ComMetrics weekly review: iPhone and mobile learning stumbles

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2010/09/27 · 19 comments 25,708 views

in social media diary,white papers research

Social media monitoring DOs and DON’Ts: social media marketing, social media metrics, social media monitoring tools, benchmark test, Twitter monitoring, luxury branding and other happenings we came across while surfing the internet, blogging and posting on Facebook,, Google Buzz, or Twitter.

Image - tweet by @twittinvestor - Weekly review: Social media #marketing, #socialmedia #metrics and social media #monitoring /via @ComMetrics @smmguide This week, our focus includes a master thesis about social media monitoring, tomorrow’s webinar about Google, the social web’s encroachment on our privacy, how the iPhone supposedly hampers learning in the classroom, and other heavyweight brands’ trials and tribulations.

In case you missed previous weeks’ memorable moments on social media monitoring, just point your browser to:

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Top off your subscription by visiting the ComMetrics University and signing up for our latest webinar:

    Tuesday, September 28 – 8:30 Uhr in German, 16:00 hours CEST (7:00 am PST) in English.

So here come the highs, lows and oddities I discovered through my various social media channels.


Fabian Rangol was kind enough to mention Stephanie Assmann‘s excellent Master thesis in our Social Media Monitoring group on Xing, which contains an extensive literature review of social media monitoring, including both online and offline publications such as white papers, journal articles and books.

=> Masterarbeit über Social Media Monitoring ist online (Master Thesis on Social Media Monitoring is online, see page 3 for English summary)

It’s a real tour de force that provides interesting tidbits, facts, and mentions interesting research (I found the European stuff particularly relevant for PR and social media experts).

Definitely recommended reading! Please have a look.


Over the weekend, I had come across an article in the Guardian Weekly entitled, English language teachers connect to mobile learning – A survey shows internet-linked phones are being embraced in the classroom.

    “More than 70 percent agreed that mobile learning would play an important role in the future of English language teaching, with only 6.7 percent disagreeing (the remainder were unsure).
    “A striking 34 percent of respondents claimed to be already using mobile learning with their students. Accessing dictionaries, either online or dictionary applications they had downloaded, was a common activity.”

Author Nik Peachey later states in a blog comment,

    “I was actually very surprised by the range of countries where mobile learning is being used and the survey showed that many developing countries were leap frogging the more developed ones in this area.”

This got me wondering if the data collected by Mr Peachey really allowed such a wide-sweeping conclusion.


In an effort to answer that question, I studied the

Two questions seem most important:

    – Do you think mobile learning will play an important role in the future of English language learning? (number 1), and
    – Do you ever use your mobile device as a teaching or learning tool? (number 4).

But even if the majority says yes to both questions,

    How can teachers apply smartphones to mobile learning when many of their pupils may not have internet-linked mobile devices?

The author’s conclusions do not appear to be supported by the data collected, do they?


How can we test this while ensuring that all students have access to an internet-linked device? The iPhone project at the Projektschule Goldau in Switzerland did just that by giving each fifth grader (11-12 year olds) an internet-linked iPhone in August 2009.

The project addresses a few exploratory research questions about how the iPhone might affect the learning process in and outside school, as well as learning environment.

By the way, the Swiss own fewer SIM cards than other Europeans, with only 1.3 per person. However, their mobile data usage growth is strong. Hooking school pupils into a data-heavy lifestyle is, of course, the objective of all mobile operators. The sponsor of this project is Swisscom, which has a 60 percent market share.


The Goldau project is now in its second year and some preliminary data was published in Personal Smartphones in Primary School: Devices for a PLE? (by Döbeli and Neff, a teacher – paper presented at PLE conference in Barcelona, July 2010). On page 5, we find the following:

    “Important usage in the first nine months were:
    – Search for information on the web, using the web browser or the Wikipedia app.
    – Learning words in a foreign language (English, French) with a dedicated app.
    – Mental arithmetic training with a dedicated app (Neff, 2009b).
    – Look up spelling with a dedicated app.
    – Listening comprehension and pronunciation practice in foreign language learning (English, French) with sound files from the official teaching material provided as podcasts by the teacher.
    – Dictation practice and assessment with sound files recorded by the teacher enhancing equal practice opportunities for students with non German speaking parents.
    The smartphone is also used as a personal information manager (PIM)…”

Interesting, but sound files recorded by the teacher could be posted as podcasts accessible by kids on school computers, MP3 players and so forth. Spelling can be looked up using a print dictionary at school or home (or using a digital version on the school’s internal network), and of course, searching the Internet can be done using a computer.

While the above activities are important, they can be done just as easily by other means.


Image - iPhone 4 - now trouble in the classroom - iPhone does not deliver the learning effects teachers may have hoped forI gave further thought to the iPhone test and Nik Pechey’s study.

While smartphones may cost as little as $100 later this year, they will remain out of reach for most people in Africa until they cost around $50 (i.e. why broadband access via mobile is not an issue in Africa – see Sunday).

Moreover, the average South African user spends three percent of their monthly income on a mobile phone, while in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Niger it’s between 25 to 60 percent (see Tuesday to download ICTU report).

Resource: South Africa M4lit = mobiles for literacy project – affordability AND learning effects?Unesco site: Book-Poor, but Mobile Phone-Rich? Look to M-Novels

Even in Switzerland, few schools could afford to provide each student a smartphone (assuming none are lost, broken or stolen during the year) and the €50 to €100 monthly charge for mobile Internet. Would this even be money spent wisely?

Believing that, “mobile learning will play an important role in the future of English language learning” is one thing, confirming it with data is much tougher, because we must answer four questions:

    1. Would five additional laptops in each classroom achieve more to improve learning than the expensive smartphone option?
    2. Does using a smartphone really improve children’s reading, writing and math skills, including learning foreign languages?
    3. How exactly can the iPhone help improve learning in and outside of school, as well as learning environment?
    4. Is learning performance positively affected by having an iPhone in fifth grade compared to not having one?

While the above studies provide important insights, I am still waiting for research that provides data to answer these questions one way or another. If you know of any studies that do, please let me and other readers know with a comment and link below.

And yes, I believe computer literacy is as important as being Internet and Web 2.0 literate.

Finally, if you want to smile, watch my presentation at Pecha Kucha in Basel (in German). I had a tough time managing the required 20 seconds for each of my 20 slides.

YouTube Preview Image

Have an opinion on this? Did we forget a DO or DON’T for social media that you know about? Please share in the comments; I love to hear what works for you!

Article source: ComMetrics weekly review: iPhone and mobile learning stumbles

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  • Beat Du00f6beli Honegger

    A few explanations on the iPhone-Project in Goldau. As the link in the posting got lost, here the link to the project description in German: E. Gattiker writes: “While the above activities are important, they can be done just as easily by other means.” I don’t agree with this statement, in particular with “just as easily”: For looking up the correct spelling of a word, I even don’t need a book in the classroom: I could go to the library. But having a book in the classroom is easier. Having my own book on the table is even easier. Having a personal electronic device in this case is better than having a personal book: Just try to find out the correct spelling of the wod “Filosofi” with only a book. In case of the Duden-iPhone app, the kids can press on “similar words” and will find the correct spelling “philosophy”.nnIn my perspective, the most important aspect is a 1:1-equipment, not the smartphone per se. In Switzerland, where at the moment 86% of 6th-graders own a mobile phone it could be that in five years from now 86% own a smartphone so the school would not have to provide most learners with one.

  • Urs E. Gattiker

    Dear @beatdoebeli:nnThanks so much for this insightful comment. nnFor starters I think the “Goldau iPhone project” is really important to teachers, students and their parents. I think we may be able to greatly benefit from your work.nIn your comment, you write:nn”Having a personal electronic device in this case is better than having a personal book”nnI am not sure if I can agree with this, since the issue is really if students learn better with a smartphone versus not having such a device. Your project’s very general exploratory research questions would suggest that this is a key issue for your project.nnI agree, having a smartphone can help the student find a word, even if she does not know how to spell it properly (your example above given with the word philosophy illustrates this very nicely).nBut should we not focus on the issue such as: What are her chances to spell philosophy correctly the next time she needs to? Will the situation where she was forced to find it the hard way (i.e. using a dictionary – book) improve her chances compared to just doing it the way you describe on a smartphone?nnHence, the equipment may facilitate doing school assignments. But the same can be achieved by giving every pupil a notebook or iPad with wireless connection at school (actually still cheaper than purchasing an iPhone and paying for a monthly subscription plan to get Internet access).n nWould one not want to know if smartphones help learning and comprehension (e.g., of language or mathematics).nBut to do this, we need to be able to measure this phenomenon. For instance, can we measure if kids with a smartphone are doing better in standardized test for measuring their comprehension levels at the end of each school year?nnIdeally, your project would be able to shed some light on this matter by hopefully comparing those 5th or 6th graders who are part of your project with those that are not and do not have access to a smartphone. Such a control group would surely help.nnI looked through all the material on the website and I was unable to find any material, data/papers that desribes any kind of work going in that direction. Did I maybe miss something, maybe you are still working on it?nnIf you can point me and our readers in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate this.nnBeat, thanks so much for sharing your insights.nnPS. At least in Switzerland, the costs for a mobile Internet subscription plan each month, allowing my children to use their smartphone in school is an expensive option and is likely to continue to be expensive for at least another 5 years based on the information I got.

  • Beat Du00f6beli Honegger

    The main goal of the Goldauer iPhone-project ist to _explore_ (and not to measure) what can happen when every pupil has a personal digital multimedia device always and everywhere connected to the internet.nnWe are trying to look into the future with a time horizon of about 5-10 years. In 5 to 10 years it is possible that almost every pupil brings to school such an affordable device from home. I agree that at the moment such a setting would be to expensive. But some of the experiences of our project do not involve telecommunication. So it would be possible to use personal devices without mobile phone and/or mobile-internet-connectivity like handhelds.nnConcerning measurements of learning outcome: You haven’t overlooked anything. We are probably not going to publish measurements of learning outcomes. I’ve just published our thoughts concerning this topic on our weblog (in german):

  • Urs E. Gattiker

    Dear BeatnnAgain, thank you so much for replying. I can see that our discussion got you to clarify the research questions and methodology you use in your project in more detail yesterday (Oct. 5) on your project’s website:nn===> Warum wir im iPhone-Projekt wenig u00fcber den Lernerfolg sprechen (dated October 5, 2010)nnI agree with the points you raise in your comment above. So I went back to study your research questions again and I took the liberty to list two here with my translation (not a perfect one, of course):nn– Hilft ein persu00f6nliches Smartphone Schu00fclerinnen und Schu00fclern beim Erreichen der im Lehrplan des Kt. Schwyz definierten Ziele? (Does a personal smartphone help pupils in reaching the learning objectives as defined by the canton of Schwyz’s 6th grade curriculum)n– Lu00e4sst sich durch schulisch genutzte persu00f6nliche Smartphones auch ausserschulisches Lernen fu00f6rdern? (can the use of the smartphone in the school setting also support learning outside the school setting)nnAbove taken from: ===> research questionsnnThe above two questions and others do indicate a focus on learning…. I wonder how you will be able to address the above. You raise and explain the verious methodological challenges you face with this project including a possible halo effect as well as the famous Hawthorne one. All these could bias your study findings.nnBut even when doing qualitqtive research the above and your other research questions suggest that you intend to address how the smartphone could have an effect upon learning… So how will this be measured to be able to say it does positively, negatively or not at all?nnI am still hoping that your study will give us some insights that we do not have at this stage. You are definitely doing important work about the relationship between education, technology and learning.nnBeat, thanks again for having taken the time to share.

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