Sunday, June 15, 2014

The future of mobile phones

In my last post, I looked at the jetpack innovation from the Smithsonian magazine's annual festival, The Future is Here. At the same festival, one of the invited speakers, Joshua Bell - an anthropologist and curator of globalization at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum - spoke about new uses for mobile phone technology, and what the future could hold in store. The Smithsonian website has an article about his presentation.

The link to the article:

The main ways he sees this device changing our lives are:
  1. Mobile phones will become part of us...literally.
  2. Intelligent operating systems will make us question what it truly means to be human.
  3. Mobile phone owners will learn how to rewire, turn off and repair their devices.
  4. Open source technology will promote democracy, connect us globally, and allow us to improve our phones.
The article explains each of these aspects.

Students could be asked to brainstorm ways in which they envision mobile phones changing our lives in the future, or they could be presented with this list of 4 ways and brainstorm what each would involve. Since all of my students have fairly advanced mobile phones (in fact, "smart phones"), they know a lot more about the technology than I do. Many of them are interested in working in areas that will lead to future mobile phone development. So I think their ideas would be very interesting.

They could then read the article and compare their ideas with those mentioned by Joshua Bell in the article.

To work with the article itself, you could exploit the wide range of tenses used in the article: past, present simple, present perfect, present progressive and future. The use of the future tense, in particular, is with 'will' to indicate predictions.

Further focus on the article could incorporate these questions:
  • Describe the first mobile phone.
  • What aspects of this device from science fiction films are mentioned?
  • What predictions for this device are made?
  • What advantages and disadvantages of these predictions are mentioned?
  • What further predictions can you make - and what are the advantages and disadvantages of those?
It is mentioned in the article that Joshua Bell is developing a new exhibition for the Smithsonian with the working title A Natural History of the Mobile Phone. As more information about this exhibition becomes available, I will be looking for futher interesting articles about this device for my engineering students.

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