Bring your own device and mobile learning have a lot of potential but I think it comes with potential issues that may currently outweigh the benefits.
There are always unexpected applications of advanced technology. The application of the Microsoft Kinect for vascular surgery is certainly one. There are lot of great educational apps that can help children learn more and faster. That’s fantastic! Truly. But we need to consider all of the angles for bringing mobile devices into the class room and the office. They present two separate sets of issues.
Devices in the classroom can provide instant feedback to the individual, taking some of the pressure off of the teacher. They can also provide experiences and knowledge on demand, like taking a tour of the stars. But these devices are neither free nor cheap. I’ve heard a few stories recently (Waiting for Superman) about how money gets spent in schools and it’s not always pretty. In general, rich kids are always going to have opportunities. Whether it’s from the taxes paid in their counties that fund the schools for their parents provide the opportunities directly. It’s the economically troubled areas that won’t get tablet. Why would they? There are many more valuable things that can be purchased in their place.
Let’s look at the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ for a second. When school start adopting these policies what about the kids that don’t have tablets to bring into school? Do they share? Does the school provide a few for the kids without? If that’s the case, does this cause any sort of social anxiety? Are the class tablet used by the ‘poor kids’? Kids can be mean an this scenario encourages children to potentially resent parents who cannot afford tablet or decide to not take part in the multi-screen lifestyle.
I saw a TED talk (I can’t find it now…) about a teacher who used simple things like rubber bands and plastic straws to teach science in a poor school in rural India. This is hands on stuff. You can touch it and experience it. Making kids experience the world through a screen may cause them to limit their scope of world, and then why would they bother engaging and exploring the world immediately around them? And I don’t want to sound like an alarmist but, in theory, if the lights go out one day, don’t you want kids to be well rounded and unafraid of a three dimensional world?
On the business side of things, I have less philosophical issues, but I think the logistics of it pose a lot of challenges. I think the idea of having a ‘New Hire’ app or the like is great, seriously. But it poses security challenges and I have no scope on the cost them. All apps need to access certain data on your device and there would have to be very strict control over whether or not it would have access to your person information. There would have to be consideration on what access the employee would have access to when off of the work network, and then this might open the network up to some sort of ‘cyber-attack’, if I can use a phrase from 1994.
As far as mobile learning in the workplace goes, I would want all of my employees to have the same opportunities to be trained. And since not all employees have mobile devices I would want all essential learning available on accessible platforms so I wouldn’t have to spend money on developing mobile learning content.
I know that we would be eating raw meat in a cave if it weren’t for early adapters but at this point I would like to see the idea a little more proven and thought out before we use it across the board. Until then, I’ll use my phone to check twitter from my desk.