Learning is to get a fun and trendy image to appeal to young adults by plugging into their favourite lifestyle accessory - the mobile phone.
A three-year project dubbed "M-learning", launched this week by the Learning and Skills Development Agency, aims to turn disaffected 16 to 24-year-olds on to education and training via games and information on their mobiles, pocket PCs, and Gameboys.
Games designed to build key skills such as literacy and numeracy, and "microportals" providing links to education, training, and careers information services are to be developed by institutions and commercial companies, including Anglia Polytechnic University's Ultralab learning technology centre.
The project, supported by the European Commission's Information Society Technologies initiative, will also investigate the possible use of more advanced devices such as Wap phones and hand-held computers, as well as developing an "intelligent tutor" system to help identify a mobile phone users' learning preferences and needs.
To answer any objections on the grounds of concerns over health hazards associated with excessive use of mobile phones, the project team plans to closely monitor research in this area.
The project is designed to motivate more young people to sign up for education and training courses, possibly starting at their local internet cafe. It aims to tackle poor literacy and numeracy levels, non-participation in education and training, and lack of access to computers.
Recent surveys show that 75 per cent of young adults own a mobile phone.
The Foyer Federation says that about 80 per cent of young homeless people are mobile phone owners. A survey by mobile retailers The Link found that students spend more each year on mobiles than on books.
Project manager Jill Attewell said: "We are not expecting that young people will take whole courses via their mobile, but more that we can engage them in some kind of learning in bite-sized chunks through a games interface. We can then encourage them to find out more, possibly using internet cafes for online learning or attending more conventional courses.
"Above all, mobile phones have the advantage of being portable and something the learner can control."