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Mobile Learning in Japan: Why the Future has Already Arrived

时间:2011-06-17 09:59来源:betway必威官网www.etsupport.net 编辑:麦田守望者

Mobile Learning in Japan: Why the Future has Already Arrived in Asia

By the time this article was published in 2006, over 60% of Japan’s mobile phones were using 3G (third generation) or higher telecommunications technology. This enabled early and extensive development of mobile learning applications. Here are ten real-world cases that show just how far the Japanese had come.

Although many people around the world think of m-Learning as a program with a “promising future,” we have found that in Japan, m-Learning already has a rich and vibrant history. Many companies, schools, organizations, and individuals are successfully implementing mobile learning solutions now. In this article, we present ten real-world cases that show how m-Learning is progressing there.

To many people around the world, it won’t be a surprise to learn that Japan is a global leader in m-Learning. A plethora of electronic gadgets populates the Japanese landscape. Most Japanese phones are already extremely advanced and run many different kinds of applications and services, including music, games, television, email, Web page viewing, GPS/navigation, megapixel photography, and learning. Mobile phone wallets are now common, and with them, the Japanese purchase drinks from vending machines and pay train fares. (See Figure 1) Already, we see that over 60% of Japan’s mobile phones are using 3G (third generation) or higher telecommunications technology.

 

Figure 1 Paying a train fare with a mobile phone

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practically 100% of college students and working adults in Japan own a mobile phone, while only about 50% of all households have Internet-capable PCs according to the Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications,

Statistics Bureau, Survey of Household Economy, conducted in 2006. Mobile phone-based m-Learning is a compelling platform for targeting young adults in Japan, a fact that many Japanese universities and companies realize and respond to in their recruitment and training.

This is already a boon to many application developers and content providers. But the availability of high tech handhelds does not mean that the Japanese use all or even most of the technology. In fact, nearly all surveys in Japan show that, of the many advanced capabilities available in Japanese mobile phones, the most commonly used are email, photography, Web page viewing, games, and, increasingly, music.

Why, then, are both the supply and the demand for m-Learning in Japanincreasing?

The dominant forces driving m-Learning adoption in Japanare not technology-related, but social and historical factors. More importantly, these factors are also likely to influence adoption and use in the West.

Among these key drivers, the most significant is the declining birthrate and the resultant aging population. Schools and companies compete vigorously for the declining number of young candidates. Pressures and incentives to build flexible learning organizations will continue to drive learning to technology that captures the attention, imagination, and interest of target audiences. The need to motivate the children and young adults of the twenty-first century will be the greatest driver of m-Learning.

In addition, a combination of forces continues to drive people to higher density metropolitan areas. This uneven distribution increases pressures to build nontraditional school and workplace systems. Finally, increasing energy prices and greater reliance on public transit and telecommuting will advance ubiquitous training, learning, and productivity enhancing systems.

Many m-Learning projects, programs, and products point to the potential profits and pitfalls of this challenging future. These ten case studies of m-Learning in Japan are only a handful of those we have examined the past few years, and especially during the past six months. Due to time and space constraints, we were unable to include case studies from Korea,Taiwan, and China, where many similar and original m-Learning programs are appearing.

Brain Training and Adult Learning Toys

Nintendo’s highly successful “Nowo Kitaeru Otonano DS Toreningu” (“DS Brain Training for Adults” [DSBTA]), has led a giant wave of m-Learning games in Japan. These games may be the biggest evidence that m-Learning has advanced from extrinsic to mainstream.

(Editor’s Note: For readers who aren’t up on handheld game technology, “DS” refers to the Nintendo DS, a handheld game console released in 2004. “DS” stands for both “Dual Screen”and “Developers’ System.” In June 2006, Nintendo released the DS Lite, a redesigned model.)

Of course, puzzles and mind games have existed for thousands of years. Not surprisingly, they have been popular with PC, television, and mobile game developers. Electronic versions of crossword puzzles have also been around for many years; Sudoku has rapidly become popular on game handsets and mobile phones, and the Japanese toy conglomerate Takara Tomy produces a dedicated portable Sudoku device.

Other brain-training games feature quizzes, brainteasers, and other activities. DSBTA challenges the player’s speed and accuracy in a variety of activities, including memorization, arithmetic, logic puzzles, and reading. The developers believe that these games stimulate the brain and maintain its health and “youth,” delaying or even preventing dementia and senility.

At the Tokyo International Toy Show 2006 in July, Japan’s biggest trade show for toys and games, the hottest products were those that claimed to have brain training and “healing” functions. Both categories of toy products target Japanese adults, particularly the Baby Boomer generation who start to retire en masse in 2007.

This phenomenon is revolutionary in that these applications and software are driving former technology agnostics to purchase hardware that would otherwise be unfamiliar and undesirable. In a classic case of the tail wagging the dog, brain-training games may well force the dog to grow many new tails. Since these new users are unlikely to turn into hardcore gamers, it is likely that hardware vendors will need to forge partnerships with application developers to create more games featuring puzzles and brain stimulating activities, as well as games that offer the chance for relaxation and peace of mind.

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