The news that Random House has entered into a licensing agreement with VOCEL to allow cell phone access to foreign-language study programs and video game strategy guides suggests some intriguing possibilities for the future use of cell phones as education delivery channels. Although current cell phones have some obvious limitations when it comes to delivering a full-range of educational content, there are certain text-based educational efforts that can be delivered effectively even now with future cell phone development promising even more possibilities. Current cell phones, for example, allow foreign language instruction to include both text components and audio components to reinforce pronunciation.
As cell phones become the most mobile and ubiquitous vehicle for the delivery of information, their potential as educational tools will become even greater. VOCEL is already working with Princeton Review to deliver SAT study materials via cell phones. In the UK, Edutext is offering a service to deliver a challenging vocabulary word, complete with a definition and an example, to school children whose parents sign up for the service. Other Edutext applications allow school administrators to use cell phone text messaging to communicate with parents and students regarding attendance, school closings, and reminders of events or trip permission forms. Exam tips for students can also be sent using the service.
These developments raise some intriguing questions.
If cell phones continue to develop as delivery channels for educational content, what organizations or individuals will play a role in determining the content of those channels? Will it be global corporations, state and national agencies, local schools, individual teachers, student peers, or all of the aforementioned?
How will the economics of this channel influence the distribution of educational resources? Will efforts be made to avoid introducing new forms of inequity into the educational sector, or will historic patterns of privilege and disadvantage be replicated once again?
When most people have access to a continuous and reliable channel for the delivery of information and educational content, how might the school curriculum change to reflect the reduction of some knowledge needs and the rise of others?