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.
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.