I have been reading through a number of articles on the Educational Technology Debate (ETD) website. The articles have been focusing on a debate over which form of ICT technology will provide the best and most cost-effective impact on the education of children in underdeveloped or developing countries. Some articles argue in favour of computers while others argue in favour of mobile phones.
The key assumption in this entire debate is the acceptance that ICT helps students learn and that a one-to-one ratio of technology per child is the ideal. As the debate revolves around educating children in under-priviledged countries, an obvious focus is on getting the biggest bang for one’s buck. However, as one-to-one is hardly reflective of classrooms in developed countries either, this debate seems to me to be somewhat applicable to all classrooms around the world.
The articles that argue in favour of computers seem to focus on the fact that even low end computers have computational and media capabilities that far surpass mobile phones, especially the older and limited capability models that are found in underdeveloped countries. Those that argue in favour of using mobile phones argue that the cost of a mobile phone, even when connectivity costs are factored in, are cheap enough that many individuals can afford them without assistance. Even basic phones have very useful communication capabilities as well as basic productivity tools. As mobile phones are more affordable, they can be placed in the hands of more students. One article mentions Moore’s Law – while this is applicable to all ICT, I feel that mobile phones have much more room to grow than computers so proper focus now can lead to greater dividends later.
Personally, I side with those that argue in favour of mobile phones. In the developed world, many smart phones are already mini-computers capable of competing with netbooks. As technology continues it’s torrent pace forward, mobile phones will essentially become pocket computers with the added ability to make simple phone calls. In the developing world, it will likely take more time before smart phones become part of the landscape but again, mobile phones are becoming more like computers not the other way around. In addition, the trend in computing has always moved from larger and static to smaller and mobile. First it was the massive mainframe computer, then the personal computer, then the laptop and now the netbook/mobile phone. Does it make sense to hang on to a technology that is on the outgoing end of the technology curve?
Check out some of these thought-provoking articles and share your opinions on these exciting developments. We are truly in the midst of a social revolution.