15 September 2010

Emerging App Culture and Marginalized Youths

According to a new Pew Internet Research, there's a clear, albeit nascent app culture emerging in the US among some young and male cell-phone users. In addition, Watkins' has suggested that many black and Latino youths have embraced the mobile web. Spending more time accessing the web via mobile devices than their white counterpoints, they tend to come from fewer homes with broadband access, and are more likely to be policed in public computer spaces, such as schools and libraries. Watkins concludes that the mobile web, when designed for self-empowerment and learning has great potential for engaging youths typically marginalized in our social and educational systems.

Productivity and reference apps already on the market would seem to be a first-response to Watkins' proposal. The reasons hearken back to the results of this computer-based learning study which demonstrate that supporting enabling learning outcomes, in this case, supporting learning to learning strategies results in students higher achievement. When integrated well, productivity and reference apps enable learning.

But what does integrated well look like? As the Pew study above pointed out, the majority of adult cell-phone users are unaware of what they can do with their phones. There is also little evidence
that youths/teens do much more with their phone beyond texting. It's safe to say then that neither user group exploits the affordances of the technology for learning. Therefore making mobile users aware of the utility of the device in service to specific learning contexts would be a first step.