A blog by George Engel

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




6 responses

  1. Marci Vining


    First, I have to say “Congratulations” on your published work. What an amazing accomplishment!

    Next, your blog is very visually appealing. It makes me want to research into making mine more pleasing to the sense.

    Now, on the subject at hand. Have you found any research for younger grades? I teach 4th grade and many of them also carry a cell phone. Like you say in your article, I would really have to change the way I teach. I really don’t know how to use my own Smart phone beyond the basics. So, I guess, the first step would be to know your phone. However, what’s next? Do you have to understand all the varieties of phones? Could you give me one example of a lesson with the phones?

    I know this technology is nowhere near being emerging in my school. We just got access to wikis. I would love to keep following your blog to continue my education on this topic.


    December 18, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    • gbengel

      Hi Marci,

      You may want to look at http://www.smriders.net/Mobile_Learning/. These guys have been using phones on the elementary level for a while. However, I do think the phones are provided by the district.

      December 18, 2010 at 9:08 PM

  2. LOren


    I agree with you about the need to develop safety initiatives when using mobile technology in education.

    I think it is vital that students learn how to make positive change within their communities, whether it be the physical community they live in, or their cyber community of practice. As you state, many circles within education react in fear for the negative potential of mobile technology. With exposure to the proven benefits, perhaps more will be willing to jump in!

    Kudos on your published article, by the way!

    December 18, 2010 at 2:47 PM

  3. bluejfm


    Thanks for sharing the other links relating to this topic. Two or three years ago, I probably would have cringed at the thought of even bringing a cell phone to school. Today, we can no longer disregard the impact phones have as a potential learning device.

    What really stood out to me was your mention of the planning process and involving students and the community also. All too often, these essential voices are left out of the decision-making process.

    Congratulations on the article!

    December 18, 2010 at 4:06 PM

  4. Orit


    I applaud you and your school for allowing the use of mobile technology in school. I am from New York and according to Board of Education’s policy, no mobile devices are allowed in public school! Schools overlook all the creative aspects that you point out and only concentrate on the negatives.
    I teach in community college and I encourage my students to use any available technological tool to enhance their educational experience. One example is to download mobile applications that assist them in their web design classes.


    December 19, 2010 at 7:29 PM

  5. Erin

    Awesome! My students were so excited to use their cell phones with Voki to record for their Avatars. I think the issue is for educators to trust students to be using their cell phones for educational purposes and not texting.

    December 19, 2010 at 9:29 PM

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