Edited by: Fiona, Lissie, Dallas
What is “Mobile learning” ?
People being allowed to gain knowledge, skills and experience through a mobile interaction with technology, beyond the limitation of contexts, is called “mobile learning”.
Figure 1. Mobile devices for learning
One most important issue of mobile learning is about the “ mobility” augmented by personal and public technology, and “mobility” could be detailedly explained through six categories (Sharples, Arnedillo Sanchez, Milrad & Vavoula, 2009):
- Mobility in physical space: the location might or might not be that relevant to learning
- Mobility of technology: the devices of leaning from laptops to mobile phone
- Mobility in conceptual space: learning topics and themes will shift with learners’ interest
- Mobility in social space: learners perform within various social groups.
- Learning dispersed over time: learning is a cumulative process involving a variety of learning experiences across multiple learning contexts
Designing mobile learning:
As Sharples emphasizes, the designing of technology for mobile learning needs to be associated with enriching interactions within and across contexts. Some of the key principles of mobile technology learning design are listed below (Naismith & Corlett, 2006) :
- Create quick and simple interactions;
- Prepare flexible materials that can be accessed across contexts；
- Consider special affordances of mobile devices that might add to the learner experience (e.g. the use of audio or user anonymity);
- Use mobile technology not only to “deliver” learning but to facilitate it, making use of the facilities in current mobile devices for voice communication, note taking, photography and time management.
Sharples points out that the use of mobile technology is never the main aim for a learning activity but has to serve as a means to facilitate or benefit the learners. Some of the learning sessions can still rely on conventional means if necessary.
A Case Study: The AMULETS project
The AMULETS (Advanced Mobile and Ubiquitous Learning Environments for Teachers and Students) project is the pragmatic use of smartphones, PDAs (personal digital assistants), and GPS devices. The using of these digital devices set a bridge between out-door and in-door class activities.
Figure 2. GPS devices
The premise of AMULETS is that the design of innovative mobile learning activities should be taken in authentic environment, and should be under the guidance of collaborative learning scenarios as well as the support of mobile and ubiquitous technologies.
One trial of the AMULETS project:
The subject of this trial was learning about “the forest”. 26 fourth grade students (10-11 years old) participated in and were separated into 7 groups. These activities lasted for 2 days, only one group performed each time. The challenges for children were to explore the physical environment, identify different types of trees and measure the height and age of the trees. The tasks of some children were to record still images and video clips by using smart phones and then to explain how they solve the problems. The co-created content was automatically encoded into meta-data, including the elements such as GPS coordinates, time stamps and phone ID. These attributes provided rich contextual information for later classroom use. Pedagogical coaches gave children practical support of using techniques to measure the height of the trees. In addition, the animated roles were used to deliver the location-specific content.
Affordances of mobile learning:
- The mobile devices are portable, it is easier to refer to mobile devices in out-door actives.
- People in different places share the information and cooperate on their project through mobile devices, which improve the efficiency of the team work.
- The mobile devices support a person through a life-long learning, these mobile tools help children record their life and create a “life blog”, which can be extended with tools to support personal projects(e.g. learning languages, sports, hobbies) while they are growing up. In old age, these life blogs become the storehouse of their useful experience.
Challenges of mobile learning:
When it comes to the evaluation of mobile technology used for learning purposes, Sharples draw attention to the challenge. The three challenges mentioned are all related to the “unpredictable” nature of mobile technology:
- Unpredictability of the context of use, which means that the context of learners using mobile technology varies frequently, (background noise, lighting, posture.etc.) making it more difficult to observe, predict or simulate.
- Unpredictability of the learning process, which means that learners receive informal learning, different from traditional formal learning process—confined to the school places or institutes within systematic curriculum. Conventional assessment cannot fit in well with learners in the context of mobile technology, where learners get their learning experience through images, notes and audio recordings.
- Unpredictability of the mode of use, which means that designers cannot predict the way learners use the technology. A new technology may change a learner’s learning practice.
- Among the types of mobile devices (smart phones, laptop, etc.), which do you prefer to use for language learning, why?
- What is your interpretation of “mobile/mobility”? Please illustrate it with an example.
- What do you think may be the constraints/affordances of mobile technology applied to language learning?