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Future of mobile technology

There is almost 6 billion devices classified as mobile[1]. Their number exceeds the number of television sets four times[2]. At the same time, it is still a rapidly growing branch of electrical equipment market, especially at a time of growing sales of smartphones and tablets, which expand the market for mobile learning. What is the future of mobile learning in the context of the rapidly changing reality of the world of electronics? UNESCO is trying to answer this question in a publication entitled “The future of mobile learning – implications for policy makers and planners” released this year. Which is a part of the UNESCO Working Paper Series on Mobile Learning.

The authors of the study predict that in the coming 15 years there will be the next technological leap which will open new opportunities for education. The optimal situation is when technology and education will jointly develop and learners should not only adapt to changing realities but also be innovative and influence the process itself.

The paper lists 6 basic changes that will most likely happen over the next 15 years and will have an impact on materials created for m-learning.

  1. Technological innovations will be more widely available, and will have greater possibilities than contemporary solutions. The authors argue that it is impossible to accurately predict the changes in this area, but there is high probability for the continuation of current trends i.e. increase of usability, higher network connectivity, storage capacity and reduction of the costs of devices, which will result in greater accessibility for potential students.
  2. Future devices will be able to collect, process and analyze massive amounts of data. The authors cite the IBM data, where 90% of current data that is collected in the world has been generated over the past two years. A new term for naming large data sets that aggregate information flowing from all over the world. The new term "big data" is getting popular in the technology media. What will be relevant for mobile learning? In the teaching process, you can use data from multiple sources, such as the students ' profiles, their results, history of science, GPS coordinates, time spent on specific tasks and data produced by the learners, such as text, images, video or sound. In the future, devices will be collecting even larger amounts of data more efficiently, they will process it more efficiently and be able to search for complex patterns. It will allow for more accurate analysis of the teaching process and will introduce new individual customization of content.
  3. There will be new sources of information. Currently mobile devices have microphones, cameras, GPS receivers, sensors of motion, position and acceleration. Even today they are used to perform unusual tasks, such as monitoring the phases of sleep. Following this trend, the future devices will be equipped with more and more complex systems of sensors. Linked with the history of the collected information it will only strengthen the bond between the man and machine by more accurate adaptation to user’s needs. This will open the way for context teaching that will be based on the current readings of the sensors and their relations with the archived personal information.
  4. Language barriers will be a thing of the past. The possibility of speech recognition programs, such as Siri or Google Voice will allow communication with devices using speech in the language of the particular user. Applications will be able to translate texts between languages while retaining their meaning within the context. This will allow the students to use the materials provided in the languages they are not familiar with.
  5. Screens built into devices will no longer restrict their users. Currently they are quite small, which affects the comfort of receiving content. This year, Samsung has unveiled a screen that you can roll down to a tube. Initiatives such as Google Glass make the size of displayed images independent from the size of the device. The screens will have higher resolution, better image quality, and the ability to display the image in 3D. The use of 3d technology and larger workspaces will provide means for more comfortable transmission of multimedia content.
  6. Energy efficiency and power supplies will be improved. There is nothing more annoying than smartphone that has ran out of juice during the long journey. Long charging times of your phone or tablet also have a negative effect on comfort of use. It’s hard to call them mobile when they are hooked up to the mains anyway. The authors of the paper claim that in the future, the batteries will become bigger, smaller and cheaper, allowing you to work or learn longer. Scientists of the University of Illinois are working on lithium ion battery that can be loaded in two minutes. Solar panels will help in diversification of power sources, becoming more efficient and smaller. There is also hope in research on alternative power sources, such as the use of wind, kinetic devices, or even heartbeat of a user. Along with the improvement of parameters of power supply comes the increased access to mobile teaching technology in regions with poorly developed infrastructure.

At the end of the study, the authors indicate that it is important to diversify the methods of knowledge transfer, so the rapid development of technology does not push learners from poor and less developed regions to the fringe of educated society.

Based on “The future of mobile learning – implications for policy makers and planners”, UNESCO 2013



[1] Data comes from “The future of mobile learning – implications for policy makers and planners”, UNESCO 2013

[2] According to the data available on the website: it is estimated that, at present, there is about 1.5 billion television sets in the world.