Mobile Devices: Paradigm Shift or Just Another Content Delivery Mechanism?

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Mobile Devices: Paradigm Shift or Just Another Content Delivery Mechanism?

Category:EDUCAUSE,Higher Education,Information Security,Infosec Communicator,Internet Safety,mobile device,Privacy,Social Networking Tags : 

I’m curious about whether you think the integration of mobile devices into curricula is a “game changer/paradigm shift” or whether you regard it as just another content delivery mechanism. As a technical communicator, I’ve looked at the mobile device primarily as an additional delivery vehicle; a channel that can be used to reach others. As an educator, I’m thinking of the possibilities of a course structured around mobile devices as the main education platform. As an information security practitioner, I’m wary of the privacy risks and potential cyberstalking.

Will mobile devices be a boon or a bane? Will they cause a profound change in learning? Are they just a stepping stone to the next big thing?

I’m not sure. Let’s look at a few recent game changers:

  • Personal computing has been and will continue to become ubiquitous. We have access to immense amounts of information. That has changed how we research practical information. Do any of you use printed maps? What about calling 411 for someone’s phone number?
  • The growth of E-readers may eventually sound the death knell of traditional print. Newspapers are scrambling to adapt to a digital audience as they find print circulation shrinking.
  • The transatlantic cable has been described as the Victorian Internet in the way it revolutionized communication.
  • The telephone and the elevator made modern skyscrapers possible.

What about the smartphone?

  • Access to banking is now available through smartphone apps and you either can or will be able to make payments directly from your mobile device. You can also store shopping card info and coupons.
  • Mobile devices have greatly increased the access to social networking.
  • QR codes connect mobile devices to Internet-based information

Do you agree that these are game changers? Are there mobile apps that you do consider to be game changers?

Addressing the educators in my audience, how do you see integrating mobile devices into your courses? Will you redesign your course to take advantage of their capabilities? Are they just “one more thing” to consider in your content delivery? Will you incorporate social networking with both a mobile and traditional computer interface?

I’m interested in your thoughts. I’m not an expert in this area, but I’m trying to adapt to the possibilities.

Please leave a comment so we can have a discussion! Some of you have contacted me individually. Please post here so we can learn from each other.

By the way, If we’re really lucky, maybe mobile learning will be the death of PowerPoint!

Ben Woelk
Co-chair, Awareness and Training Working Group
EDUCAUSE/Internet2 Higher Education Information Security Council

Policy and Awareness Analyst
Rochester Institute of Technology
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This blog entry is cross-posted at


Laura Parker

May 3, 2011at 10:01 am

Ben –
Education has, and always will be, about great teachers! I’m excited about the potential new technology has to allow teachers to inspire young people’s learning. I see you’re a hater of PowerPoint but, I like the idea that a teacher could seamlessly slip customized material into a textbook that is of particular interest in a region, or to an educator or specific class. However, without the commitment from a particular educator, new technology provides just another way for a teacher to sit back and let the technology do their job. Textbooks can be more easliy updated and revised but that creates one of the hurdles to be overcome that is similar to what we’ve seen in the newspaper industry . . . how do textbook publishers stay profitable in digital format? I believe that in itself will stall the widespread adoption of more flexible technology.

    Ben Woelk

    May 3, 2011at 2:29 pm

    Hi Laurie!
    Many of the textbook publishers now have digital editions that they “sell” for a limited period of time (~one year) to students for about 50% of the cover price. The book I use for my Effective Technical Communication class includes a website with interactive exercises, quizzes, instructor notes, and the like. We’re also seeing a number of instructors put together customized textbooks (like you mentioned above.)

    I had the opportunity to teach cyber safety to a group of K-12 teachers and resource personnel from upstate New York. Many of them are still struggling to keep up with the changes in technology, much less incorporate mobile devices into their curriculum.

    I’m not so much a hater of PowerPoint. I just don’t like over-reliance on it.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

Tony Chung

April 27, 2011at 12:38 am

Ben, your question is hardly fair. New content delivery mechanisms always have the potential to become game changers.

Personally, I consider smart phone technology to be the hardware equivalent of instant messaging software, “with additional benefits”. Remember back in the day when ICQ was all the rage? (I still remember my wife’s and my 7-digit ID numbers.) The ability to converse with people over the Internet in real time added to the expectation level that led us to become a microwave society.

Now we have computer-based telephony to add voice and video calling to the original concept of instant messaging. The smart phone adds to this a sense of location awareness, so in addition to being able to communicate in real-time almost anywhere, you can find out additional information in your general vicinity.

Multimedia rich devices like the Apple iPad or the BlackBerry PlayBook will kill one-trick-ponies like the Kindle, Kobo, and Nook. Just look at the iPad app for Bloomberg Business Week: In addition to reading the articles, you now have up-to-the-minute access to statistics, stock listings, biographies, etc….

I’d be interested in contract opportunities to develop new ways to harness rich media into mobile devices. Come find me at the STC Summit 2011 in Sacramento and we can talk about this further.

    Ben Woelk

    April 27, 2011at 4:35 pm

    Hi Tony,
    I never said the question was fair. I posed it that way to try to engender some discussion! (You’re the first one to respond.)

    Bear in mind that this blog entry is framed in the context of a larger discussion occurring in the EDUCAUSE Mobile Sprint. One struggle as an educator is trying to figure out how to take advantage of the capabilities and whether they demand new types of instruction.

    Look forward to seeing you at Summit.

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