'Always On' spotlights Mobile-Learning innovation

Posted July 15, 2011

Millions of people around the world are carrying smartphones and computer tablets that keep them constantly connected to the Internet. There are now more than 400,000 apps in Apple's online store that allow their users to do hundreds of everyday tasks, all from the comfort of their handheld devices.

Constantly having access to these hundreds of thousands of applications has far-reaching implications for our society, says technology writer Brian X. Chen.

"Millions of us are carrying these devices that have a constant Internet connection and also access to hundreds of thousands of applications of very smart interfaces tailored to suit our everyday needs," he tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "If you think of that phenomenon [of being constantly connected], everything has to change: the way we do policing, the way we do education, [and] the way that we might treat medicine."

In Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future — and Locked Us In, Chen examines what it means to have an uninterrupted connection to the Internet — and how smartphone-based applications will revolutionize the way we conduct our lives on- and offline.

For example, Abilene Christian University in Texas now gives every incoming freshman an iPhone and integrates the device into the curriculum.

"Instead of lecturing students and saying, 'Hey, open your textbook and go to page 96,' the teacher is acting as a guide and saying 'OK, so here's the topic we're going to discuss today. Take out your iPhone and go search on the web or search Wikipedia and let's have a conversation about where we want to take this discussion," Chen says.

He explains that students at Abilene are being taught the importance of discerning good data from bad data — and not just to blindly accept the information that would have been presented in a textbook.

"Abilene Christian is thinking forward and teaching people how to do ... a very important skill, because there's so much bad information out there on the Web," he says. "This is something they're experimenting with, and it's been successful, because students who are part of the iPhone program are actually getting better grades than the students who are taking comparable classes without iPhones."

Read more here.  Also, you may listen to National Public Radio's Fresh Air interview with Chen here.  The section referring to ACU begins 2:30 into the segment.