The age of mobile is now

I have been talking about using mobile devices for a long time now, well before I started working at Gloucestershire College (and all that MoLeNET stuff), well before my time at the Western Colleges Consortium (and that Mobile on a VLE presentation).

Despite protestations about screen sizes, lack of power, inferior operating systems, we are now seeing the rise of the mobile device as the next big step in computing.

The first computers were BIG and clunky and you didn’t just use them, you booked time slots to use them.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers!”
Attributed to Thomas Watson of IBM, but in fact no evidence to say he ever said it.

Computers then became the mainstay of business, something to do business on.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Ken Olson, president/founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

With the rise of the personal computer and importantly the explosion of the internet in the late 1990s, not only did we see computers in the home, we also saw a lot more personal computers in education.

Laptops at this time were expensive, but small portable ones were available, I really liked the Toshiba Libretto that I bought at that time.

In 2000 I was working at @Bristol in the centre of the Bristol Harbourside, one project we worked on was using the HP Jornada  and using JetSend technology to “squirt” URLs to the device that would then access the webpage over (what was then) a spiffy wireless network.

It was at this point that I could really see some real benefits of using mobile devices for learning, and using devices that weren’t laptops.

Over that decade we did see the emergence of the laptop over the desktop, more and more people would buy a laptop rather than a desktop for their main computer.

During that time I did a lot more work on using mobile devices for learning, focusing on multimedia content on devices such as PDAs, Media Players and mobile phones.

I remember in about 2001 driving up the M5 and getting stuck in one of those traffic jams in the early evening. My wife was watching the Matrix on my iPAQ PDA. I had converted a ripped DVD (uh oh I know) that I had converted into a MPEG1 video file, placed on an IBM Compact Flash Microdrive and played it back on the iPAQ using PocketTV. As she watched the film people in the cars looked into ours in awe and curiosity about what was that glowing light in our car. Of course today everyone can do this, but at the time it was both clever and geeky!

“I’m not convinced people want to watch movies on a tiny little screen.”
Steve Jobs of Apple in 2003.

The seminal presentation of mine, Mobile Learning on a VLE, at the JISC 2006 Online Conference really got a lot of people thinking about using mobile devices and put my name out there as a leader in mobile learning.

There were many others at that time who were also following the same journey as myself, people like Mick Mullane, Lilian Soon, David Sugden and others. We were all very passionate about using mobile devices for learning.

Despite our passion, we still heard the resistance from practitioners (and sometimes from learners, but usually practitioners) that the screens were too small, they weren’t powerful enough, battery life was too short.

We, with others, were very much involved in the MoLeNET programme and that has had a huge impact in FE in kick starting the use of mobile devices for learning.

Mobile devices in the last few years have also dramatically changed too. Mobile phones have moved on from phones that just made calls and SMS, to mobile computers. Apple have also changed the landscape, first with the iPhone, then the iPod touch and now the iPad.

“There are no plans to make a tablet, it turns out people want keyboards…. We look at the tablet, and we think it is going to fail.”
Steve Jobs of Apple in 2003.

Innovation now is in the mobile sector of the market, these are the devices that our learners are buying and using.

The age of mobile is now.

3 thoughts on “The age of mobile is now”

  1. Well put!
    We are also seeing similar signs. All of a sudden practitioners are assuming mobile is a good idea, rather than assuming it isn’t, and students are starting to demand mobile access to institutional services. but as you say, a long journey to get here!

    Geoff at m-learning.org

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