Pocket education

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Pocket Education: A Vision of the future here and now

Written by Alan Slater, Gosford Hill School, Kidlington, and University of Oxford, England

Related terms

mobile learning, engagement, freedom, flexibility, focus.


The idea of this text is to indicate a vision of the future where pocket PCs become a norm in education.

Pocket PCs are relatively small, portable, ready to go, easy to charge, easy to store, have a longer battery life than most laptops, are easy to share, entertaining, excellent information load carriers, open exciting electronic doors, are expandable, relatively cheap to buy and cheap to run (Slater 2005; Slater & Lindsay 2005).

Earlier problems with memory, connectivity, keyboards, and screen size are overcome by being able to use GB memory cards, tap into online memory allocation, make multilink connections, use spray on keyboards and have facilities such as spray on screens. Spray on screens will prove very useful for demonstrating to a larger audience what you have on your pocket PC (Lockitt, 2005; Naismith et al, 2004).

Digital radio is moving into Pocket PC territory, as is high definition TV, DVD camera format. Voice recognition and translation capability already exists. Solar power, piso-electric and wind up pocket PCs will exist (Lockitt, 2005).

These then are some of the most important building blocks for the future of education (Gladwell 2000; Project Ramble 2005; Slater and Lindsay 2005).

Students, as we will remain for life, will have a rich and more rewarding experience in learning.

Imagine just one example …

Jo’s example

Jo has decided to follow a menu driven program for maths. She places her finger on a grid on the screen of her pocket PC. She is in. A short text message appears welcoming Jo to the program. It then outlines her diary working backwards from her submission date. On the next screen she finds out exactly what she has to do, what time is available, what resources are available, what networks she can connect to, and what help systems are in place. She has the benefit of everything being organised for her. Why? Because she has decided to select that option in this piece of maths work. In other subjects she chooses other ways of engagement.

Her progress is recorded in terms of time on task, time spent linked up to various resources, places and questions she asked of the help facility, her proactivity in setting up electronic meetings with peers, her time in virtual networks. Before she submits her final answers she gets involved in a game which incorporates all the maths that was required and is being played in a small networked community across the world. She is also measured on her working out and her answers submitted to the maths. But she did not need to be measured in any of these senses at all. She wanted to be measured in these ways so she could provide evidence for an accreditation that she wants.

The Pocket PC provides Jo with instant responses to her questions and queries and it provide instant and informed confirmation as to the quality of her answers. In terms of her skills, she has learnt how to critically and constructively appraise the evidence on the internet, how to spot signs of irrelevance and illogic in language, how to communicate with people well beyond her immediate physical community (of different language and culture) and how to present her case subject to exemplars recalled from previous exercises.

Where is Jo? She could be anywhere. She meets up with other learners for her monthly jamboree to once again make electric what has been electronic: i.e. to socially interact, share skills, excitement, experiences, have fun and think about the next topic she wants to cover (Gladwell, 2000; Slater and Lindsay, 2005).


(snowball these i.e. look at the references in the articles as well)

Gladwell M (2000) The Tipping Point Abacus, London.

Lockitt B (2005) Mobile Learning, www.3t.co.uk (Viewed 08-July-05)

Naismith L, Lonsdale P, Vavoula G, Sharples M. (2004) Literature review in mobile technologies and learning, NESTA FutreLabs.

Slater A. (2005) Randomised controlled trials of pocket PCs in education, ICTMT7 proceedings from the conference, University of Bristol, forthcoming.

Slater, A Lindsay K. (2005) 101 things to do with your pocket PC”, NAACE Computer Education forthcoming.

Useful links

The goknow website
Provides insight into case study where students have 1-1 with computers in teaching and learning.
http://www.goknow.com/GettingStarted/LearningImpact.php (Viewed 08-July-05)

Disenfranchised, disillusioned and at risk. Gives insight into a program helping some 16-24 year olds become successful along basic educational parameters.
http://www.m-learning.org (Viewed 08-July-05)

Gives insight into a European lead worldwide research and development project looking at learning.
http://www.mobilearn.org (Viewed 08-July-05)

Project Ramble is investigating how students use handheld devices to reflect on their learning experiences, provide feedback on lectures, tutorials, practicals and student life.
http://ramble.oucs.ox.ac.uk (Viewed 08-July-05)

Handheld Learning
An online community of academics, educators and developers with an interest in sharing knowledge, experience and ideas concerning the use of handheld and mobile technologies in learning. Lots of resources, events, free software and additional links available.

Kenya pilots Pocket PC education
Find out about how the Eduvision pilot project in Kenya is using wireless enabled handheld computers (e-slates) to enhance learning in schools.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/click_online/4727617.stm (Viewed 23-August-05)