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Mobile technology makes inroads in the educational sector

Mobile technology makes inroads in the educational sector

Barriers still remain in business for the adoption of mobile technology

Mobile technology is quickly becoming a part of not only businesses, but also other sectors, such as education.

While major companies such as Macquarie Bank actively encourage its employees at its One Shelley Street building to use wireless technology in the building and move around, schools are also jumping on board.

Sean Cunneen, technical services director at XciteLogic, told Computerworld he has witnessed massive growth in mobile technology in the past 12 months, particularly with businesses and the education sector using iPads.

“It’s a tablet that started from almost nothing a few years ago,” he says. “They had a few niche markets, but they weren’t really widespread, and we’re seeing that really increase.

“Obviously in the past 10 years we’ve seen the desktop phased out in preference to laptops and I think laptops will slowly phase out in terms of these mobile devices as well, so it’s a changing market.”

XciteLogic is currently working with business clients to improve their operational flow. For example, it has worked on a secure document distribution application for the Northern Territory government for confidential documents, developing an app which can deliver multiple documents over a local network or Telstra's 3G network on iPads. The app has not only enabled ministers to easily view and share material before meetings, it has also helped alleviate security concerns associated with paper documents and saved on printing costs.

Cunneen says growth in mobile technology and tablets will continue to grow exponentially for some time before reaching a saturation point.

“There’s a lot more growth to go there – and it’s expanding the market as well. We talk about people who traditionally had one computing device which they did their work on, but now everyone would consider that in business they would have a smart phone as well,” Cunneen says.

“I think there’s a great deal of expansion to go yet as people actually increase the number of devices they’re using, as well as replacing existing methodologies that they’re going through.”

The educational sphere is also embracing mobile technology – Cunneen says more than 9500 iPads have been introduced in schools by XciteLogic since the iPad 2 was released.

“[Mobile devices in education] are very engaging, so they’ve got a much more personal feel, whereas traditionally students would go in and use the lab computer and it was a shared device,” Cunneen says.

“They put some of their own applications on them, they use them for leisure, social media or gaming and then they’ve also got their educational component on there as well.”

Cunneen believes mobile technology will continue to evolve in the educational environment, with classroom design eventually needing to change to accommodate the changing nature of mobile technology — classrooms will take on a “cluster” type approach based around team work, as in businesses, he says.

How businesses will evolve with mobile technology is less clear. While tablets are beginning to replace paper-based work, for example builders and architects replacing paper building plans with interactive tablets, Cunneen says businesses still have a bottom line to chase and are approaching mobile technology differently.

He says that the public sector has been slower to adopt mobile technology than the private sector, but both sectors face barriers.

“I think IT traditionally has been a highly controlled environment and mobile technology obviously breaks a lot of that control where people may be moving around – they may be inside or outside of your corporate or government network, and that’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” he says.

“To get the best out of employees and to see productivity improve, there needs to be a step made in IT which allows people to work in the way that they’re most comfortable working in ... I think mobile technology allows that and IT need to probably embrace that.”

While mobile technology poses a concern for security, Cunneen says it can in fact be more secure than a paper-based environment. For example, documents which are stored electronically can be tagged with GPS data, enabling companies to view who has viewed certain files, where and at what time. Access can also be limited to confidential files.

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