Directing Technology/Smartphone

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Smartphones run a variety of operating systems and applications.

Billions of people across the world own smartphones.[1] For many people, smartphones serve as their primary, or even only, computer. The role smartphones play as digital learning devices (DLDs) can not be understated.

History[edit | edit source]

The rise of the smartphones is owed to major advances in mobile technology, context-aware technology, advances in internet standards and protocols, as well as, the emergence of new and business models focused on efficiency, convenience and seamlessness. These advances are best appreciated from a study of the history and development phases of mobile technology: from the initial proposal of cellular concepts in 1947 to 1G Cellular networks, to 2G Second Generation: Digital networks, to 3G HighSpeed IP data networks and mobile broadband to 4G All IP networks. Worldwide, smartphones account for 24% of all mobiles sold between January and March 2011. It is expected that before the end of the decade, the only phone sold will be what we now know as a smartphone.

Specifications[edit | edit source]

The key characteristic that distinguishes mobile telephones or cellular phones from what is now referred to as a Smartphone is that these particular handsets run a third party mobile operating system (WindowsMobile, Symbian*, Blackberry, Android, iOS). A mobile operating system is the software platform which enables programs to be run on the phone and is similar to any computer operating system. It is the operating system that determines the functions and features of the device such as: email, multimedia messaging, applications (even 3rd party apps), WAP, synchronization, etc. Smartphone manufacturers determine the operating system of their specific handsets. With regards to the smartphone market, customers today are spoilt for choice as specifications are highly competitive:

  • iPhone (iOS by Apple)
  • Droid (Android OS by Google)
  • Windows Phone (Windows Mobile by Microsoft) * Symbian is a mobile operating system designed and maintained by Nokia who announced in 2011 that it would migrate to Windows Phone 7 but be maintained for some years.
  • Blackberry (Blackberry OS by Blackberry)

Purchasing & Cost[edit | edit source]

In 2004, the Joint Informations Systems Committee (JISC) shared its expectation that there would be an increasing amount of convergence between types of handsets. As predicted, there has been significant convergence to the point that, purchasing the appropriate handset is less about the actual tool and more about its maximum ROI afforded to the user in his specific context. Koehler and Mishra (2005)[2] tell us that digital technologies are protean, unstable and opaque. This protean nature means that digital technologies are many different things to different people.

Further to this, the availability of handsets and support vary globally. It is therefore not uncommon that certain handsets and operating systems enjoy greater market share than others. The new Windows Phone OS, launched in October 2011, is reported to have sold a mere 1.6 million out of the 100 million sold worldwide (less than 2%). In countries where there is no Apple Store or iPhone support, the iPhone is also not a high seller. Countries such as China, India with their vast and distributed populations, as well as, high mobile penetration levels, report that Google’s free Android mobile OS has impacted sales of associated handsets. On June 5, 2011 Charles Arthur,[3] Technology Editor at the UK-based Guardian Newspaper, reported that the dominant share of the smartphone market belonged to Google who provides the free open-source Android OS as opposed to Apple’s closed proprietary iOS whose iPhone is exclusive to the AT&T network in the U.S.A. One notable trend highlighted by Arthur included: “Android now powers more that ⅓ of all smartphones sold from various manufacturers, and the proportion is expected to keep rising.”

In her 2009 interview, Bonnie Cha, Senior Editor-Smartphones at CNET, shared three important considerations while exploring the purchase of a suitable smartphone:

  • determine what the device needs to do for the user (email, voice, documents, multimedia video integration etc.)
  • determine the design best suited to the user (trackball, joystick, keypad, touchscreen)
  • determine which handsets are associated with specific carriers, their contracts and support.

Locked vs. Unlocked[edit | edit source]

Google Nexus S smartphone

The majority of smartphones sold today are sold through mobile service carriers. Often the phones that the carrier sells you are cheaper than unlocked versions of the phone. However the main inconvenience is that you are required to enter into a contract (usually 2 years) with the service carrier, making it very difficult for you to try to switch carriers or change handsets especially if the carrier does not sell the handset you are interested in purchasing or upgrading to. At present the costs of top selling smartphones range from US$150-$300 for in-store purchases that usually require a contract with a provider such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint. Mark Sullivan and Lauren Barnard of PCWorld, have compared the total two-year cost of ownership for eight of the top-selling smartphones and provide a complete breakdown. JISC’s earlier prediction on convergence support Sullivan’s assessment of the current situation: “While the costs of the devices themselves vary, the unlimited voice, messaging, and wireless broadband rates for the six AT&T and Verizon smartphones in our study are exactly the same.”

Versions of handsets or smartphone models that are ‘factory unlocked’, ‘sim-free’ or ‘neverlock’ are provide users with the freedom to choose and to switch carriers at any time, as well as, to choose mobile plans suited to their lifestyle. It is also convenient for international users who wish to avoid roaming charges as it allows them to use local carriers in various countries. The main inconvenience with regards to unlocked phones is their cost. At present top selling unlocked smartphones range from as much as US$999 to $238. Some figures as of June 2011:

Handset Cost
Blackberry Storm 9530 $699.99
Blackberry Curve 8520 $399.99
Blackberry Torch $699.99
Apple iPhone $999.99
Motorola Droid $549.99

Implementation[edit | edit source]

Because the application of smartphones will be different for any given situation, it is difficult to propose one implementation guide for large-scale implementation of smartphones within learning contexts, simply because there is no one way. There is at present no instructional design theory for mlearning that has been articulated. The pedagogy behind a vast majority of successful mobile educational projects is driven by specific learning objectives which make it difficult to stabilize theoretical underpinnings of the field.

Dependent on the context however, there are initial questions that may be answered. Some of these questions echo considerations institutions faced at the start of the digital revolution with the introduction of the personal computer into school settings. The 4 phases of planning, preparation, implementation & review outlined in the ‘21 steps to 21st Century Learning’ by the Anytime, Anywhere Learning Foundation provide a useful framework for large scale implementation of the smartphone:

Steps Action Considerations
1 Research What has been done? Are there similar cases to your goals?
2 Building a strong vision What exactly is this supposed to achieve? What are your expectations? How will these be measured?
3 Engage parents, school board and wider community Is everyone on the same page? Why not?
4 Build a communications strategy Who needs to know about this? How can you get the message out? How much information do you want to divulge?
5 Conduct a detailed readiness assessment What is your current state of affairs? What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
6 Develop a project plan (Dependent on your particular case)
7 Prepare a detailed budget How will this be financed and sustained?
8 Select a preferred ownership and finance model Does the institution keep the handset at the end of the day? end of the lesson? Is each model issued in the name of the parents? Does the learner have the option to eventually own the phone? Will the learner benefit from reduced plans? How can you negotiate special packages with service providers? Is there an educational discount?
9 Address staff technology needs Will you need to build our own applications? Do you have the right skills on board? Can you support this initiative? How much outsourcing is needed?
10 Professional development framework and change management strategy What new skills and expertise are required to make this transition? how will you bring everyone into the cycle? Can this be done seamlessly and with minimal disruption?
11 Prepare Physical learning spaces How will the current environment change? What new, if any, components will be needed?
12 Select software and tools to suit pedagogical needs and goals What platforms are you running for this? ( Mobile Moodle?) Are you using the Android OS or the iOS? Will you be using an application suite via the Cloud?
13 Explore supplier partnerships and form factors Can you partner with a particular service carrier/software company, to introduce a new niche market? Can our goal/case be used to advanced another entity's research?
14 Calculate total cost of participation in project Where do you stand to lose, to gain ( profits and losses), estimated ROI.
15 Define essential policies What is your acceptable use policy? do you need a home use policy as well? How will these be enforced?
16 Anticipate questions and prepare responses (Dependent on your particular case)
17 Establish onsite service structures
18 Conduct parent and community sessions
19 Order devices and prepare for deployment Will your office be charged with this responsibility? Will it be handled directly between the service carriers and the customer? Where?
20 Distribute devices (Dependent on your particular case)
21 Review and reform

Logistics[edit | edit source]

Although Liu, Liu & Yu (2008)[4] wrote that there is at present no successful case and guidelines widely acknowledged on how to develop a best device for mobile learning, Cochrane & Bateman (2010)[5] were able to identify the core features that make smartphones 'smart.' They list at least 16 affordances of smartphones for mobile web 2.0. These are quite useful in helping decision makers determine the necessary logistics that pertain to the goals and context of their mobile projects undertakings. When determining "context use" and impact of Smartphones within the mobile learning environment, these authors cite of all the following: image capture, video capture, video streaming, mobile web experience, text entry, GPS, touch screen, application availability, ease of user interface, 3G, Wifi, cost,availability, screen size, video out, portability. If a particular mlearning initiative involves district-loaned or school-bought smartphones,these are some of the basic considerations with regards to the purchasing of appropriate handsets.

Beyond handsets however, the experts warn that real expenses come from the resources needed to support technology.

Software Installation[edit | edit source]

Dependent on the case, educational software applications may be required and need to either be developed by a selected team or installed on the devices. Once again, this situation is very case specific. Examples of various cases include: 1) a suite of applications available on the network for download to the learner's phone. There is a cost associated with the development and customization of such an application. If the mlearning initiative is directed at student-owned devices, then the installation is learner-directed. If the mlearning initiative uses institution loaned devices, the smartphone applications may be installed by the designated team. 2)Many smartphone users take advantage of application markets associated with their particular handset (Apple App Store, Blackberry App Market, Android App Market etc.)

Infrastructure[edit | edit source]

In most cases, large-scale implementation or the use of smartphones in school districts imply access to broadband network infrastructure, advanced services and applications.

Device application[edit | edit source]

One of the affordances of using smart phones in schools is that they can be configured and used simply as hand-held computers that do not require a data plan to connect to an institution's network. One such example can be found at the Oak Hills High school in Ohio which issues loaner mobile devices to students. Similarly, the St. Mary's School District ensures that learners use only the devices' Internet features by disabling phone and text-message functions.

Network Infrastructure[edit | edit source]

A large portion of finances goes into setting up the network infrastructure to support mobile learning especially in densely-populated organizations such as schools. Wireless is increasingly important as a networking technology. Wireless systems for schools will require professional routers and professional-grade access points that are able to support high levels of traffic. Access points allow devices like smartphones to connect to the network: the more devices attempting to connect, the slower a network might become. It is for this reason that more access points might be required.

Education Week's March 16, 2010 online publication quoted Elliot Solloway at the University of Michigan who suggests that an institution should expect to spend from $75,000. US to $125,000. US on a wireless network infrastructure. However, Cathleen Norris at the University of North Texas has indicated that there are alternatives and cases in which schools have been able to 'offset the high cost of a network'. One alternative includes the purchase of cellphones which run off a telecommunications network of a company like Verizon. This removes the logistics of building and maintaining an in-house wireless network for the school.

Management Infrastructure[edit | edit source]

Mobile device and wireless infrastructure management is a necessity. With the expanding wireless ecosystem, the number of mobile assets is growing. There are many commercial solutions that can assist institutions in managing their infrastructure, if for any reason the expertise are not found in-house. One such solution is Wavelink Avalanche that "streamlines and automates mobile device and infrastructure management tasks across the wireless LAN and WWAN, and ensures that the wireless environment is secure."

Useful video links[edit | edit source]

Content Filtering[edit | edit source]

Just as with fixed computing systems, mobile content filtering allows organizations to enforce different security policies as they see fit. Mobile content filtering is available and can be applied to smartphones. For example, Mobile Active Defense is a mobile enterprise compliance and security solution (MECS) that offers mobile firewall and content mechanisms that enforce controls based on the physical location of mobile devices.

Maintenance[edit | edit source]

Update/Upgrade[edit | edit source]

In order to maintain a high-quality learning network, upgrades may be required every two to three years. With regards to Smartphone upgrades however, the situation may be less flexible especially if users/customers/learners find themselves locked into a contract with a particular service carrier. They may only be able to comfortably upgrade, and at a minimal cost, to handsets offered by their carrier. If however, they wish to upgrade or purchase a handset typically offered by another carrier then they may face a situation of having to break their current contract, or engage in a second contract, or purchase an unlocked version of the handset: all of these options are costly.

Training Required[edit | edit source]

One of the factors often overlooked in the initial stages of planning for the implementation of mobile technologies on a large scale is that of professional development and training. It is however one of the most crucial and associated with the largest costs.

Staff[edit | edit source]

One reason for this is that the use of smartphone technology in classrooms requires changing the mindset of a curriculum. Teachers need to be become familiar and comfortable with the devices, as well as, learn to integrate them effectively into classroom activities. David Metcalf, Researcher at the University of Central Florida's Institute for Simulation and Training, stresses that this can be a lengthy, thus costly process.

Students[edit | edit source]

Similarly, students often do not readily associate educational activities with phones, and may have to participate in an orientation exercise, or be taught or guided along instructional pathways using their devices by their teachers dependent on the particular initiative.

Potential for Schools[edit | edit source]

According to Caroline Milanesi, mobile market researcher for Gartner, smartphones will become less expensive as time goes by. Similarly, smartphones have already contributed to the stagnation of the PC desktop by its ability to engage learners in ‘anywhere, anytime’ or ‘mobile’ learning. The Horizon Report [6] for 2011 ranked smartphones among the six technologies set to make further inroads: “ In the coming months, the vast potential of these devices for learning will begin to outweigh concerns about misuse that currently dominate most conversations about their use in school settings.” (p. 17)

Affordances[edit | edit source]

Smartphones like their other mobile device counterparts, hold the key to extending the educational terrain by distributing and dispersing learning to those who were previously excluded or simply unable to participate in formal learning systems. Former Nokia executive Horace Dediu has stated that a smartphone today is more powerful than any personal computer in 1985.

Cochrane and Bateman (2010) [7] have identified the key benefits of m-learning as made possible through smartphones:

  • innovative teaching and learning practices
  • embodiment of ‘authentic learning’- facilitating anywhere anytime student-centered learning
  • engagement of learners using mobile web technologies: connectivity, mobility, geolocation, social networking, multimedia.
  • access to learning contexts and user content creation tools that are affordable and increasingly owned by learners.
  • movement from a model of fixed, dedicated general computing to a mobile, wireless computing paradigm that turns any space into a potential learning space.

Policies & Guidelines[edit | edit source]

A policy document outlining what is considered to be an acceptable use of the private network (either LAN or WLAN) by users, as well as guidelines regarding what is considered to be offensive and in violation of the policy, is a crucial component of large-scale implementation of an initiative especially for mobile devices such as smartphones. A policy document should be tailored to address the concerns of all stakeholders without hindering the goals of the mobile initiative. This process is again case-specific and is dependent on a number of factors.

Oak Hills High school in Ohio, U.S. recently adopted a policy for mobile devices which include smartphones. Students are permitted to bring their own personal electronic devices—including laptops and handheld technology (smart phones, iPod Touches, etc.)--with them to the school. It is believed that this will enable students to use a combination of district technology and their own to facilitate their learning. The school’s website claims that “no longer will our high school students be limited by the availability of district technology or access to software and applications.” The acceptable use policy pertaining to the model approved by Oak Hills High, is available on their district website.

Challenges/Risks[edit | edit source]

Although it is considered to be a new conduit for training and learning, the rate of adoption of mobile learning has been slow. In a case study on mobile learning implementation in basic education, Liu, Liu & Yu (2008)[8] expressed the view that “ the current reality is that mobile learning is used occasionallly and in a supplemental manner in education and very few mobile learning solutions indicate that there is no capability to enable a large scale adoption. Guidelines for implementing mobile learning are in short supply.”

One of the reasons for this lies in the fact that there is a wide range of development and deployment issues with regards to the introduction of learning systems and administrative applications that employ mobile technologies. The Lee report (2004) makes clear that deployment of mobile-based systems can be highly-contextual, expensive, technically difficult, and fraught with difficulties related to connectivity and ergonomics. JISC warns that “such systems cannot be designed in a vacuum, divorced from mainstream business and educational systems must pay attention to the usability issues inherent in designing for smaller devices.” Further to this, there are issues related to network infrastructure, such as firewalls and the encryption of data between applications and database servers.

The Horizon Report 2011 has indicated that educators still need some convincing with regards to the use of smartphones in the classroom as the idea is considered to be disruptive. There is also the challenge of ‘sexting’ which continues to prove itself to be a problem. Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages via cellphone or instant messager. With advancements in mobile technology, it is the misuse of mobile devices such as smartphones that has been one of the main challenges. The practice of sending suggestive and explicit pictures has increased especially among teens as these phones have the capability to record, send photos and videos to multiple persons. Administrators are concerned about the ease of propagation which has been compared to a viral phenomenon. ‘Sexting’ is currently illegal under federal law. It falls under the creation, distribution and possession of child porn and is a felony offense.

Case Studies[edit | edit source]

Project K-nect

Funded through the Qualcomm Wireless Reach Initiative, Project K-nect is a pilot program examining the use of smartphones as a learning tool in schools involving teachers and highschools in Onslow County, North Carolina with a particular focus on supplementing selected math courses. It brings together an impressive team of partners: Digital Millennial Consulting, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Microsoft, Drexel University, Choice Solutions, Florida Center for Interactive Media, SOTI and Pyhmes Consulting LLC, each charged with specific roles and responsibilities.

Some of the key findings released in its 2010 evaluation report include:

  • 61% of participating students report great self-perception.
  • 55% feel better prepared for success.
  • Over 50% are now considering a career in math as a result of participation in the Project.
  • 90% of initial student cohort currently enrolled in AP Statistics- a course taken by less than 1% of high school students nationwide.

References[edit | edit source]

  2. Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2005). Teachers learning technology by design.Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 21(3), 94-102.
  3. Arthur, C. (2011, June 5). How the smartphone is killing the PC. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  4. Liu, Y., Liu, J. & Yu, S. (2008). A case study on mobile learning implementation in basic education. 2008 International Conference on computer science and software engineering, 978-0-7685-3336-0/08, 593-597. doi: 10.1109/CSSE 2008.212
  5. Cochrane, T. & Bateman, R. (2010). Smartphones give you wings: Pedagogical affordances of mobile web 2.0. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(1), 1-14.
  6. Johnson, L., Adams, S. & Haywood, K. (2011). The NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
  7. Cochrane, T. & Bateman, R. (2010). Smartphones give you wings: Pedagogical affordances of mobile web 2.0. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(1), 1-14.
  8. Liu, Y., Liu, J. & Yu, S. (2008). A case study on mobile learning implementation in basic education. 2008 International Conference on computer science and software engineering, 978-0-7685-3336-0/08, 593-597. doi: 10.1109/CSSE 2008.212