The use of mobile phones among children 8 to 18 continues to rise. Over the last five years, the number of youth who own their own cell phone has jumped from 33 percent to 66 percent. The dramatic rise of young people using mobile devices brings both challenges and possibilities. Today I want to highlight the positive possibilities of empowering youth with mobile devices. Other posts will consider education apps as well as how parents can help protect their children who are using smartphones, iPads, iPods and the like.
In the past, many schools banned mobile devices, and considered them a distraction from the learning experience. Now more and more schools are revisiting their mobile devices policies and considering ways that devices can be incorporated into the learning process. The reality is that over 75 percent of children from 12 to 17 now carry a cell phone (and many carry smartphones). We live in a wired world. When young people graduate from high school, using technology will most likely play a key role in their college as well as their careers. Recognizing the lifelong influence of technology, some schools have decided to welcome smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices into the classroom.
The classroom setting provides an opportunity for students to learn about social media and mobile devices “in a supervised environment that emphasizes the development of attitudes and skills that will help keep them safe outside of school.” Many schools like Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati are asking how can mobile phones play an active role in learning. “I think it’s a discussion that is taking place in almost every school district,” says Todd Yohey, the superintendent of Ohio’s 8,100-student Oak Hills school district, which includes Oak Hills High.
Some schools have implemented a policy known as BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology). At New Canaan Public Schools, high schools students bring their smartphones and tablets for use in research, homework assignments and class projects. The library also provides 7 iPads to be shared among the students. By embracing technology, schools are teaching students how to learn using mobile devices as well as how to be responsible and safe online.
At a recent Riverside Chamber of Commerce students demonstrated how technology is a part of learning. Third-grader Kendall Lally talked about how she uses a comic book writing app on her iPod in learning to write. Ninth-grader Adnrew Savage demonstrated learning algebra on an iPad. Riverside Unified School District Superintendent Rick Miller said that “Fun apps, such as the one to teach writing through comic books, not only engage students’ interest, they extend academic learning beyond any homework assigned”.
 Victoria J. Rideout, M.A., Ulla G. Foehr, Ph.D., and Donald F. Roberts, Ph.D.. “GENERATION M2 – Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, January 2010 <http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/8010.pdf>
 Amanda Lenhart, Rich Ling, Scott Campbell, and Kristen Purcell. “Teens and Mobile Phones.” Pew Research Center, April 20, 2010 <http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Teens-and-Mobile-Phones.aspx>
 “Making Progress: Rethinking State and School District Policies Concerning Mobile Technologies and Social Media.” Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) <http://www.cosn.org/Default.aspx?TabId=12543>
 Ian Quillen. “Schools Open Doors to Students’ Mobile Devices.” Education Week, October 2010
 Dayna Straehley. “Students show how technology boosts learning.” The Press Enterprise, May 10, 2012 <http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/riverside/riverside-headlines-index/20120510-riverside-students-show-how-technology-boosts-learning.ece>
In the last 30 days, it’s likely that you’ve used your smartphone to plan a meeting, solve a problem, settle an argument, check a score, decide where to eat, find out the traffic report, or get emergency help. According to Pew Research, 86% of smartphone users can be considered “just in time” cell users because they rely on the smartphone to solve problems or get answers immediate answers. “Just-in-time Information through Mobile Connections” details this tendency among smartphone users.
As more and more people have adopted smartphone use, we’re fast becoming a culture of “real time information seekers and problem solvers.” Pew Research conducted a survey “between March 15 and April 3, 2012 among 2,254 adults age 18 and older and it found that 88% of adults are cell phone owners and that 46% are smartphone owners.” Their research indicated that 70% of all cell phone users and 86% of smartphone users had accessed their wireless devices within the last 30 days for time critical information.
While 88% of young people between 18-29 use their phones for “just in time” information (JIT users), it is interesting to discover that 57% of adults between 50-64 are also JIT users and 46% of adults over 64 are JIT users. Youth have been early adopters of smartphone technology, but this survey indicates that more and more older adults use their cell phones for much more than just calling friends and family. We are fast becoming a society of people used to instant information access.
Here are the highlights of how we are using cell phones:
- 41% of cell phone owners used their phone in the previous 30 days to coordinate a meeting or get-together.
- 35% used their phone to solve an unexpected problem they or someone else had encountered in the previous 30 days.
- 30% used their phone in the previous 30 days to decide whether to visit a business, such as a restaurant
- 27% used their phone in the previous 30 days to get information to help settle an argument they were having.
- 23% used their phone in the previous 30 days to look up a score of a sporting event.
- 20% used their phone in the previous 30 days for up-to-the-minute traffic or public transit information to find the fastest way to get somewhere.
- 19% used their phone to get help in an emergency situation.
As I read the report, I started thinking about my own smartphone use. What time-critical activities do I regularly engage in?
- Weather reports
- Coordinating meetings and lunch appointments
- Price checking
- Looking up movie showtimes
- Locating businesses
- Defining words
- Researching information that someone is talking to me about
Using a cell phone as a “just in time” device has become so second nature for most of us, I doubt we hardly think about how often we use the phone for referencing information needed in the moment. This raises the question, “How are you using your smartphone or cell phone?” What types of just in time information are you looking up on a regular basis?
 Lee Rainie and Susannah Fox. “Just-in-time Information through Mobile Connections.” Pew Research, May 7, 2012