devices. Increasing training for teachers in m-learning using mobile devices will provide effectiveness of management of dissemination of content and learner assessment. Furthermore, such training will erode if not remove psychological barriers for m-learning to be fully adopted. Educational administrators need to review policies on student using mobile devices during school hours. Service providers and mobile device manufacturers have to introduce mobile system software that makes unique device interoperable.


University of Michigan’s launch of MLearning at the department of Internal Medicine where users can access and track learning.

Mobile Learning Institute – Shaping the future of teachers and students through mobile technologies and 21st-century skills.

6th IEEE WiMob 2010 Conference at Niagara Fallas, Canada.


Martin, J., & Samels, J.E. (2009, September). Cellular colleges: The next small thing. Retrieved on June 12, 2010, from

Parsons, D., & Ryu, H. (2006). A framework for assessing the quality of mobile learning. Massey University website. Retrieved on June 14, 2010, from:

One Comment leave one →
  1. Cynthia Harrison permalink
    June 21, 2010 11:48 pm

    Hi, David!

    I am just checking in tonight and signing up to follow your blog. I will come back and read the great posts you have on here tomorrow. I watched part of your video from Honda. That is so cool!

    Will talk soon!


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