What might free wireless mean in the future?

Free wireless access is becoming more prevalent, this week New York city announced all of it’s park areas would provide free wireless access. This trend is very interesting Philadelphia has announced plans to cover the entire city with free wireless, and other US cities are doing likewise (San Francisco another good example).

These trends are not just based in the US - Islington council in London has similar plans and other cities here are also looking into it.

The reasoning behind a lot of the free wireless access is to make sure that all of a cities population have equal access to information and services and that any “digital divide” is reduced. Brighton’s council are putting together a wireless service to link up schools and remote offices cheaply, but also selling bandwidth to internet cafes, residents and businesses to help support this.

What might this mean for m-learning? At the moment when focusing on school age students our software does not rely too heavily on internet access. This is because the access they have to internet connections is limited and this is mostly because of the cost of connecting from a mobile phone to the internet. A new generation of phones is starting to provide wireless access along with normal phone connections, if the student can access free wireless then the internet can be relied upon much more.

Will this herald an age of connected/supportive learning with peers - perhaps “social learning”? Possibly - most computers today are internet connected and “social learning” has started to happen. Schools are now handing out home work via the internet and getting homework submitted via the internet. Students do use MSN and other chat programs to support each other during homework.

Perhaps the biggest aspect of “social learning” that mobile phone software will be able to foster will be motivation though competition, which can be quite important in motivating boys, by allowing them to publish their progress on a website.

Let’s see what happens!