A blog by George Engel

Archive for December, 2010

A Tetrad in the Clouds

I find the nature of cloud computing fascinating. Just what is cloud computing? Well the folks at TED and Akamai.com put together a few videos on their ideas behind the cloud at http://www.akamai.com/html/misc/ted.html. Another site with a good definition of cloud computing is located at http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/what-cloud-computing-really-means-031 .

The potential of the cloud is tremendous. Cloud computing has opened new methods of data storage and retrieval. It has opened new means of learning in the way we access and share knowledge. It may even be changing the way our memory works (Turkle, 1995). The following is a tetrad of my view of cloud computing.

What does cloud computing enhance? Storage and retrieval of data is a large part of the cloud. Many of the web 2.0 technologies we use today like wordpress, flickr, and other web based applications are possible because of the cloud. Additionally, the chrome operating system by Google functions completely in the cloud so load time is just a few seconds (http://articles.latimes.com/2010/dec/25/business/la-fi-google-laptop-20101225/2 ). Many applications, including those on smart phones and other mobile devices would not be available or functional without the cloud.

The nature of the cloud combined with web or cloud based applications and operating systems may eventually make the desktop PC obsolete or at least the disc drive and standalone operating system.

The information storage and retrieval capabilities of the cloud remind me of traditional libraries and data storage facilities. The large facilities are dedicated to information storage that can be accessed by individuals at time when the data is needed. However, they are limited by hours of operation and availability of stored data.

Finally, where is the cloud leading us? I can only speculate at this point. However, there could be a time when our own brains will have direct access to the cloud. This will be a true technological revolution on the part of humanity. I see it possible with the bio technology research that is ongoing at this time. Will technology become organic? Will circuits be grown instead of manufactured? Time will tell and as long as our heads are in the “cloud” the potential exists for us to make it there.


Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the internet. New York: Simon and Schuster.




Is Mobile Technology Ready for Education?

Is mobile technology ready for education? Or should I be asking is education ready for mobile technology?

Drs. Soloway and Norris, in the early 1990’s, identified the use of cell phones, PDAs, and other mobile technologies as having potential to change the face of education (Norris & Soloway, 2008). Today, more and more schools have begun to implement mobile technology as part of a learning environment (Engel & Green, 2011; M. Wang, Shen, Novak, & Pan, 2009; Y.-S. Wang, Wu, & Wang, 2009). I am in my second year of using mobile technology in the classroom. My students use it as an audience response system, a research tool, a camera, a data gathering tool, a collaborative tool, and with other uses, as well. I have seen both success and failure in its use and am very well aware of some of the controversy surrounding the use of mobile technology in the classroom.

Popular media likes to focus on some of the problems with the use of mobile technology among teens, cyber bullying, sexting, and sending child pornography. Educators that are against the use of the technology state not only these problems, but also include cheating, class disruption, and school safety to that list (Engel & Green, 2011; Raskauskas & Stoltz, 2007). These issues keep many educators from using mobile devices for learning and I have to agree with them to a point. If an educator is unwilling to find ways to use a technology without addressing the problems associated with it, then they should not use the technology. However, where there are great problems with a technology, solutions do exist to their use.

In my article in an upcoming issue of Tech Trends, I, along with Dr. Tim Green, discuss some of these issues and how to address them. One of the main themes we try to address is the concept of careful planning that involves students, administration and community. It is important to understand that though the problems exist they can be surmounted (Engel & Green, 2011). I look at these issues as ways to lead and teach students responsibility, leadership, and ethics with the devices. When used appropriately and in the correct context, mobile technology has the potential to increase gains in not only formal learning environments, but they can enable students to become more independent learners (Frohberg, 2006). Furthermore, I discuss more of these issues and acutal activities at blogs.cellularlearning.org, my personal blog on the subject of using mobile technology in education. Another good blog on the subject is by Lisa Neilson of the New York City board of education. Her blog is entitled The Innovative Educator.

Mobile technology has become an almost essential component of society today, an estimated 66% of teens own mobile phones. That number is growing to include a more rapid growth in smart phone ownership (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010). Most teens would claim that mobile technology is an essential part of their lives, so why shouldn’t it be used as part of their educational lives?

I would issue one warning to anyone seeking to implement mobile technology in learning. It will change the way you teach, and it will change your perspective on educating young people. So be ready!


Engel, G., & Green, T. (2011). Cell phones in the classroom: Are we dialing up disaster. Tech Trends, 55(2).

Frohberg, D. (2006). Mobile learning is coming of age: What we have and what we still miss. Paper presented at the DELFI 2006, Darmstadt, Germany. http://www.ifi.uzh.ch/pax/uploads/pdf/publication/71/2006_DELFI_Darmstadt_MLearn_Framework.pdf

Norris, C., & Soloway, E. (2008). Getting mobile: Handheld computers bring k12 classrooms into the 21st century. District Administratin, 21-24.

Raskauskas, J., & Stoltz, A. D. (2007). Involvement in traditional and electronic bullying among adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 43(3), 564-575. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.43.3.564

Rideout, V., Foehr, U., & Roberts, D. (2010). Generation m2: Media in the lives of 8- to 18-year-olds: A Kaiser Family Foundation.

Wang, M., Shen, R., Novak, D., & Pan, X. (2009). The impact of mobile learning on students’ learning behaviours and performance: Report from a large blended classroom. [Article]. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(4), 673-695. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00846.x

Wang, Y.-S., Wu, M.-C., & Wang, H.-Y. (2009). Investigating the determinants and age and gender differences in the acceptance of mobile learning. [Article]. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(1), 92-118. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00809.x