Could phones eventually negate computers in the classroom?

Can smartphones be a force for good in the classroom, or is the increasingly social aspect of the mobile device hindering the learning environment?

Abu Dhabi University, along with hundreds of other colleges and universities around the world, is taking advantage of mobile technologies in the classroom to aid learning.

Research in Motion in the region has donated 40 phones to students with attached data plans to use in the trial run, and is expecting good results from the mobile savvy youngsters.

It also means poorer students are able to take advantage without the need for a computer.

Applications such as BlackBoard Mobile allow students to connect wirelessly to access course files and materials hosted by the virtual learning environment, and also contribute to classroom discussions. It also gives them instant access to materials when they are away from the classroom, in an engaging setting for younger people who prefer technological solutions to traditional institutions.

But could mobile devices replace computers in the classroom?

Phones can act as a barrier breaker between shy students and their teachers. If younger people are hestitant to phone calls with instant messaging, text messaging and social networking taking priority, then it enables students to contribute to classroom discussions without fear of social reprisals.

Yet on the other hand, with the increased social aspect of mobile devices connected to social networks and instant messengers, one could ask whether smartphones can help or hinder the learning process.

To even think for a moment, when now considered 'dumbphones' were the norm when I was in high school, and whether these could be used in the educational setting, teachers and students alike would have laughed.

But technological solutions can help with perceived innate learning problems.

Earlier this month I published an academic paper on the nature of smartphone technologies in the university environment as the 'forgotten' technology. If so many students already harness the power of smartphone technology then surely it is for the individual universiti'y to take advantage of the already existing platform.

Yet with budget cuts and lacking development in research areas, many schools, colleges and universities are reluctant to try or unable to expand their existing services.

Computers will not die out in the classroom, that is for sure. But as an interactive learning tool, mobiles and tablets could well be a long term solution to what is essentially a so far short lived problem.

What do you think?

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