Electronic mobile device technology for tablets and smartphones is beginning to mature. Where ‘Palm pilots’ and PDAs have been around for over a decade, the speed of processors and memory for mobile devices is getting to similar levels that personal computers had just a few years ago. This means that their uses including for mobile learning are mushrooming. According to the retail sales technology company IMRG, 40% of UK online shopping was done by mobile device in 2015.
Software development for mobile devices – the so called app – is growing at a vast rate globally with approximately 1000 new software developers moving into mobile software development every three months. App development is going in almost every direction imaginable from e-commerce to navigation to games, and of course educational apps.
As a lecturer I find that students are constantly on their phones, tablets and laptops so I have integrated the devices into my teaching.
A paper just published in the Ukrainian Language Journal of Educational Science or Педагогічний часопис Волині by researchers from the Eastern European National University has looked at the use of mobile devices in learning settings to determine how they are being used now and how they may in future.
Mobile Learning: How and where?
Distance learning has been done via the postal service for decades. The advent of the computer speeded this up considerably,and, with the advent of 4G technology, students and teachers are no longer tied to buildings, offices and classrooms.
Now a class can have mobile learning as part of almost any type of teaching. School teachers are sending pupils their homework via apps. Colleges and universities are developing presentations and ‘how to videos’ for students to use ‘on the job’ whilst out at work or on placements. Lecturers can coach students as they are performing tasks in real time or commuting to or from work.
What can we do now?
The researchers found that many lecturers and trainers are setting up ‘informal’ Facebook Groups for remote teaching and getting discussions going both outside and inside the classroom. Twitter is being increasingly used by tutors and students to communicate, learn and even be assessed.
6 methods to enhance learning using mobiles
The paper identified six methods by which mobile learning can be used to accentuate the learning experience:
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1. Technology-oriented mobile learning – Where the learning is focussed on understanding the capabilities of the technology as opposed to other content. This enables the students to use the technology for other purposes.
2. Mini e-learning – mobile, wireless and portable technologies used for re-implementation of solutions and approaches already used in ‘normal’ e-learning tools. For example using VLE technology and add ins/apps on mobile platforms.
3. A combination of mobile learning and learning in the classroom – the same technologies used to support collaborative learning in the classroom.
4. Informal, personalised, situational mobile learning – This is where the student is learning often ‘on the job’ via mobile technology.
5. Mobile training or just in time solutions. This is where participants use mobile technology in the situation to learn a new skill or attribute as they are applying the learning. This can occur in a flat way through videos etc. or with live feedback either from a tutor or biometric data or other feedback systems to enhance learning.
6. Remote (rural) developmental mobile learning – These are technologies used to address environmental and infrastructure issues and support education where normal electronic learning technologies do not work. Usually these are pre-loaded onto the device in the form of an app or other software, which is useful in remote areas with no mobile connection.
Mobile educational and training technology is just starting to come of age and mature into a useful set of learning tools and go far beyond communication tools. New apps are starting to integrate GPS technology that triggers learning events at certain locations.
One class I held earlier this term involved 8 students all in different locations collaborating on a group task, pulling in data (video, photos and observation/measurements) from their unique locations. They were then able to go to different cafes and compile a joint report (using video tutorials and documents I had provided) which they then submitted for marking without ever going near each other, a classroom or me. This project previously would have taken five times as long and entailed travelling, little of which would have beenembedded in the experience.
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