"We are at the tipping point for mobile learning," said a speaker at last week's Mobile Learning Conference 2009 in Washington DC.

"Just as television was a fundamental part of children's lives when Sesame Street introduced millions of children and their families to its educational potential, mobile devices are part of the fabric of children's lives today," said Carly Shuler, a fellow of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

"When Sesame Street started, the question they sought to answer was 'How can emerging media help children learn?' This question is just as relevant today as we consider the role of mobile devices in the education of 21st century children."

There is already an Elmo application available for the Apple iPhone, although it's less than educational.

Mobile education

Educators, policymakers and wireless industry leaders met at the Mobile Learning Conference 2009 to discuss the promising future of educational technology and the key role the application of cellular technology and devices can play in helping kids learn in the classroom.

"Mobile broadband technology is increasing efficiency and productivity for businesses across the country, and this year's Mobile Learning Conference strongly suggests that the same can be true for America's schools," said David Diggs, Executive Director of The Wireless Foundation, a conference co-sponsor.

"Based on the constructive exchange of ideas at the conference, we anticipate a bright future for mobile learning as a means to better serve classrooms and communities."

"We were so excited to learn this week from educators that utilizing wireless broadband services and devices for learning isn't just a trend, but rather a sustainable solution to educational technology that can enhance the classroom experience for millions of students in all areas of the country," said Carolyn Brandon, Vice President of Policy for CTIA - The Wireless Association.

One initiative highlighted at the event was Project K-Nect, a pilot project that used advanced mobile wireless technology to improve maths skills among at-risk ninth grade students in select North Carolina schools. The project is supported by Qualcomm through its Wireless Reach initiative.

"Social networking for educational purposes turned out to be one of the more useful outcomes of Project K-Nect as students reached out via their smartphones to get help on their math problems," said Dr Irwin M. Jacobs, co-founder and chairman of Qualcomm.

"If there's any technology that is going to bridge the digital divide, it's mobile technologies," said Dr Elliot Soloway, University of Michigan professor, during the "What is Mobile Learning?" panel presentation.

The conference concluded with a presentation from Marc Pensky who remarked that today's children learn by doing, not hearing. Pensky also emphasized that technology alone does not enhance learning, but today's technologies, including the mobile phones that are now so pervasive in schools, can be used effectively in K-12 education if schools make them part of a strategy of engagement, group study and teacher-guided peer teaching.

The 2009 Mobile Learning Impact Award was presented to David Whyley, project director of Learning2Go, for the initiative's innovative use of pocket computers in education. Learning2Go is currently the largest collaborative mobile learning project for pupils in the UK.