There are devices and there are devices. Any attempt to itemise all of them would be out of date by the time this goes to print. A far better approach is to start with the what and why rather than the how.

Even that approach fails to take into account any new ideas which haven't yet been thought of. That's an obvious point, but one worth making I think, for the following reason. We need to try to be as open to new ideas and innovations as possible, and having a fixed list of suggestions, while useful, mitigates against that to an extent.

The answer is to think of 'mobility' in terms of an attitude rather than in terms of technology. Failure to do so not only results in potentially great ideas being missed, but in the bizarre phenomenon of class photos of kids siting in rows staring at their iPads.

As Graham Brown-Martin said at the Naace conference in March 2013, "What part of 'mobile' did they not understand?"

The whole point about mobile technology is that it enables you to work with the technology where you want or need to be. You don't have to do what we had to do in the past, ie do the best we can until we can get back to a computer or laptop.

So here are a few ideas about how handheld devices can be used.

  1. You're not confined to a building or a power source. I am writing this article, for example, in my garden, which is allowing me to enjoy the beautiful (and rare!) sunshine. This isn't a trivial issue: we all need vitamin D, for which we need sunlight -- so why not take advantage of it? There is no reason, or at least no TECHNICAL reason, for school work and health to be mutually exclusive.
  2. You can observe and record nature in a natural habitat. If you want the pupils to see minibeasts going about their business, you can have them use their devices to record photos and videos, which they can analyse more thoroughly back at school.
  3. A great way to explore the environment is through geocaching. As explained at http://www.geocaching.com/, you try to find hidden 'treasures' using GPS. Many devices are GPS-enabled these days. It's a fun way of discovering information (eg historical or geographical) because it's like going on a treasure hunt. Have a look at http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/new-geocaching-trail-education/ and http://www.ehow.co.uk/how_2038103_enjoy-geocaching-kids.html for examples and ideas.
  4. Interview people in the field. Well, not necessarily in a field as such, but in your local town centre. The old-fashioned way, which is still fine of course, is to ask passers-by some questions and record their answers on a survey sheet. That's useful for building up a data set you can manipulate and explore in a database or spreadsheet. However, a video or audio recording would be a great way of enriching the exercise. These days, even a mobile phone is good enough for recording perfectly acceptable video or audio.
  5. Record interviews for a living history project. Similar to the foregoing item, this involves visiting, say, an elderly person's day centre and asking the oldsters what the area was like when they were your age, or what it was like being a teenager during the war, and so on.
  6. Live blogging. If you take the kids on a school trip, they could provide a running commentary via a live blog. If that's a step too far, they can at least record notes on their handheld devices for working up into a blog post or article later.
  7. The kids can use dataloggers to record rainfall, or changes in temperature say. The data can then be transferred to a desktop computer if necessary and the data analysed.
  8. A more up-to-date version of that sort of thing is uploading data to the cloud and even using social networking to gather other people's views and opinions. You may wish, for obvious reasons, to do that only with older students. A great example of educational social networking in science is http://www.ispot.org.uk/. This enables you take a photo of, say, a flower, upload it to the web, and ask: "Does anyone know what this is called?" A great way of sharing and collaborating with, potentially, thousands of other people.

Hopefully, this article has given you a few ideas to mull over. The interesting thing for me is that many of them are not even new ideas. But light and inexpensive modern handheld devices, combined with low storage costs, means that they are so much easier to do these days.

What are you waiting for?

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