Our Mobile Learning Phablet Future

Why big phones will be the future of technology enabled education.

February 26, 2014

A few months ago I changed jobs at my institution and had to give back my work iPad mini.

Since then I’ve been iPad-less, living in a world of unified mobile communications and content consumption through my iPhone 5S.   

And you know what, I love it.

My always-at-hand iPhone give me flexibility to stream a Netflix video, send an e-mail or a text, read the NYTimes, listen to an audiobook, read a Kindle book, log into my campus LMS (Canvas), or check my edX or Coursera classes wherever I may be, without always worrying about finding a WiFi signal. (The Verizon LTE signal is really fast, actually faster than my home DSL connection).

Sometimes I even use the thing for talking. (My iPhone number is my only and official campus phone number - my iPhone my only campus phone).

The only problem with the iPhone is that they screen is too small.

Not really too small for watching or reading. But too small for typing.

This is where I agree with Molly Wood that the future of mobile technology is the phablet.   

What is a phablet? It is a cross between a phone and a tablet.

Coming in at a screen size somewhere between the iPhone 5s (4 inches) and the iPad mini (7.9 inches), the phablet is small and light enough to hold in one-hand (or a big pocket), but big enough to type on.  

I predict that the sweet spot for interacting with mobile learning learning platforms will be about 5.5 inches.   

At that size we will be able to both consume learning content and interact in discussion boards and blogs.    

That extra screen real estate will be enough for compelling mobile-first learning platforms, from adaptive assessment and content platforms to truly mobile-centric learning management systems.

We may also see the release of very cheap and lightweight keyboard, screen and battery devices. Think an 11 inch MacBoook Air without the processor or solid state drive. Appliances that rely on the phone for processing, storage, and connectivity - but can compensate for the phone’s deficiencies in keyboard size and battery life.   

These things would be cheap and durable enough that they can be lent out by libraries and coffee shops, stacked in classrooms and waiting rooms, waiting for the next phone to bring it to life.

My fantasy is that Apple will position a big iPhone explicitly as the perfect platform for mobile learning.   

That Tim Cook will say that Apple has been studying the needs of learners, and has determined that a 5.5 inch iPhone hits the sweet spot for a new world of mobile learning.

What form factor do you see as the future of mobile learning?


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