The future of smartphones and teachers

I normally don’t talk about phones and which one is better than the others on IT Babble. I’ve certainly got my opinions but I am intrigued with the Galaxy S9. No, not its camera or Bixby or it display. I’m interested in the Samsung DeX. This device connects your Samsung phone (yes it must be a specific Samsung phone) to a monitor and it then turns your smartphone into a desktop computing “experience”.

OK, OK, OK I understand that this desktop “experience” is just a blown up version of Android with some navigation buttons at the bottom and support for a mouse and external keyboard. It doesn’t make Word more powerful or better in this environment. It just gives you more real estate and better interactive tools. The Samsung DeX is not the only product like this out there.

Enter Remix OS for Mobile. This does pretty much the same thing as the DeX. jide is the company that makes Remix and they have some other neat products out there as well – check them out.

This gets me thinking. Will the smartphone be your only computing experience. Maybe you dock it with your desk to give yourself more features, more real estate and a better working experience than tapping at your screen.

This isn’t such a crazy notion. A number of technology blogs suspect this such as The Verge and I’ve certainly heard this rumor more than once in TWiT and in other tech circles. Let’s not forget Windows has a Universal Windows Platform. This means no matter the screen size – the app will run and resize accordingly. So what does this all mean?

I have no idea except if all I had to carry was my smartphone to work that would be awesome. The problem with that is I cannot work on my smartphone alone. Systems I need to interact with are too complex and large for simple tapping on a 4“–6” screen. It just doesn’t work. Photoshop is a good litmus test. Can a phone run a full version of Photoshop? No – then you are probably making sacrifices and compromises and some jobs just can’t make those sacrifices.

However, if (this is a big if) they can get a smartphone to do run these applications. If they can easily, seamlessly and reliably dock to a work station and give you a true laptop or desktop experience then yes – I would do this. As for docking a wireless option would obviously be better. Simply place your smartphone in particular part of your desk or on a monitor base. I like this Microsoft video of how the future will be. It gives a crazy example of how this might work

Of course there are down sides here too. Already smartphones are viewed by many educators as a major distraction, a source of extra anxiety and a possible source of addiction. Making the smartphone even more powerful and even more important than it already is would only amplify these arguments even more.

Despite that – this does look like the path we are going down. What do you think? Am I way off base here?

Smartphones – Let’s experiment and see

My good friend and fellow IT Babbler Tony wrote a piece called Mobile Phone Shutdown about how his school is banning students from using their smart phones during certain hours of the day. It’s good (please give it a read). In the post he identifies some problems that his school is dealing with and outlines a solution to ban phones for students and the hope of the outcome. It is sound. It is a levelheaded response to a problem and, let’s not forget, this is an experiment. It may yield results that are unexpected maybe even unwanted, but no matter what happens, Tony and the people he works with will observe, analyze and make another rational decision later on if needed. It’s not just a plan, it is a process.

There is a lot of talk out there about how terrible these devices are to children. There is an article in the Wall Street Journal that talks about parents trying to grapple when to buy their child a smartphone. Then there is the article in the New York Times that calls out Apple to make a “Less Addictive iPhone”. There is a lot of emotion and reaction in these articles and these topics. You often hear these words when discussing smartphones and students:
– Addiction
– Distraction
– Diminished social skills
– Harmful for developing minds
– Disconnected
– Leads to unhappiness and/or anxiety
– Sleep deprivation

Then there are other articles such as this one from Wired that talks about how smartphones are being demonized and may not be that bad. Then there is this article from Doug Johnson’s The Blue Skunk Blog (great blog and well worth your time if you’re an educator). He says that we might as well learn how to leverage and manage smartphones in schools. Both Wired and Doug Johnson’s blog are written by very well respected professionals like the authors of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Here is the bottom line. There is no missing puzzle piece that will solve this issue for all schools. We have to remember that the iPhone is only ten years old and I am not exactly sure when a majority of students started coming to schools with smartphones but I would take a stab and say 5–6 years ago. So the long term report isn’t in about how bad/awful/great/awesome these devices are to students.

I’m not for or against smartphones in schools. I think that should be a decision made based on a school by school basis and not by a single person.

What I am for are experiments. Trying out solutions, analyzing and discussing the results with the community and moving forward and using a process.

I am not for rash and knee jerk decisions. These are often not so thought out and when results come back that are unexpected, then it is too easy to call the fix it a failure and abandon a policy for another one.

What do you think?

You Don’t Have a Supercomputer in Your Pocket

I was listening to an older episode of This Week in Tech (TWIT), and one of the hosts said, and I am paraphrasing, “we are all walking around with supercomputers in our pockets.” Then I started hearing people imply this frequently. I have not blogged for over a month, but I have been traveling, and I found from Asia to Kentucky, people seem to be propagating this meme.

I am going to crush your world now and tell you, that in fact, you do not have a supercomputer in the shape of a smart phone in your pocket. As smart phones and app culture has increased, I have seen nothing but a decline in good software, and power users. I see people dependent on apps that have single and simple features, often riddled with ads. Since developers are all in on smart phones and low powered tablets, the potential for new and powerful software is fading.

How powerful is your smart phone? Well in 1987 it would be equivalent to powerful computer. So if you can time travel, you can go back in time and remove your smart phones CPU, and then use it in another computer to calculate stock predictions or weather patterns. Sure those calculations might take 2-3 months, but in 1987 people were more patient.  Notice I said the CPU, the rest of the phone would be useless.

If you buy a laptop for $300.00-$400.00 today in 2015, you can out process your phone and skip the time travel. You can write software for your phone as well, try writing software for your laptop on your phone.

Yes, smart phones are more social. They have cameras and sensors that allow them to be useful in some niche situations. If you need to quickly project and unsubstantiated opinion, without references or context, smart phones are amazing.

This whole meme is troubling, because it is obviously coming from industry. The meme is designed to keep people buying fairly expensive, yet low quality hardware, with an app purchasing culture built into the life span of the product. This meme reminds me of the digital natives meme. I hear this everyday, and it drives me crazy.

People need to stop saying children are digital natives, and start actually watching what they are accomplishing when they work; and when they work on a timeline. Trust me, children/students in 2015 still need structure and skills training. Just because they can play games on their devices, or use 15 apps to share photos, does not mean they understand how to use their technology to solve real problems in a timely manner. Nor does it mean they can takes 100s of points of data and construct an argument.

Schools need to start critically looking at all these memes, and they need to stop propagating memes that cannot be substantiated.  Educational Technology should be about creating. It should be a maker-culture with an emphasis on learning to filter garbage out of any equation .


If you truly believe today’s students are born to use technology without guidance or planning, then lobby to get rid of driving tests. They obviously grew-up with cars, and cars in 2015 are much easier to drive than cars from 1975.

Logic is logic. Digital Natives using Smart Phone Supercomputers = No Need for Driving Tests.

Tony DePrato