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Mobile Method Man

Learner II
3 2 173

Mobile learning represents an interesting case study of the kinds of problems we will encounter with educational technology in general. It's technology that is old enough to be widespread, but still new enough to not be ubiquitous or firmly integrated with praxis. We think its cool, but we're not sure what to do with it yet. What I'm most curious about is what sets mobile technology apart from other tools available to educators. What can mobile learning do that other things can't? Here's what I came up with:

Mobile is... 

  1. Mobile — Literally, learners can get up and move around with a mobile device; its easier for learners to take their assignments into the world and make them interactive. They can have your guidance available while they are engaging with the work in a way that's unique to them. I think of an engineering class where students have to document types of mechanical advantage they can see in their neighborhood, or a project where students try to extrapolate the quantity of materials used to construct a building based on external observation. 
  2. Immediate — Learners can interact on-the-fly with your content, or quickly provide fresh feedback. Imagine a psychology class where students recorded brief interviews in public. Perhaps your assignment could be to live tweet a cultural event. Although solemn, dry academic writing can have a purpose, it really doesn't provide insight into how students are actively working there way through a problem; its necessarily summative. The immediacy of mobile learning can encourage a level of frankness not easily accessed in a traditional classroom environment.
  3. Extensible — If you are able to ensure access to a mobile device (probably a smart phone) to everyone in your class, you have a solid platform for trying out new processes/technology without investing much in the way of additional resources. You could try out an augmented reality activity using something like Quiver to have them activate convergent and divergent thinking. New tools are just a download away.

I'd love to hear how you have incorporated mobile learning into your lessons, or if there are things you've found that are only possible through mobile learning. Of course I also love juicy drama, so I'm up for when your mobile plans fell apart, too. Smiley Wink Thanks for reading!

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Community Member

Just to add to Nicholas' well written thoughts, we shouldn't do mobile learning just for the sake of mobile learning as the experience might not match expectations. --read: screen size --  mobile has 3 key elements:

  1. Learner - what are the needs and context of the learning? 
    • Instructional design, graphic design, user experience, and information presentation are paramount
    • Learning on a mobile device is intended to reach the learner at the moment when information is needed and within a context of when it will be applied.
  2. Need - Does the learner need to access information immediately?
  3. Context - Is this new information relevent to a particular context or situation?

Mobile learning Really has four functions - 4 Cs

  1. Content 
  2. Computation
  3. Communication
  4. Capture
Learner II

That's definitely the flip side. It can be so easy to fetishize education tech. Like with any technology, its use should because its necessary for your goal, not just because it makes ya feel fancy.