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Ubiquitous Information

A New Zealand Ministry of Education eFellowship report on the use of mobile phones in classrooms to foster information literacy skills

Download a PDF of the full report here: Toni Twiss Ubiquitous Information


The technological capabilities of mobile technology such as mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) are developing at a furious pace. These incredibly advanced pieces of hardware are available readily and for most as must have consumer items, particularly amongst our youth – genY, the iPod generation, the “prod-users”. This technology has seen a fundamental change in this generation from those before. These students are always connected and always available.

This report considers the impact ‘anytime’ access to information via access to the mobile internet will have on teaching and learning in the future. It explores the potential applications for mobile phones in the classroom and the skills that our students will need in order to cope with the mass of information on-demand that is available to them.

The research conducted for the purpose of this report involved a class set of 30 3G mobile phones being made available for a single unit of work by three different classes; a Year 12 Media Studies, Year 9 Social Studies and a general Year 8 class. Each unit of work ran for approximately 5-7 weeks. The teachers involved in the study were given support to learn how to use various functions of the mobile phones and to plan their unit of work.

The findings of this report indicate the following:

  • applications and tools available for use via a mobile phone, including access to the world wide web, have a great deal of potential for use in schools. Currently cost of data is the single biggest factor in limiting this use.
  • while as teachers we are constantly being told our students are ‘digital natives’, many of our students are not as au fait with technology as teachers are led to believe. Students are being labelled the ‘net-gen’ and teachers who have been told that they are ‘digital immigrants’ often do not see that the skills they believe their students to have are not always present. While students may seem very ‘tech savvy’ they still need to be taught the skills to deal with the world that their use of technology gives them access to, namely the world wide web and information overload.
  • key factors identified by secondary school teachers as impacting their ability to teach information literacy included limited access to resources (particularly technologies for accessing the world wide web), access to professional development and the impact of timetabling leading to a highly segmented curriculum.


  • Unconference | Thinking Past The Square... said:

    [...] Toni’s research [...]

  • Paul Swift said:

    Hi Toni - your research sounds very interesting! I am a member of the Learning Dept at Auckland War Memorial Musuem and we are very interested in exploring the potential of mobile technologies in relation to learning within a museum environment - the ability for instant feedback, access to a wide range of information via the web and personalised meaning making learning. It would be great to have a chat with you at sometime as your research sounds very interesting and it would also help to ensure that what we develop is based upon the sector’s needs.