Mobile tools good in social context

In this blog post, I summarize learning Squire’s & Dickers’ article “Amplifications of learning: Use of mobile devices among youth” published in Convergence. Their work is a small qualitative study with ten teenagers in U.S., so the results might not be directly applicable in Europe or Nordic countries.

Why to focus on mobile phones? The researchers suggest that mobile devices allow more interesting stuff happening. They list, based on Klopfer’s and Squire’s (2009) article, that mobile media allows

  • Portability
  • Social interactivity
  • Context sensitivity
  • Connectivity
  • Individuality

They observed how the study participants used mobile devices for information seeking, entertainment, social networking and via applications, as a general purpose Swiss army knives. To illustrate, on average the study participants downloaded 23 apps during three weeks study period. Unluckily, there are not explicit information on the lifespan of an average application, but if I’ve understood correctly, most apps do not stick.

What the researchers found out that the device was used, but mostly in ways hard to connect with the formal learning environment where the students are evaluated. They discuss three impacts of the devices:

  1. impact to self, ownership of the device made the students feel empowered and feel bride of being in possession of a mighty information access device
  2. stronger feeling of connectedness thanks to social networking services, mobile devices and natural access to them. This in my view more highlights the importance of being social among the target population, maybe not so much the devices. However, also social norms regulating the use of the devices emerged in the study groups
  3. support for sharing and finding more about ones’ interests or trivia, thanks to ubiquitous access, and possibility to find information in social contexts too

The conclude that these three impacts lead to forth impact, learning. Especially the personal approach: having ones own access to information, was said to boost this impact. They highlight that it’s about social interaction, not only to access as such, as stated by the authors:

Although they destabilized relationships, they caused almost no friction, and instead, parents, teachers, and peers reported valuing how youth could participate more fully in the world.

How have you taken the social aspect in account while developing your services?

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