Lynne M. Rudasill
From the adze maker to the Gutenberg Bible to Project Gutenberg to the mobile “app,” technological advances both impact and support human society. The revolution in communications and technology embodied by the internet and the World Wide Web has been felt in all but the most resistant or distant corners of the world. The hardware that many societies use to access the maze of information that has become part of our lives is becoming smaller and smaller, currently existing as a hand-held device that can easily be packed in a pocket. We have the world in our hands. The impact of these devices can be observed as we watch the evening news and the 24-hour cable programs on that olden technology – television. The news of the Arab Spring, the flash mob, and global demonstrations such as Occupy Wall Street are all evidence of the ease with which people empowered with mobile phones can communicate and organize. The mobile device can also support and improve access to scholarship as more applications are developed to provide access to information.
In a recent article in College and Research Libraries News, Lori Barile reviewed several free mobile phone applications that might be useful to researchers. These include resources in diverse areas: from classical literature at Spreadsong <http://spreadsong.com> ; to the high-resolution historical cartography of the 4th to the 20th centuries from Maps of the World <http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/history-maps-of-world/id303282377>; to the Social Science Research Network’s iSSRN that provides access to 250,000 papers from its repository <http://ssrnblog.com/2009/11/19/ssrns-iphone-app-issrn-is-available/>.
Science related information is offered by application resources such as the Periodic Table Explorer http://freshney.org/apps/pte.htm, and the Planets http://www.qcontinuum.org/planets/ from Q Continuum. Factual data to support researchers’ arguments is available through the OECD Factbook 2010 http://www.oecd.org/publications/factbook and the USA Factbook <http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/usa-factbook-free/id305888083>.
Although most of these apps are developed for the i-device environment (IPhone, IPad, or IPod), many are now being created for the Android operating system and others. Sites that provide access to newly developed applications include AppBrain (Android) http://www.appbrain.com/, Appolicious (Android and iPhone) http://www.appolicious.com/, AppStore at iTunes http://itunes.apple.com/us/genre/mobile-software-applications/, Getjar (Android, Blackberry, iPhone and Windows Mobile) http://www.getjar.com , and Mimvi (Android, Blackberry and iPhone) http://www.mimvi.com . (Barile 2011)
Mobile technologies are readily available in academic libraries. There is an affinity between the collections and the users of libraries that support the use of the mobile phone and its applications. The university libraries at institutions that subscribe to global-e all provide some sort of access to mobile applications including such resources as online catalogs, tours, access to databases, and a host of other information providers and learning tools. Usually, it is as simple as searching for “library mobile” to pull up app resources available on any campus. At the time of this writing, the Digital Library Federation is in phase two of a competition of ideas for developing more applications for libraries, including easy to access tables of contents, citation finders, a journal abbreviation translator, a journal and conference identifier, and others.
Beyond the academic library, applications have been developed that provide support for fieldwork in the social sciences as well as the hard sciences. Global positioning applications are used for much more than geo-caching competitions and finding the nearest Starbucks. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provides a fascinating look at the many applications of this technology at the GPS Application Exchange http://gpshome.ssc.nasa.gov/, including submissions of projects from around the world. Mobile applications are useful in the areas of healthcare, environmental screening, recording anthropological field notes, as well as taking attendance in the classroom. Useful tools both in and out of the classroom include DropBox http://blog.dropbox.com/, the built-in camera, and the voice recorder.
Although the use of mobile application technology in learning is still new, there is a developing literature on the subject. Initially, the majority of research revolved around issues of how the technology might be applied, and by whom. The Horizon Report 2011 identifies key trends in technology and education and echoes a long-held tenet of the academic library: “People expect to be able to work, learn, and study wherever and whenever they want.” (Johnson 2011, p. 3) This report also looks at emerging technologies and predicts increased emphasis on this technology which has moved from the “near horizon” to the “one-year or less” category. “Mobiles embody the convergence of several technologies that lend themselves to educational use, including electronic book readers, annotation tools, applications for creation and composition, and social networking tools,” according to the authors of the report. (Johnson 2011, p. 13)
Further, a developing body of research being published specifically targets mobile devices and mobile learning. Theoretical work from the socio-constructivist and continuity pattern in education was done by Caron and Caronia as early as 2008 regarding the use of iPods in the classroom. (Caron 2008) About that same time the use of mobile technology in the education of underserved students in Latin America suggested its efficacy in meeting the literacy needs of indigenous children. (Kim 2008) A review of the impact of mobile applications in learning appeared in 2010. (Jeng 2010) Most recently, a study comparing the usefulness of mobile technology between students near the Mexico-US border indicated the use of mobile devices increased the learning of students in more rural, less-developed communities. (Kim, et al, 2011) What is needed now is more research regarding the applications found in mobile technology, including phones and tablets, to ascertain the best practices and most efficacious use of these programs in the classroom.
Lynne Rudasill is Global Studies Librarian and Associate Professor of Library Administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Barile, Lori. (2011) Mobile technologies for libraries: A list of mobile applications and resources for development. College & Research Libraries News 72 no4 222-5, 228.
Caron, A. and Caronia, L. (2008). Mobile instruction technologies and the culture of education: An empirical study on the appropriation of iPods. Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1-27.
Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/HR2011.pdf
Jeng, Y., Wu, T., Huang, Y., Tan, Q., & Yang, S. J. H. (2010). The add-on impact of mobile applications in learning strategies: A review study. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 13(3), 3-11.
Kim, P., Hagashi, T., Carillo, L., Gonzales, I., Makany, T., Lee, B., & Gàrate, A. (2011). Socioeconomic strata, mobile technology, and education: A comparative analysis. Educational Technology Research & Development, 59(4), 465-486. doi:10.1007/s11423-010-9172-3
Kim, P., Miranda, T., & Olaciregui, C. (2008). Pocket school: Exploring mobile technology as a sustainable literacy education option for underserved indigenous children in latin america. International Journal of Educational Development, 28(4), 435-445. doi:10.1016/j.ijedudev.2007.11.002