Go mobile or go home

From augmented reality to language learning to virtual classrooms, the word is mobile.

Last week, I spent a day at the Blackboard World Developers' Conference (BBWorld DevCon). There was plenty of attention paid to Blackboard's purchase of Moodlerooms and Netspot and the possible implications for developers. There was lots of talk about LTI (more on that later). But more than anything, developers were talking mobile. This isn't unique to BBWorld, either - like consumer and enterprise customers, educators and students are going mobile in big ways, and companies need to keep up.

Blackboard has their Mobile Learn product which, beginning this fall, will allow students to purchase the app on iOS or Android, even if their institution chooses not to support Blackboard's full-blown Mobile Central platform. Developers were particularly giving kudos at DevCon for Blackboard's augmented reality component in Mobile Central, which allows schools to create interactive, 3D overlays for school campuses that students and visitors can access via their iPhones (the app works on iPads and the company is looking at Android support, but Blackboard focused on the iPhone for a standardized device to explore this very new technology).


But Blackboard is hardly the only company going mobile. As a consultant for WizIQ, I've had the chance to use beta versions of their mobile Virtual Classroom app. The app came out of beta today for iPad and is available on the iTunes App Store. The iPad app is one of those great tools for actually putting student iPads to use; it's ideal for increasing student interactivity. Whether in a physical classroom or a fully online class conducted anywhere, students have instructional materials in the palms of their hands and can engage with an interactive virtual whiteboard with a simple touch. That’s 20 students, 30 students, or, in fact, any number of students who can contribute using a virtual whiteboard instead of just 1 or 2 on a standard IWB in a classroom. I have beta versions of the virtual classroom app on my Android phone and tablets, too, which should become more widely available soon.

I've talked glowingly about Luidia's own interactive whiteboard technology in this blog before and they've been doing great things with mobile as well (scroll to the bottom for Luidia's mention and links).

MentorMob, one of my favorite tools for content curation, has taken a different approach, with a site and tools that use HTML5 to render brilliantly across devices. 

At the same time, the market for interactive textbooks is taking off (Kno, one of the biggest publishers of e-textbooks, has compiled enough data from extensive use of its platform to publish data on student effectiveness), iPads are everywhere, the Kindle Fire is seeing significant adoption, and Google's Nexus 7 already has solid retail and pre-order traction outside of the technorati who usually represent Google early adopters.

Guess what? The time is right for mobile education. The message to companies looking to get into the ed tech game, which is experiencing an unprecendented boom, is to develop, if not first for mobile, then with the expectation that your application, site, or platform will be accessed on mobile devices more than any other. If a big company like Blackboard is ramping mobile faster than anything else, including its core applications (which is how it appears from the outside; I can't speak to what's happening behind the scenes), then this is a clear message to startups: mobile is the name of the game.