The increasing role of mobile browsing in education

Posted by John Papa on Fri, Nov 01, 2013 @ 11:05 AM

In increasing numbers, students and educators alike are embracing tablets and eBook readers in both their personal and professional lives1.  However, is the increasing role of mobile browsing in education a good thing?  Are instructors able to use it to maximize the classroom experience for their students?  Are students able to be more productive with these devices?


While there a few important considerations including cost, security, and the need for a robust wireless infrastructure and a strong professional development program2, most higher education institutions believe that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.  The expanding role of mobile browsing in education presents the following advantages:

  • Wealth of educational resources. As mobile use becomes more prevalent, educational publishers are moving toward more and more digital content.  Typically, it is more cost effective for school districts and educational institutions such as dental schools to purchase digital content instead of textbooks.  The initial investment is more modest, and publishers can provide edition upgrades for a fraction of the cost of new textbooks.  Publishers are offering everything from electronic textbooks to online videos to multimedia-rich applications.3
  • Collaboration and interaction opportunities. Professors, including those in dental school, can connect their mobile devices directly to projector screens, allowing them to share lecture presentations, video, website content, and additional media (i.e., clinical photos, diagrams) seamlessly during classroom instruction. They can also administer exams and conduct instant polling and then use the results to customize instruction to more readily respond to students’ learning needs.  In turn, students can use mobile devices to access resources via electronic textbooks and take notes using a variety of tools and apps.
  • Mobile devices provide quick, direct access. Tablets and eBook readers—smartphones too—seldom provide the robust computing power that laptops do.  However, many credible sources, such as THE NEXTDDS, have already embraced mobile technology; providing access to a wide range of credible, scientifically sound information comparable to what is available on a desktop computer, complete with all the advantages of mobile browsing. As mobile technology processing speeds, wifi, and data transfer rates continue to improve each year4, mobile sites and apps will continue to become more responsive, fast, and accessible to ultimately match up with the level of convenience that they already offer.
  • Visual element of touchscreen devices. Touchscreens enable dental students and faculty to use their fingers to manipulate images and applications.  As opposed to simple viewing of two-dimensional images, users can interact with three-dimensional images, such as moving them and zooming in on them. Not only do students stay engaged but they're able to visualize, comprehend, and retain complex abstract concepts in a way that would not be possible otherwise.5
  • Time-saving tools. There is a growing variety of applications that students can use to maximize their work time for both individual and group projects.  We have had several students tell us that looking up drug effects and drug interactions was one of the most time consuming and difficult aspect of clinics. With mobile technology, and new dental and medical apps, this hassle is all but completely eliminated.6
  • Efficiency. Electronic textbooks and additional digital classroom content saves students money as well as bulk.  Instead of purchasing and hauling heavy textbooks, students can keep the majority of their classroom resources on their mobile devices. As is the case with many mobile sites, eTextbooks, and apps, students visiting THE NEXTDDS on their mobile device are afforded a convenient “Search” feature to easily find any piece of content they may need at the click of a button. This feature saves the time and tedium associated with flipping through pages in a book, searching for the exact paragraph one needs.

So, how are you using mobile devices in your education? We’d love to hear from you.


Tags: education, iphone, mobile, android, internet, phone, cell phone

Mobile Internet Consumption and its Implications on Education

Posted by John Papa on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 @ 11:14 AM

How do you as a dental student surf the web? According to a recent PEW research study, if you are like most Americans you browse the web from your mobile phone.1 The PEW Research Center published a study last week that showed 63% of cell phone owners (which account for 91% of all American citizens) use their phones to access the internet, with 34% of respondents saying that they primarily use their phones—not a desktop or laptop computer—to access the web.

internet use in the US v2

These numbers are significant because this marks the first year that more than half of the total American population have used their phones to access the internet, and that more than half of the adult population inAmerica(56%) now owns a smartphone capable of accessing the internet.

These numbers have risen meteorically in just four short years, as reflected in the referenced study. Just 5 years ago, in April of 2009, a similar study found that just 31% of cell owners used their phones to go online. In fact, just one year ago, in April of 2012, PEW found that only 55% of cell phone users used their phones to access the internet; this figure increased by 8% in 2013. The fact that this number has literally doubled in just five years is a clear indication of the consumer trend towards mobile technology.

There is no question that having direct, 24/7 access to the internet as a student is beneficial to learning, and it is probable that these numbers are even higher among students. In support of this claim, one can point to the demographics figures cited in the PEW study. Unsurprisingly, the number of individuals accessing the web using their phones decreased with age.

Who Accesses the Web on Their Phones?

Young adults (ages 18-29):     85%

Adults (ages 30-49):               73%

Older Adults (ages 50-64):     51%

Seniors (age 65+):                   22%

Since a majority of dental students fall into the “Young Adult” age range, it is safe to assume that most of you have, at one point, used your smartphone to access the internet, look up and answer or definition during a class, or check for treatment options during clinic. In this way, mobile technology has changed the face of learning forever, and its use among students will (presumably) only continue to increase in the future.

The number of cell internet users who stated that they primarily access the internet on their phone (rather than a traditional computer) has also risen steadily, though much less dramatically, over the past two years. The first time that PEW included the question; “Overall, when you use the internet, do you do that mostly using your cell phone or mostly using some other device like a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer”, in their survey was in 2011. At that time, the percentage of people answering “Mostly Cell Phone” was 27%; a number which increased to 31% in 2012, and again to 34% in 2013. The results also suggest that socioeconomic status plays an influential role in whether or not an individual primarily accesses the internet from his/her phone, as the less affluent may also be less likely to own a desktop/laptop computer.

What do these numbers mean for the future of computing, internet consumption, and education in theUnited States? The data from these studies suggests that the number of cell phone owners will continue to rise steadily in the foreseeable future. Concurrently, there is reason to believe that the number of cell phone owners who access the internet via their phones will also continue to increase. There was nothing in this study correlating the sales of desktop/laptop computers to cell phone usage, but presumably as the number of people who access the internet exclusively on their smart phones continues to rise, desktop/laptop sales will begin to decline. Who knows, in ten years it is conceivable that the desktop computer could go the way of the cassette player, VCR, and landline phone! As for dental students in particular, there may soon come a day when your school has a mandatory mobile app that you will need to download to keep track of your schedule, submit assignments, or complete a reading posted by your professor.

The future certainly looks bright for mobile technology in the educational space, and that is why THE NEXT DDS has worked hard to develop our mobile platform; to ensure that dental students across the country can access free educational tools on THE NEXT DDS from their preferred device. THE NEXT DDS Mobile is available 24/7 to enrolled dental students, and includes all of the resources, information, and social tools available on the full website. In the future, we hope to expand this mobile version of the site to other mobile operating systems to encompass the full array of devices that today’s dental students may be using.

Tags: education, iphone, mobile, android, internet, phone, cell phone, PEW

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