“THINK. DON’T PHONE WHILST DRIVING” was the text message flashed to me from the electronic notice-boards on the M62 motorways round Manchester this week. It was a snappy reminder that under a new law I would now be fined £60 and 3 points for dangerous driving if using a mobile while at the wheel. Fair enough but it got me thinking laterally like this – and about the safe use of mobiles and texting.

  1. Short messages can be a very effective medium in the right context
  2. Ten years ago few would have ‘got’ this particular message
  3. The mobile phone medium is now near ubiquitous
  4. How could this pervasive medium best be used to advantage for adult learners?

Since my last posting ‘e-cash and the irresistible rise of the mobile‘ this issue has become in my mind a far more interesting question for ACL tutors and managers as they plan next year’s programme.

I’ve been talking to Paul Wakefield, whose article ‘JANET and SMS’ in the December issue of UKERNA News I came across last week but had missed in the Christmas melée. With money provided by the DfES, UKERNA has already provided fast broadband connectivity via the JANET network for all ACL providers who want it.

One of UKERNA’s big new projects under way is to organise a national SMS (Short Message Service) programme for the entire JANET community.

Their market research and surveys have already shown use of SMS (especially in FE and HE), but a nationally provided service with lower unit costs, potentially allowing two way communication, integration with admin systems and group functionality (for up to ¼ million messages at once) could have a huge impact upon practice across all educational sectors.

Paul’s in the midst of the procurement process at present and UKERNA is on course to sign a contract with the chosen supplier by the end of April, with a ‘go-live’ date following shortly after. “I can see this being a fantastic resource for the ACL community” he told me with obvious enthusiasm.

He’s right and it’s not too early to think how it can be used to benefit both adult learners and hard pressed services. For a start imaginative use could bring both improvements in recruitment and retention of learners – which can’t be bad with a new OFSTED Inspection regime round the corner from next month. In any event look out for the announcement of the details in the early summer.

POSTSCRIPT (13 March) – Paul Wakefield has now posted more details of the planned SMS service on the Development section of the JANET site.