Introducing Mobile Learning
by Mark Sivy
An agreed upon definition for mobile learning is as elusive as those for many other contemporary terms such as e-learning, virtual learning, and web-based learning. For purposes of orientation to mobile learning, I decided to build upon the 2008 Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) description of educational technology. So mobile learning can be comprehensively explained as:
“The study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance through various contexts and interactions by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological and educational processes and resources.”
From this rudimentary definition, one can see that mobile learning incorporates complex relationships between multiple factors. Some keywords in this definition are:
- Study – having knowledge of learning theory and research that are associated with the use of educational technologies.
- Various Contexts and Interactions – these can provide abundant learning opportunities, but also present many of the unknowns, barriers and issues that can arise.
- Ethical Practice – increasing the likelihood of attaining intended learning outcomes by being responsible, maintaining a respect for of learner abilities and progress, applying appropriate methodologies, and using principled intentionality when innovating.
- Appropriate Technological and Educational Processes and Resources – even with a valid need guiding the selection of technology and instructional methodology, the combined implementation can sometimes result in instructional complications and learning issues if the overall strategies are not well-planned.
Mobile learning is playing an increasingly important role in the learning process by providing the means for convenient learning using a broad range of mobile devices (e.g. laptops, tablets, and smartphones) at a time and location of the learner’s choice. Mobile learning can provide personalized learning advantages to younger learners and can facilitate many aspects of the flipped classroom. When offering learning opportunities for adults, mobile learning provides such advantages as access to on-demand content, self-directed learning, and the individualized incorporation of new knowledge with existing experience.
21st Century Learning ideals are facilitated by mobile learning. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has been at the forefront of providing a basis for the remodeling and modernization of instruction, learning and curriculum. Regardless of whether learners are K-12, higher education, or adults, the Partnership’s renowned publication, P21 Framework Definitions document, provides a list of skills that mobile learning can leverage and enhance. These include innovation, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, digital literacy, working in diverse teams, productivity, leadership and managing one’s own learning.
Instructional needs, the ability to facilitate intended learning, and learner access to mobile devices should guide the implementation of mobile learning strategies. Properly trained IT staff are needed for the installation, maintenance, and administration of back-end systems. Talent development is necessary to prepare instructors to produce learning through positive and engaging experiences. Finally, mobile learners need understandable guidelines and readily available support.
Reflection Point: I absolutely think we need to give people access to material where and when they need it. It’s imperative to have a mobile learning strategy and that’s even more important with emerging generations. But I’ll add that when I talk to my peers who are in global companies, nobody has one. ~Karl-Heinz Oehler
Association for Educational Communications and Technology (2008). Definition. In A. Januszewski and M. Molenda (Eds.), Educational Technology: A definition with commentary. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.