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Was there life before cell phones?

I'm old enough to remember a time when cell phones were a novelty, not a ubiquitous form of communication. However, a post on Slashdot reveals that there are enough cell phones in operation to provide one for every two humans on earth.

I'm old enough to remember a time when cell phones were a novelty, not a ubiquitous form of communication. However, a post on Slashdot reveals that there are enough cell phones in operation to provide one for every two humans on earth. 3.3 billion phones definitely counts as ubiquitous.

We have more cell phone violation discipline referrals at the school than anything else and, increasingly, the phones even students are bringing to class are smartphones (or at least Web/email/IM-enabled gadgets). Now, the AP is carrying a story about an online university in Japan piloting delivery of classes via mobile devices. I'm considering how we can use Twitter and other SMS-related services to enhance classroom experiences and engage students (56% of the respondents to a poll on that post felt that either we should be using tools like Twitter or would at least consider it for the classroom).

An interesting note from a blogger in Japan references a story on the shrinking Japanese PC market:

[The] “keitai” (Japanese mobile phone) market is affecting personal computer market. Japan is going to be the first developed country in the world where the PC market shrinks. All major traditional personal computer makers such as Toshiba, Panasonic, Sony, Fujitsu, NEC… are now pretty focused on developing mobile devices.

Japanese kids create there first blog using a keitai, not a computer. They start chatting with their keitai, not with “MSN Messenger”. The second most visited web in Japan, Mixi.jp, has more visitors from keitais than from computers. In fact, Mixi.jp has more visitors from keitais only than Google Japan from computers. There are novelists who are writing full length novels with their keitai, and many people reads those books also with their mobile devices.

I bring this up because my minivan caught on fire last night (nice, huh? That was a new experience). No injuries or anything, but, not surprisingly, the minute I saw flames in my engine compartment, I broke out the cell phone and called 911. In addition to thinking "Holy crap, my car is on fire," the geek in me noticed that immediately after I disconnected from the 911 operator, my phone beeped and went into Emergency mode. GPS tracking automatically would have allowed emergency services to locate me if I had not been able to communicate. At the same time, every spectator seemed to have a camera phone out. I checked Youtube, but no footage yet.

The point here is that the mobile phones are becoming increasingly useful and gaining a variety of new features once reserved for PCs and dedicated entertainment devices. Even calling 911 reveals that the mobile market is a very different place than it was even two to three years ago. The real question is, how are we going to exploit this as educators? I don't know if delivering courses via your iPhone is the way to go, but I do know that too many of my students spend more time texting from their phones than they do studying. I want to tap into that. Talk back below and tell us how you have managed to turn mobile devices into learning tools.