What is Mobile Learning?

People increasingly expect to be connected to the Internet and the rich tapestry of knowledge it contains wherever they go. Mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, enable users to just do that via cellular networks and wireless power. At the end of 2012, the mobile market consisted of over 6.5 billion subscribers, with a majority living in developing countries. The growing amount of users coupled with the unprecedented evolution of these devices has opened the door to myriad uses for education. Learning institutions all over the world are exploring ways to make their websites in addition to educational materials, resources, and opportunities all available online and optimized for mobile devices. The most compelling facet of mobile learning right now is mobile apps. Smartphones and tablets have redefined what we mean by mobile computing, and in the past four to five years, apps have become a hotbed of development, resulting in a plethora of learning and productivity apps. These tools, ranging from annotation and mind-mapping apps to apps that allow users to explore outer space or get a more in-depth look at complex chemicals, enable users to learn and experience new concepts wherever they are, often across multiple devices.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - kathyschrock kathyschrock Mar 1, 2013The ability of the student to have various types of creation apps on the mobile device allows for formative and summative assessment choices either offered by the teacher or chosen by the student. - ryan.tomaps ryan.tomaps Mar 6, 2013Kathy makes a great point! I would add that the creation of apps can also lead to a number of tools available to teachers to customize instructional resource to meet the unique needs of students.
  • - Tony.Brandenburg Tony.Brandenburg Mar 2, 2013 Relevant, as mobile technology, in many cases, is purchased by the user. Allowing 24/7 access and usage. Increasing user skill competency. We are seeing Apps support each other and share data, so results achieve in one App can influence our experience in another App.
  • - Tony.Brandenburg Tony.Brandenburg Mar 2, 2013 We are seeing the emergence of the Teacher App. Providing, real time information, teaching resources, access to teacher conversation etc.
  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Mar 2, 2013 Definitely #1 for me. You didn't ask, but I'm gonna tell you anyway...I forced myself to make a Top Ten List, in order of my priorities: #1. Mobile Learning, #2 Virtual Worlds, #3 Games and Gamification, #4 Online Learning, #5 Learning Analytics, #6 3D Printing, #7 Cloud Computing, #8 Social Media, #9 Electronic Publishing, #10 Open Content. Mobile Learning is going to be the biggest thing, and for a purely pragmatic reason: money. There's nothing like the gleam in an administrator's eyes when you tell him/her that thousands of iPad apps are FREE. But if that's what it takes to get a device into the hands of every student, I'm OK with it.
  • - leslie.conery leslie.conery Mar 3, 2013Use of mobiles addresses access issues and provides the opportunity for historically underserved populations and communities to provide world class K12 learning opportunities that support creativity, collaboration, communication, and productivity in a digitally connected world. - kari.stubbs kari.stubbs Mar 6, 2013 Great point, Leslie! I was awed by the discussions out of the MEducation Conference in DC last September! - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 6, 2013 Indeed, a huge leveling of the playing field.
  • I won't repeat anything already noted here. I would note that, in some recent work I did in Brazil, I polled students in a class in Sao Paulo state about how many of them had mobile phones with them in class. Over sixty percen of these students had government issued free backpacks with them, for which they qualified based on income level. All save one had a phone with them. The government was paying for backbacks for kids who could not afford them, and was considering buying lots of new trechnology to put in this classroom (and thousands more like it), and yet the technology that everyone already had and used (and knew how to use) was not being utilized, or even really considered, in any systematic way. While this technology may not be relevant to the sector at a systemic level by the powers-that-be, it is already very relevant to the teachers and students at the elve of instruction and learning. - mtrucano mtrucano Mar 4, 2013 I totally second this! In Brazil mobile technology is what is finally leveling the playing field and giving kids a chance to bridge the digital gap. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Mar 5, 2013
  • - ryan.tomaps ryan.tomaps Mar 6, 2013I agree with the comments above. Mobile learning can be a game changer in that instead of forcing kids to come to school to access great instructional resources, school can reach out to students to meet their needs.
  • Clearly a technology that's arrived. From kinder classrooms to high school, mobile devices are dramatically altering student learning throughout the education system. - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 6, 2013

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • - kathyschrock kathyschrock Mar 1, 2013The creativity that can be expressed utilizing a creation app allows both the demonstration of content acquisition and the higher order skills of creativity to both be included.
  • - Tony.Brandenburg Tony.Brandenburg Mar 2, 2013 The ability to better understand the student. Where they do there best work (GPS), the time they spend, they time the work, their preferred mode of interaction.
  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Mar 2, 2013 I'm a little surprised that money wasn't mentioned.
  • I am not sure I agree with the assertion that "The most compelling facet of mobile learning right now is mobile apps." To me the most compelling facet is MOBILITY. Not being locked down to a specific room, or desk in that room, yet still connected to lots of other resources (especially web-based resources) really changes the geography of the learning landscape in significant ways. (Provided, of course, that your battery doesn't run out!) - mtrucano mtrucano Mar 4, 2013 agreed, it is like what is often said about cameras--that the best one is the one you have with you--true for computing devices as well - jim.siegl jim.siegl Mar 6, 2013 Mobility is the key. Changes dramatically what instruction looks like in the classroom. Need to work with administrators to ensure they understand students talking and working out of their desks is a good thing. - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 6, 2013 Agreed. - Derrel.Fincher Derrel.Fincher Mar 7, 2013
  • - helen.padgett helen.padgett Mar 5, 2013 Acceptable Use Policy - issues to consider.- cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Mar 5, 2013 Very important! - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 6, 2013 Yes.
  • Changes in how we view and interact with digital content as a result of the devices - kari.stubbs kari.stubbs Mar 6, 2013
  • The rapid shifts in the devices as well. Has the definition of mobile devices shifted in the past five years? How do we envision the devices themselves in the next five? - kari.stubbs kari.stubbs Mar 6, 2013
  • The power of these devices is what they allow us to do that we either couldn't do in the past or can do much better. - kari.stubbs kari.stubbs Mar 6, 2013
  • Mobile device LMS app managers - Of course I just made this up but something designed for creating, managing, synchronizing a learning environment on cross platform mobile devices. LAUSD's RFP for Computing Devices for Common Core Technology Project has raised the bar and hopefully has shifted the focus off the tablet an back to instruction. - ryan.tomaps ryan.tomaps Mar 6, 2013 [Editor's Note - Moved here from RQ2]

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • - kathyschrock kathyschrock Mar 1, 2013Teachers will be able to have students pick their own method of how they demonstrate content knowledge.
  • - Tony.Brandenburg Tony.Brandenburg Mar 2, 2013
  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Mar 2, 2013 I've already mentioned the main thing: Every teacher and student in our school is going to have his/her own device. And it's not just the affordability of the apps that matters...it's the variety! Coming up soon...we'll have teachers (and students) making their own apps...customized for the needs of our school.
  • Following on David -- It is not just that every student will (eventually) have his/her own device. It is that, of course, but also that students will have access to many more devices, no matter who 'owns' them, as devices increasing populate spaces where learning may occur. Increased mobility --> more devices --> more connected devices --> more connections. This is an important impact as well. - mtrucano mtrucano Mar 4, 2013
  • More learning spaces and opportunities, more creative productions using a wide variety of tools, more collaboration, more global connections and everything that was already mentioned. - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Mar 5, 2013 Yes! - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 6, 2013
  • Increased personalization of instruction. - kari.stubbs kari.stubbs Mar 6, 2013
  • One potential impact is that every student will have a device. A second potential impact is that every student will have a device that now uses technology to reinforce bad teaching and teacher-centric instruction. (See http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/06/amplify-tablet-education/1964389/) A third potential impact is that large amounts of public money will be spent on expensive devices with closed ecologies rather than on more open, powerful systems with a more open ecology. We had finally reached the point where the OS (Linux, Mac, Windows) didn't matter so long as the computer had decent power - they could all share data using free and open-source software. AThen the iPad came out and schools jumped to them because "there's an app for that" and suddenly we are back in a closed ecology. (An expensive, closed ecology) - Derrel.Fincher Derrel.Fincher Mar 7, 2013

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Mar 2, 2013 We're in negotiations now with a local Apple vendor. We've already got some iPads. If everything works out, we'll do a partial rollout (meaning some grades) during 2013-14 and a total one 2014-15.
  • - leslie.conery leslie.conery Mar 3, 2013 ISTE is engaged in a multi-year project with Verizon that includes professional learning offerings and a research and evaluation component around using mobiles to support STEM learning.
  • - helen.padgett helen.padgett Mar 5, 2013 A successful Ohio mobile learning initiative in its fifth year.
  • - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Mar 5, 2013Many private and public schools initiatives in Brazil - OLPC, Um Computador por Aluno (UCA), tablet programs (school-wide, grade-wide, BYOD).
  • BrainPOP has worked hard to offer content that will work on any mobile device. http://www.brainpop.com/about/mobile/
    In addition to our full website, we now offer content in iOS, Google Chrome, Android, and just recently launched a new Win8 app. These devices have shifted thinking around digital content, and the role that content developers play in evening the playing field with regard to ensuring that the content is device friendly. - kari.stubbs kari.stubbs Mar 6, 2013
  • Fairfax and chicago Public have been running a research project with cellular Android tablets this year. I have been collecting schools (K12 and Higher ED) that are running iPad pilots at ipadpilots.k12cloudlearning.com for the last 2 years - jim.siegl jim.siegl Mar 6, 2013
  • In Fullerton we've a 10 year old 1:1 mobile program that began with laptops and now encompasses tablets as well. We've a variety of options for schools, from a district lease that allows students to purchase machines, BYOD, providing students devices, foundation purchased devices, foundation and parent purchased devices, and school purchased devices there are a number of ways we work to get devices into students hands. LAUSD recently embarked on a large move toward providing students with devices, I believe 52 schools to begin with this year, Capistrano USD provides devices, Mater Dai in Santa Ana, CA provides all students with an iPad; Auburn, Maine provides students in Kinder devices and many more.
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