Being Mobile Blog

'Mobile-First' Is Everywhere — Except in K-12

You can probably discern a pattern here:

1991: Jeff Hawkins, co-founder of Palm, Inc. observed: “It is inevitable that all computing will be mobile.” For context: Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating sysytem was introduced in 1995. With its Internet Explorer browser, Win95 really ushered in the Age of the Internet for most people. Hawkins, therefore, foresaw mobile computing before even the coming of the Internet. Talk about a visionary!

Feb 25, 2010: During a keynote at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt commented: “Clearly, the mobile phone is the iconic device of the moment, and we’re encouraging a new rule: Mobile First…. Mobile first in everything. Mobile first in terms of applications. Mobile first in terms of the way people use things.”

Feb 2, 2013: Mark Zuckerberg said, "Today there is no argument: Facebook is a mobile company." 

Feb 4, 2014:  In Satya Nadella’s first email to employees on the day he took over as CEO of Microsoft, he commented: “Our job is to ensure that Microsoft thrives in a mobile- and cloud-first world.”

Jan 28, 2015: USA Today published the following statistics: “Facebook soars as 'mobile first' company… More than two-thirds of Facebook advertising revenue now comes from mobile ads…. Total advertising revenue soared 53% to $3.59 billion in the fourth quarter. Mobile advertising revenue accounted for 69% of that...."

Feb 16, 2015: Yahoo’s Chief Executive Marissa Mayer told the Los Angeles Times, “Over the past few years we’ve really reinvented our business with a mobile focus.... The opportunity here is huge…. The average smartphone user in the U.S. spends 177 minutes on his or her device daily, 88% of that time on mobile apps….”

Why are all these companies going mobile-first? To make money, of course. But why do these companies think that going mobile-first will make them money? Because everyone — including aunts and uncles — is going mobile-first.  Companies want to be where people are, and people are finding that going mobile is an effective strategy to cope with their busy lives. Here are some stats:

  • For starters: “80% of Internet users own a smartphone.”
  • Buying stuff: “Percentage of searches that resulted in a local purchase: PC/Laptop – 61%; Mobile Phone - 78%; Tablet – 64%.” (Sept. 14, 2014)
  • Mobile vs Laptop/Desktop: “… time spent using smartphones now exceeds Web usage on computers in the U.S., U.K. and Italy…. Apps make up the lion’s share of time spent using smartphones....”

Being mobile means being connected all the time and everywhere to family, to interests, to the world! A smartphone — a mobile computing device — supports folks doing a substantial amount of what they used to do in front of a laptop or even a desktop.

For example, for “writing short,” use voice recognition. It’s really quite effective. Or use your thumbs! For serious writing, yes, one needs a keyboard, a reasonable screen, and time.

Yup, going mobile-first makes sense in our mobile, global, busy, busy, 21st century world. Except in K-12. K-12 is NOT going mobile-first. Indeed, "mobile-not-allowed" is still a very prevalent rule in K-12.

Let's consider the devices that are being used in K-12. iPads are transportable devices, not mobile devices. It’s hard to imagine fifth-graders taking pictures with their 10-inch-screened iPads while on a field trip to the botanical gardens or while walking in the mall with friends.

7-inch tablets are mobile devices, albeit a tad clumsy for the younger crowd. But with PARCC requiring 10-inch tablets for Common Core State Standards testing, it’s hard to justify buying non-10-inch tablets.

iPads are passé these days, anyhow. (We won’t say “we told you so.”) Now schools are jumping on the Chromebook as the technology du jour. While Chromebooks are low-cost and powerful, they are not mobile devices; they are laptop-substitutes. Chromebooks are transportable computers. Again, it's hard to imagine fifth-graders walking home from school and taking pictures with a Chromebook….

But if searching, shopping, entertaining, informing and communicating are all-the-time, everywhere activities and best supported by a mobile computing device, what about learning? Surely learning is also one of those all-the-time, everywhere sorts of activities, too! But all-the-time, everywhere learning is not best supported with a 10-inch iPad — or now, a Chromebook.

We are not saying that all a learner needs is a mobile device. Yes, high-schoolers need a device with a bigger screen and a keyboard. So, have a few carts of Chromebooks to support the times when students are “writing long.” But much — if not most — of what even a high-schooler does in school can be done on a mobile device with a screen of reasonable size (say, 4.7 inches).

Our children are being left out of the most exciting technological development of our times: mobile computing devices. (Wearables? In K-12! Fugettaboutit!)

Elliot (pouting): IT’S NOT FAIR!

Cathie (smiling ironically): Fair? Elliot, “fair” is a concept for 4-year olds!

Elliot (sighing big time): But, but…. It’s about educating all our children, all America’s children. That’s what public education is all about: giving everyone an education, giving everyone a chance, being fair!

Cathie (shaking her head): You give new meaning to being “cloud-based”!

Joking aside, K-12 is moving fast into personalized learning: tethering children, sitting in cubicles, to computers via wired headphones so they can “master” bodies of information that Google has already mastered and will provide instantaneously upon request. Meanwhile, outside K-12, mobile-first drives searching, shopping, entertaining, informing and communicating.  

Indeed, outside of K-12 education, those children with the economic means have smartphones, and they too are participating in a world of searching, shopping, entertaining, informing and communicating. And those children without the economic means will go to school and be provided with laptop substitutes — at best. No, it’s not fair!