March 22-25, 2006
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Papers: Mobile Phones: A New Way To
Engage Teenagers In Informal Science Learning

Denise Bressler, Liberty Science Center, USA


What are our youth using their mobile phones to do? They text message, play games, listen to music, and take pictures, and that's only the beginning. Teenagers are the ones establishing the rules of this new mobile culture ad hoc. To them, the mobile phone is not a device for making phone calls, but rather, a 'lifeline' to the social network and an instrument for coordinating their everyday life. Can this tool, that has seemingly ensconced itself into youth culture, become a tool for informal science learning? This paper will summarize findings that have been collected as part of the Science Now, Science Everywhere (SNSE) project started by Liberty Science Center. SNSE is a recent technology initative by the Center that aims to explore the unique educational opportunities that are possible when visitors use their mobile phones as tools for learning in informal science education. Coupled with industry research from the technology and museum sectors, project research to date demonstrates an untapped area of educational opportunity that could be used to engage teens in science. Liberty Science Center believes that science centers can engage the teenage audience by extending the learning experience beyond hands-on interactives to mobile phones.

Keywords: mobile phones, m-learning, mobile technology, teenagers, science education, SMS, MMS

Industry Research on Teenagers and Mobile Phones

The research on teen ownership and usage of mobile phones is astounding. Teenagers are the ones establishing the rules of this new mobile culture ad hoc; they are the “archetypal mobile superusers” (Ling, 2004). To them, the mobile phone is not a device for making phone calls, but rather, a ‘lifeline’ to the social network and an instrument for coordinating their everyday life.

Teen Ownership Of Mobile Phones

For today's teenagers, there is one device that dominates their everyday life: the mobile phone. According to Lenhart and her colleagues at the Pew Internet & American Life Project (2005), 57% of teens aged 15 to 17 own a mobile phone, along with one-third of teens aged 12-14, and those numbers are steadily increasing. These researchers also found a big jump in ownership between certain grade levels. Cell phone ownership was at 11% for 6th graders and jumped to 25% by 7th grade. A similar jump occurs between 8th grade (29%) and 9th grade (48%). Nearly all teens are or would like to be enthusiastic adopters of the mobile phone, and their interest runs the full spectrum of the nation’s ethnic and economic clusters. Teens living in urban areas are the most likely to own cell phones (51%), followed by their suburban counterparts at 46% (Lenhart, 2005).

Mobile Usage Among Teens

What are our youth using their mobile phones to do? Text messaging, or SMS, is on the rise among American teens, although they still lag behind their European and Asian counterparts. SMS, which stands for short message service, is a system that enables subscribers to use their cell phones to compose and send short messages up to 160 characters. In the US, almost two-thirds (64%) of teens with cell phones use text messaging (Lenhart, 2005). The youth market is also the main driver of multimedia messaging, or MMS, with studies showing that “most MMS buying activity is seen amongst 15 to 17 year olds” (Ernest-Jones, 2004). MMS, which stands for multimedia messaging system, brings multimedia features such as photos, sound, video, rich text, or interactive applications to mobile messaging. This system can be used to send a message between mobile users or from a server to a user; the same is true for SMS. MMS requires special handsets, usually with a color screen and built-in camera. Lastly, 25% of teenagers who own phones have used them to access the Internet (Lenhart, 2005).

The fact is, sending short, quick text messages or picture messages allows teens to keep closely connected to their social network when they are not in close physical proximity, but it’s also a social activity when groups are together physically. Teenagers are actively sharing their mobile communication with their co-present friends, often flashing the message on their screens to each other, or even passing around the phone (Rheingold 2003).

According to a Juniper Research White Paper, young people today “record the details of their lives on-line a lot, and both sexes have a stronger urge than in previous times to share their experiences with friends” (Ernest-Jones, 2004). In a camera phone study conducted by Hewlett Packard, results showed that participants under 21 “used their camera phones more than adults in connection with experiences they shared with other people” (Kindberg et al, 2004). Specifically, youths took a greater number of pictures in order to enrich a shared, co-present experience. Pictures were then shared either in the moment or later as a memento. The study also indicated that youths exchanged more picture messages on average than the adults.

Ownership And Usage Among Pre-Teens

While teenagers are clearly a major market for mobile phones, some children today get mobile phones as early as elementary school. This is due to a new trend by mobile phone providers to create special products for that market. Haley Goldman and Foutz determined in their Literature Review (2005) that phones marketed to this age group include the Firefly, TicTalk, Tommy, and others. Right now, these phones have limited features and give the parents control over the phone’s incoming and outgoing calls (Aquino, 2005). But some models come with a few bells and whistles; for example, the TicTalk comes preloaded with educational games created by LeapFrog.

Project Background

At Liberty Science Center, we believe the growth of mobile phones in the public domain provides the potential to expand the museum learning experience into a new dimension. No longer will our science center offer only hands-on experiences, but it will allow visitors to engage with exhibits in a totally new way by permitting them to interact with exhibits, retrieve extra content and extend the learning experience - all from their mobile phones. Therefore, visitors can use their phones as tools for learning not only inside the museum but also outside the museum after their visit. Anyone with a mobile phone can utilize this learning companion which is called Science Now, Science Everywhere (SNSE).

Liberty Science Center

Dedicated to inspiring imagination and creativity through adventures in interactive discovery, Liberty Science Center is the NJ-NY area's preeminent science and technology center. Since opening in 1993, we have introduced nearly nine million people to the wonder and awe of hands-on science discovery. Liberty Science Center, the largest and most visited museum in New Jersey, is making the SNSE project one of the key initiatives of its major expansion.

Early Ideas For The Project

Early ideas for the project sprouted as part of the Communication exhibition development process. Communication is one of six new exhibitions being developed as part of the Center’s building expansion and renewal. The Communication team wanted to engage people in a unique way and encourage technological literacy among the guests. At the time, some museums were experimenting with handheld tours loaded onto personal digital assistants (PDAs). Liberty Science Center decided right away that we wanted to avoid rental devices. Luckily, mobile phones were steadily becoming the most popular personal communication device. Given this popularity, we decided to see what types of learning activities we could provide on visitors’ own devices. We even tested this concept as part of the Formative Evaluation for Communication. In the evaluation study conducted on-site by the Institute for Learning Innovation, Kirsten Ellenbogen and her colleagues (2004) confirmed that our audience was interested in downloading supplementary information from an exhibit on to their own devices; in addition, more than half of those surveyed indicated that they would probably share the information with friends and family after the museum visit. With this additional finding, we realized that having guests use their own devices was a way to extend the learning beyond the walls of the science center. This concept was too important to contain within the Communication exhibition, so the SNSE project was born.

Project Goals

When you have a mobile device that is constantly connected to a wireless network, you have more than a communication channel (Rheingold, 2003). Mobile devices offer an entirely new way of interacting which, in turn, can transform learning. This is called mobile learning, or m-learning. The SNSE project is trying to build on the research of handheld use in museums and incorporate m-learning into informal science education.

The project aims to explore the unique educational opportunities that are possible when visitors use their mobile phones as tools for learning in a science center environment. Specifically, we believe that by using their phones, visitors will have more ownership over their learning experiences as well as access to the content after their visit. This will allow for a deeper, more extended learning experience.

Additionally, we are focusing design and research efforts on the teenage audience. Science centers have always yearned to connect with teens. We believe that if we accept the teenagers’ mobile culture and design learning activities specifically for them to use with their phones, young people will find the SNSE activities familiar and enjoyable. As an educational facility that encourages mobile phone use, we are saying that what teenagers are doing with phones is not only acceptable but also encouraged in the proper venue. We hope that after using SNSE, teenagers will see Liberty Science Center as a place that has their interests in mind.

Background Research

As background for the project, we collected museum research conducted by institutions who supplied a device to the visitor for use on-site, as with a PDA tour. We also collected background information on m-learning, or mobile learning, which is a research topic on the rise in Europe and Asia.

Handheld research in museums

In recent years, museums have started to embrace handheld technologies - often renting devices with pre-installed information for visitors to use while on-site (Intel Museum, Getty Institute) or implementing pilot programs for research purposes (Multimedia Tour Program at Tate Modern, Renwick Handheld Education Project, Exploratorium Electronic Guidebook). These projects have laid important groundwork for us. The documented research from projects like these confirms that guests enjoy the interactive handheld experience because of the variety of content and the ability to control the experience - it’s more of an active learning process (Palm Education Pioneers Program, 2002; Savill-Smith and Kent, 2003; Zern, 2004).

Problems documented by this research include visitor isolation, difficulty with user interface and maintenance concerns. By allowing the public to use their own mobile phones, we can minimize some of these concerns.

Visitor isolation

Previous research has shown that using handhelds in museums promotes visitor isolation. In our project, since guests own the device, we believe content will be taken home from the exhibit and viewed later. As mentioned above, Ellenbogen and her colleagues (2004) confirmed that our audience is interested in downloading supplementary information from an exhibit onto their own devices and sharing that information with friends and family after the museum visit.

User interface

A rental device requires visitors to learn a new user interface. Allowing visitors to use their own devices means there will be no need for them to adapt to a new interface. Nickerson (2005) concluded from his cell phone study that some visitors had reduced anxiety since they did not have to use unfamiliar hardware. In addition, we hope that our guests will learn to better understand the functionality of their own device.

Maintenance concerns

A rental system requires energy management, mass charging, and a distribution system. By designing a system in which people use their own devices, we can minimize concerns over energy management and distribution, as well as fiscal concerns over replacing broken or out-dated rental devices. Again, our assumptions are supported by Nickerson’s findings (Nickerson, 2005). Two benefits that were observed during the History Calls project include:

  • Reducing the expense, time, and frustration associated with maintaining the rental players
  • Eliminating concerns about damage, loss and theft of the rental players.

Researching on mobile learning

Although mobile learning, or m-learning, is still in its early stages, we can learn from the small body of research that has already been documented. Here is a quick summary of some research from the field.

  • With the technology changing so rapidly, it’s important to develop materials that can be used by different technologies or different platforms (Stead, 2004). As a result, we decided to focus on audio, SMS and MMS. Audio is obviously a common element among mobile phones; SMS and MMS are now available on hundreds of handsets as well.
  • M-learning works best when it’s integrated into a bigger context (Chen et al, 2003; Stead, 2004). As a result, we decided to utilize mobile learning as an extension of the science content in our museum exhibitions.
  • M-learning offers a new dimension in learning (Stead, 2004). We wanted to take into account the culture that is evolving around teenagers and mobile phones; therefore, we decided to look at how they use their mobile phones and create experiences to build out from those functions such as text messaging, playing games, listening to music and taking pictures (Brier, 2004).
  • By nature, m-learning is learning on the go. M-learners are often distracted by their surroundings and want their information in bite-sized chunks (Stead, 2004). As a result, we will keep our interface as simple as possible: limit the need for scrolling and the amount of text.

Project Funding

To date, funding for this project has been provided by the Liberty Science Center capital campaign project. We are currently seeking funding from the National Science Foundation in order to pursue the new ideas and directions outlined at the end of this paper.

Project Team

If funding is secured, Science Now, Science Everywhere will be a collaboration of several groups interested in exploring how mobile devices can be utilized as tools for learning in informal science education. This includes Liberty Science Center, Rutgers University, Verizon Communications, and Lucent Technologies at its core, along with additional subcontractors, Caterpillar Mobile and the Institute for Learning Innovation.

  • Verizon Communications is the largest telecommunications provider in the nation. Verizon Wireless is the strongest cell phone provider locally in the NJ/NY metro area.
  • Lucent Technologies is the technological firm that provides much of the network infrastructure that the nation’s cellular telephone systems utilize. Their headquarters is located in nearby Murray Hill, NJ.
  • The Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University is the world’s first academic unit to focus solely on social aspects of mobile communication; it has become an international focal point for research in the burgeoning mobile communication revolution. Researchers from the Center will evaluate the user needs of underserved teenagers and then conduct ongoing assessments with that audience.
  • The Institute for Learning Innovation, a museum evaluation firm, will be working with us on the Formative and Summative evaluation for the SNSE Learning Companion. We have already collaborated with them on the Front End Research which is outlined later in this paper.
  • Caterpillar Mobile, a mobile application developer, has a beta version of an application framework that Liberty Science Center wants to implement as part of SNSE. The application framework would be a large part of the user testing and ongoing assessments that will be done with underserved teenagers as a way of incorporating science into their lives. This application is outlined later in this paper.

Through innovative collaborations with the groups above, LSC will be able to design, implement and evaluate SNSE in three exhibition galleries which will open in July 2007.

Project Research

Once again, our industry research showed that teenagers are avid mobile phones users. Our background research from the museum field demonstrated that there would be benefits to having visitors access a learning experience from their own mobile device. There would be not only educational benefits for the visitor but also financial and logistical benefits for our institution. The final piece was then to survey our visitors and see if what we learned from the industry held true and if our visitors would be interested in the kinds of mobile learning experiences we wanted to offer. Here is some information drawn from the Front End Report as prepared by the Haley Goldman and Foutz (2005) from the Institute for Learning Innovation. This research was initiated in early 2005, and the final report was received in September 2005.


Given that our research showed that teenagers are embracing mobile technology and building a new culture of interaction around these devices, we surveyed teenage visitors to gather their opinions about the mobile phone as a tool for informal science education. Kate Haley Goldman and Susan Foutz from the Institute for Learning Innovation assisted us in determining some basic ownership and usage data along with interest ratings on specific experience ideas.

As mentioned early, the national statistics for teenager ownership of mobile phones shows a strong and growing trend. During our evaluation, visitors were asked if they owned a mobile phone. Of visitors aged 13-17, 82% owned a mobile phone. Of visitors aged 18-24, 100% owned a mobile phone. Visitors were also asked about their use of text messaging. Text messaging was correlated with age; “13-24 year olds were 2-3% more likely to use text messaging than older adults” (Haley Goldman and Foutz, 2005). Additionally, visitors were asked if they had the ability to take and send pictures; 5% of all visitors have this capability and 4% actually use it. Unfortunately, the sample size was too small to draw further conclusions associated with age.

The Institute for Learning Innovation conducted onsite interviews with our visitors in order to determine their interest in the activities listed in Table 1. In order to take a particular look at the teenage audience, they parsed out the data for those 18 and under.

Potential ways to use handheld devices within an exhibit SNSE Visitor Average Rating Average Rating Visitors younger than 18 Average Rating Visitors 18 and older
Receive personalized maps that direct you to other relevant topics within the exhibit or elsewhere in the science center. 6.87 8.21 6.47
Receive more detailed information about a topic. 6.14 7.79 5.70
Collect pictures and information about wildlife, load those to a website where you can research the wildlife, add notes and website links. 5.54 8.17 4.93
Share ideas with other people currently in the exhibit. 3.78 6.61 3.09
Take a cell phone audio tour of the exhibition. 5.44 6.00 5.25
Send information about yourself to the exhibit in order to have a more personalized experience. 4.35 6.72 3.81
Create and save a new ringtone 5.48 7.23 4.92
Create and save new animation. 5.35 8.37 4.60
Create and save a new video clip. 5.47 8.47 4.78
Download a predator-prey game to play on your device. 5.45 6.79 5.08
*Scale of 1 to 10; 1 is I am not at all interested in doing that and 10 is I am very interested in doing that.

Table 1: Visitor Interest (by age) in Ways to Use Handheld Devices Within an Exhibit*

For every single activity, the average rating by visitors under 18 is higher than the rating by visitors over 18. Visitors under 18 rated each activity 2.57 points higher on average. Three activities were rated more than 3.5 points higher: share ideas with other people currently in the exhibit; create and save a new animation; and create and save a new video clip. As we learned from our industry research, teenagers are using their phones as a way to share experiences with their friends, more so than adults, so one might imagine they would be more interested in sharing ideas with other people. They are also the biggest users of MMS, so one might presume that they would have more interest in an animation and a video clip. It’s also no surprise that the cell phone audio tour was the only activity rating that was under 1.0 points higher. Unlike adults, teenagers do not really see their mobile phones mainly as a method for voice communication; in fact, some teens rarely use them to make calls, instead using them more for mobile messaging. Cell phone owning teens actually “prefer to communicate with friends via written communication” according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project (Lenhart, 2005). Teenagers may also not see the audio tour as innately ‘shareable’ as some of the other activities listed.

When Haley Goldman and Foutz broke down the data even further, they discovered that the highest rated activity for pre-teens was creating and saving a video clip (9.29). This was the highest rating for any activity by a particular group. Additionally, teens rated creating and saving a ringtone as their highest rated activity (8.45).


Given that our research showed that schools have certain policies against mobile phones, we surveyed teachers to gather their opinions about the mobile phone as a tool for informal science education. We realize that one of our barriers to using the mobile phone as a device for informal science learning is the school regulations against phones. The Institute for Learning Innovation conducted the teacher data collection as a Web survey. Unfortunately, with Table 2, an error occurred and the choice “not allowed in the school at all” did not appear as a selection.

Restrictions? Cell Phones Smart Phones MP3 players, including iPods PDAs Portable gaming devices
In the school (but not the classroom) 34% (n=21) 3% (n=5) 13% (n=8) 5% (n=3) 12% (n=7)
In the classroom 0% 0% 3% (n=2) 8% (n=5) 3% (n=2)
In the classroom but turned off 20% (n=12) 10%(n=6) 15% (n=9) 10% (n=6) 16% (n=10)
I don’t know what is permitted 10% (n=6) 36% (n=22) 30% (n=18) 31% (n=19) 28% (n=19)

Table 2: Where are students allowed to have portable devices?

Of the 57 teachers who responded to the survey, 22 teachers wrote in the comments section that all such devices were banned from school. These regulations are set either by the school or at the district level. Additionally, several teachers stated that they made the personal choice to ban the devices from their classroom. Museums will have to address this issue going forward if we want mobile devices to be considered tools for learning.

Despite school regulations, however, over “half of the teachers felt that using these devices might be a good way to get their students excited about science” (Haley Goldman and Foutz, 2005). As shown in Table 3, 17% strongly agreed and 38.5% agreed that these devices were a great way to get students excited about science. That is 56% of teachers in agreement with the statement.

Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree
Using a cell phone, PDA, or other handheld communication device is a great way to get my students excited about science. 17.5% (n=10) 38.5% (n=22) 33% (n=19) 10.5% (n=6)
I am more likely to bring my students to this exhibit because students will be able to use their cell phone, PDA, or other handheld communication device. 10.5% (n=6) 24.5% (n=14) 49% (n=28) 14% (n=8)

Table 3: Attitudes towards personal technology for teaching

Haley Goldman and Foutz also decided to gauge the teachers’ interest in the same experiences that were tested with our general visitor population. Teachers rated all the experiences above median with the exception of one experience. As shown in Table 4, the lowest rated activity was to download a predator-prey game to play on your device (4.73) and the second lowest was to create and save a new ringtone, animation or video clip (5.00). As noted in the Front End Report, “teachers made several comments about this set of applications but none of the comments addressed why these two applications were the lowest in ratings” (Haley Goldman and Foutz, 2005). Researchers could only hypothesize that perhaps the teachers were viewing the experiences through an adult’s lens.

Teacher Average Rating
Receive personalized maps that direct you to other relevant topics within the exhibit or elsewhere in the science center. 8.12
Receive more detailed information about a topic. 8.09
Collect pictures and information about wildlife, load those to a website where you can research the wildlife, add notes and website links. 7.56
Share ideas with other people currently in the exhibit. 6.86
Take a cell phone audio tour of the exhibition. 5.47
Send information about yourself to the exhibit in order to have a more personalized experience. 5.07
Create and save a new ringtone, animation, or video clip. 5.00
Download a predator-prey game to play on your device. 4.73

Table 4: Teacher Interest in Specific Applications (scale: 1-10, 1 is lowest)

SNSE Project: Phase One, 2005- 2006

The SNSE project has been in existence for over a year. During the initial part of the project, we intended to design applications that would enable visitors to use their mobile phones, PDAs, and MP3 players. However, after our initial advisor meeting in February 2005 and the advisor interviews that were conducted during the front end evaluation, we decided to focus our attention solely on mobile phones. Our advisors said that the PDA market was diminishing because PDA functionality is being absorbed by smartphones, phones that have the functionality of both a PDA and a mobile phone. MP3 players, while somewhat popular among our guests, just didn’t have the capabilities for easy, instantaneous download of content from within the museum.

In June of 2005, Liberty Science Center hosted a Roundtable for the Advancement of the Profession (RAP) on personal mobile devices and museums. Over 40 museum colleagues attended. Archived materials from the event are available on-line at as part of LSC’s SNSE Web Resource, a Web site created specifically to track key aspects of the project. In preparation for the RAP, a preview prototype of SNSE was installed and available to the public from June through September 2005. It included an audio and PDA guide. The audio guide was created using our own phone system (201.200.0201). The PDA guide was created using HTML and pushed to visitors using a Wideray Jack ( The original audio guide has already been expanded and installed at the new Eat and Be Eaten exhibition at the Center’s temporary facility which opened November 2005. The team is working to install the next iteration of a PDA tour in the coming months where smartphone users will be able to access the tour through the mobile Web at a special URL.

SNSE Project: Phase Two, 2006 - 2009

Given what we learned during 2005, the project has now taken a new shape and moved in a slightly different direction. If we receive funding from the National Science Foundation, this will be the direction of the project. Available to anyone who has a mobile phone, the SNSE Learning Companion will deepen the visitors’ learning experiences in the Eat and Be Eaten, Communication, and Breakthroughs exhibitions scheduled to open in July 2007. SNSE will be available as audio, SMS and MMS activities. We realize that mobile learners will be partial to certain activities based on their personal phones and how they use them; therefore, all SNSE experiences will be offered in more than one exhibition area. As part of this phase we also intend to do extensive research collection and distribution. We’d like to continue to improve our SNSE offerings and teach other museums how to set up similar systems.

SNSE As An Audio Activity

Roughly 60% of our visitors who own mobile phones use them only to make calls (Haley Goldman and Foutz, 2005). So, in order to appeal to that part of our visitor population, we knew we had to offer audio interpretation. But our hope is that through making audio available, that part of the population will become comfortable and excited about using SNSE and possibly experiment with other aspects as well.

The audio learning experience will focus on first person narratives about our animals and some of the artifacts in the Communication exhibition. According to Nickerson (2005), “The first person narratives within the audio tour were a big hit with patrons and received a great deal of positive feedback on the exhibit surveys.” Our prototype is accessible at 201.200.0201. Graphics in the exhibitions will indicate the phone number to call and the four digit code to use. We decided to avoid voice input options because Nickerson (2005) also found out that visitors “relied primarily on their phone key pad.”

SNSE as an SMS Activity

Visitors can interact with the SNSE learning companion through text messaging, also known as short message service (SMS). Text messaging was the most common feature our visitors reported having as part of their service plan, with 20% of all visitors having access to it; 16% of all visitors reported using text messaging (Haley Goldman and Foutz, 2005). Guests in the gallery will be able to vote at certain exhibits, save information on to their phone, or contribute to an exhibit display.

SNSE as an MMS Activity

Visitors can interact with the SNSE learning companion through picture messaging, also known as multimedia messaging system (MMS). We know, from our project research discussed earlier, that teenagers are very interested in activities such as creating and saving ring tones, video clips, and animations. We intend to provide opportunities similar to these so teenagers can take away their own media creations on their mobile phones. Additionally, from our industry research we know that teenagers use their phones to share experiences with their friends, especially pictures that they take with their camera phones. Therefore, as part of SNSE, we will offer a camera phone challenge that you can do in the museum or after your visit. The main focus of the camera phone activity is to challenge players to capture photos of “science things” with their camera phones. Liberty Science Center will create challenges that remind the players to look for specific “science things” in the museum environment. For example, one possible challenge is to trace the theme of ‘invention’ throughout the science center and collect pictures of all the inventors you discover. Also, visitors will be able to continue to play after their visit by subscribing to our weekly camera phone challenges - a new challenge sent out each week by the staff of the Center. For example, Center staff might ask participants to submit a picture of the most energy efficient device they observe in their daily life that week.

Future Directions: 2009 and Beyond

If the National Science Foundation funds our proposal, then by the end of the project timeline we will have well-documented criteria on how to implement a successful mobile learning initiative in an informal learning environment. This will enable us to develop SNSE into a museum-wide installation bringing content to more visitors from all our exhibition areas. We can also use our body of research to stretch outside our organization and encourage new partners to integrate SNSE within their own informal learning environments. We will broaden our target to include a wider audience, i.e. younger visitors and senior citizens, who are both small but growing demographics of mobile phones users. We will also look for new partners who can supply content such as video clips customized for the mobile platform.

Our collaboration with both Rutgers University and the Institute for Learning Innovation will help us inform not only the museum and academic communities but also the public about how the mobile phone can be used as a tool for learning. We will have an enormous body of data on the teenage audience, one of the target audiences in our grant proposal, which will be especially useful to the museum field given the industry’s ongoing desire to attract this audience. In later years, we also hope to bring this research on teenagers into formal education so that classroom teachers can see the benefits of mobile technology and the potential of mobile learning. A recent study out of Sydney, Australia showed that teachers are suffering “from a shortage of computer training and a failure to think creatively with technology” (Norrie, 2005). As David Smith, the producer of the study, stated, “It's not just about spending on more and more computers;” it's showing teachers interesting ways to get kids to engage using technology. We believe that the mobile phone could be an interesting and creative learning tool.

All in all, we look forward to the triumphs and challenges that mobile learning will bring to informal learning. As Rheingold (2003) so aptly wrote: “It’s not just about building the tools anymore. Now it’s about what people use the tools to do.” There is no doubt that mobile technology will alter how young people learn. The questions are:

  • How will the learning be changed?
  • Who will be responsible for designing these emerging learning environments?
  • What is the best way to take advantage of the learning opportunities that mobile technology offers?


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Cite as:

Bressler D., Mobile Phones: A New Way To Engage Teenagers In Informal Science Learning, in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2006: Proceedings, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 1, 2006 at