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Putting smartphones to work

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Jim Ferolo, chair of Bradley’s Department of Interactive Media, makes a presentation at a mobile learning conference that shared with business, government, and academic leaders ways their organizations can use smartphone technology.

People can point their smartphones to the sky to learn the name of constellations or Google when the Colosseum was built in Rome while standing right in front of it. Mobile devices are also useful tools in the workplace, where a repair technician can look up the schematic for a piece of equipment on the shop floor, or a marketing representative can quickly find data while meeting with a client over lunch.

“Mobile learning” or “mLearning” is changing the way people work all over the world. “Mobile learning is much more in the moment, as opposed to distance learning where you are studying something that will have a future application,” says Jim Ferolo, chair of the Department of Interactive Media. “You have a smartphone with you and look up information on demand to help you do your job.”

About 100 local and regional professionals from businesses, nonprofits, and higher education converged on Bradley’s campus last summer for a one-day conference to learn how this new technology can make their organization more effective. The event was co-sponsored by the University’s Department of Interactive Media and Float Mobile Learning, a Peoria-area business that develops mobile learning applications, strategy, and research. The event featured regional and national speakers.

The conference featured two tracks: one focusing on the business and strategy of mobile learning, and the other on app design and development.

Bradley alumnus Chad Udell, managing director of Float Mobile Learning and a web design instructor at Bradley, says the conference at Bradley filled a void, since few are offered in the Midwest. He sees mobile learning as a quickly growing field with vast possibilities in the workplace and the classroom.

“Mobile devices are not a niche technology anymore,” he says, adding that more than a billion cell phones are sold each year. “When you reach that level, the only technology that is more ubiquitous is the toothbrush. Even people in impoverished nations have cell phones, and many people have two. It’s estimated that by 2015, there will be 2.5 billion smartphones in the world. It’s not like it’s future technology. This is now.

“Businesses leveraging mobile learning are leveraging benefits like flexible work spaces, less downtime, and increased sales.”