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The Mobile Internet Generation

The BBC New blog, dot. life, Rory Cellan-Jones has written a fascinating post investigating "how children used – and abused  - mobile phones and they were knowledgeable, articulate and very demanding of the technology.

Among the findings:

  • 4 out of 5 students had mobile devices with video, camera and music capabilities;
  • Students also said that the Internet, multimedia, music and Bluetooth were all features they expect to have on their mobile device;
  • Out of the 480 students who responded to the poll, only 3 didn't own a mobile phone.

I feel that this BBC story is a good representation of how tweens and teens are rapidly moving away from the PC-based Internet and rapidly adopting the mobile web. This trend will have huge implications throughout society and most especially in the education space.

Last summer, as part of my work on the Yahoo! Youth and Education Initiative, I conducted teacher workshops across the country. During the workshops I heard many teachers share both concern and misgivings about students using their mobile phones in the classroom.

Many of the teachers in our workshops where surprised to learn that you could, in fact, access the web via a mobile device. Other teachers shared stories of how students simply by-passed content blocked on school computers, instead opting to use their mobile phones to connect to the web and get the content they wanted on-demand.

The debate on whether students should or shouldn't have mobile phones in the classroom is becoming a moot point. The phones are already in the classroom, and as Cellen-Jones points out: 

"The children of the mobile internet generation are getting used to being connected – to their music, their videos, their social networking sites – wherever they go. And that means we are all going to have to think hard about how we rewrite the rules."

The use of mobile technologies is growing, especially among the younger generations, and represents the next frontier in learning. Increasingly we will continue to see academic and corporate organizations research invest, design and launch new mobile applications, many of which can be used in a learning context.

While educators and parents might be a bit nervous to embrace this trend, the reality is that Gen Y have already embraced the mobile web and now it's up to us to figure out how to use this technology in an educational setting to keep them interested and engaged in the learning process.

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