Development Opportunities = Teachers + Mobile Tech

ClassroomThe Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) rolled into Orlando last week with educators and administrators from all over the United States being treated to demonstrations of smart whiteboards, tons of educational software and a variety of wireless, training and business products. More than a hundred seminars and workshops offered attendees insight on everything from tapping the power of social media in the classroom to computer forensics and data recovery.

The most interesting part of the conference was the proliferation of mobile technology. Apple iPads and iPhones dominated the scene. A typical lecture with 50 attendees might have a dozen or more people using tablets or smart phones. Laptops were far less common.

Show organizer Rick Oppenheim said around 8,000 attendees and 500 vendors, were at the show. In 2010, 350 vendors participated.

From my point of view, it was encouraging to see how the conference embraced mobile. About one third of the ticketed seminars covered some aspect of mobile tech. The program guide itself included QR codes on vendor advertisements and mobile friendly Web pages. FETC even had an Android app built to cover the sessions, present ads and offer information about the conference.

I attended one talk by Elliot Soloway and Cathleen Norris titled Mobile Tech Enable Student-Centric Learning. One of their case studies had students using smart phones as their core technology. Norris said that through extensive use of the device’s camera, GPS, and Web capabilities, students were able to explore topics in more depth than they ever could with pen and paper. (Not really a surprise, but still…)

Norris said smartphones let the students:

  • Have direct and immediate access to information, events, locations and data
  • Learn topics in context
  • Discuss, collaborate and work as a team
  • Have all-the-time, everywhere learning
  • Realize that mobile devices were not just computers, but integrated learning tools

Soloway and Norris were also enthusiastic about the learning opportunities with augmented reality using Layar on tablets and smartphones, and how Samsung’s new bendable screens could foster new mobile device interfaces. Two other points they made: Teachers are overwhelmed with content, and some school districts are moving toward building their own curricula around mobile devices.

I interpreted this all to mean that there are huge opportunities for developers and designers to sort and organize content in meaningful ways, especially gearing it toward mobile consumption. On a larger scale, educators will enlist developers and technology specialists to help implement courses and projects that embody “bring your own device” and “bring your own technology” in ever-increasing ways.

The takeaway was clear: Mobile technology–particularly smartphones, tablets and specialized devices–will dominate education in coming years.

As I’ve said before, mobile development is a hot topic. Attend just about any tech conference and you’ll see what I mean.