In the article, "mLearning Devices Performance To Go" Clark outlines a list of prototypical mobile devices: cell phones, mp3 players, GPS, PDAs, game consoles and laptops. My first and current smartphone is an iPhone 4 a device which incorporates all of the above technologies, in addition to camera and video features. Reflecting on how I use my iPhone, there is no question that I use it for all of the above functions, however it is more often than not my 2nd or 3rd choice and for many functions, I will mostly use it when I don’t have access to my laptop or tablet. As a phone and messaging device it is invaluable, to the extent that my wife and I decided two years ago to do away with our land-line. My only concern with mobile device as a phone, is that perhaps it can intrusive or distracting in my day to day life. The ding, or vibrating buzz of an incoming text or call threatens to lure me away from whatever activity I may be engaged in. A face to face conversation with someone, teaching (I usually turn my phone off during class now), driving, a mountain bike ride. There is nothing more annoying than being out for a great trail ride in the majestic outdoors, only to have your riding partner stop to answer a text or return a call. Sometimes I wonder if the freedom allowed by mobile devices to is really actually liberating.
As a music player, my iPhone is adequate, although typically too cumbersome for jogging or working out, so typically for exercise I opt for a smaller device which has the singular purpose of playing music and cleverly clips on to my clothing in an unobtrusive fashion as to not interrupt with movement. Again while my phone does and can play music, for my preferences it is not always my first choice for music listening, furthermore as storage is limited, a secondary or cloud based source is required to act as my music library.
As a GPS, my iPhone is excellent. I use this function to navigate to driving locations, either locally or abroad. I must admit though, a co-pilot is definitely preferable than trying to follow a GPS map with your iPhone on your lap. I also use the GPS capabilities of my iPhone to track my mountain bike rides and there is a great app/service called Strava that allows you to track and share your workouts within an online community. Ride times are tracked and awards are listed to the fastest riders of recorded segments. In some areas like Whistler or Squamish, GPS enabled trail maps are available and provide a wonderful tool for exploring new trail systems. The drawback to this is that once you explore further into the back-country, cell reception is either unreliable or intermittent. The GPS capability of my iPhone has not only proven handy, but in the case of Strava has introduced me to a whole new subculture of cycling competition.
Never having owned a PDA, before the purchase of my iPhone, the organizational features provided by my smartphone are greatly appreciated and have made me more efficient and definitely less scattered. The calendar feature on my phone helps me organize my entire week, and is an invaluable tool that allows me to juggle the schedules of my work, the activities of my two children, my own activities, and assignments due for my course work. As more and more services are relying on online access, passwords and usernames threaten to inundate are working memories and organizing them for me requires a device and a system. My smartphone is a great tool for recording random information, or storing contact information, both for professional and personal reasons.
As a game console my iPhone provides a fantastic distraction for painful waits such as ferry line-ups, doctor or dentist waiting rooms, passport applications, or waiting for your wife to finish putting her make-up on. Before iPhone games my frustration and tolerance for painful waits would slowly build and boil, threatening to spill over. Now games like Candy Crush act as a soothing time waster, more effective than bubble wrap at squashing my frustration and soothing impatience.
My laptop a 6 year old trusty MacBook still remains my favorite interface for writing, surfing the internet, and viewing media. While my iPhone capable performs these task, I am most comfortable producing work using my laptop. What I find interesting though is that this is not a universal claim and some of my students are more comfortable writing on their phones, then using a desktop computer. Last year I challenged a student to a writing race, and she was able to type a 500 word document faster on her phone than I could on a full size keyboard. While this may be an indictment of my typing skills, it also opened my eyes to the potential capability of smartphones in learning and also to the importance of BYOD. The point for me wasn’t that smartphones were better at producing written work than desktops, but that students possess unique learning styles and may have unique preferences to the devices they choose to use. Lately I have been much more sensitive to allowing and promoting this diversity and I see a real positive in allowing students to use the devices they are most comfortable with, which is often their own.
After defiantly resisting, three years ago, I finally gave in and purchased my first cellphone. An iPhone 4, not knowing the profound effect it would have on so many aspects of my life: productivity, communication, organization, entertainment, stress reduction. As Clark Quinn writes:
Mobile devices in themselves make us more effective, even before we
start thinking about our learning opportunities. Our brains are great pattern
matchers, but they’re not good at remembering arbitrary details. These devices
are the reverse, they can’t do original pattern-matching but they’re great at storing
whatever they’re told. Consequently, a person equipped with these devices is really
smarter than a person who isn’t supported in their tasks.” (Quinn, p.5)
Today I feel more connected, more organized, more knowledgeable, more cultured, less prone to impatient outburst and as long as I have at least one bar of reception I’ll always know where I am.
Quinn, C. (2008). mLearning Devices: Performance to Go. Retrieved from Quinnovation:http://www.quinnovation.com/MobileDevices.pdf
Image: Cartoons About Mobile Phones by Randy Glasbergen