By Flora, Coco, Manty, and Olivia
Due to the skyrocketing development in IT, learning in the 21st century is not restrained in a fixed geographical location any longer. As the video shows, mobile learning has taken place in and out of the classroom. It is time to embrace mobile learning in our life!
Definition of Mobile Learning
Before digging into Mobile Learning, we should first understand the exact definition of “mobile”(Sharples, Arnedillo-Sánchez, Milrad, & Vavoula, 2009).
- Mobility in physical space. Learning in the digital era is not confined to certain places like schools and classrooms, but it can rather happen anywhere. For example, people can learn how to bargain in a market, and how to place an order in a restaurant. Although they may not be aware of the learning, it does exist.
- Mobility of technology. Not only can devices be carried around, people are also able to transfer attention across them. For instance, people can do multiple tasks with the support of various electronic devices. In this way, people can acquire knowledge and new information more conveniently.
- Mobility in conceptual space. According to Tough (1971), one adult normally has to do eight leaning projects in one year and countless learning pieces every day. There are so many learning themes competing for their attention, so the adult learners have to shift attention frequently based on their interests.
- Mobility in social space. Learners will enter different communities in their social life, such as their families, offices and classrooms. This requires them to customize their behaviors, attitudes, and actions according to the social groups.
- Learning dispersed over time. Learning cannot be done in a short period of time. Instead, it is a cumulative and endless process, where learners can gain knowledge and skills in both formal and informal contexts.
Image by mohamed mahmoud hassan from Public Domain Pictures
In a nutshell, Mobile Learning is a new learning style that centers around the core word “mobile”. Multiple kinds of electronic devices, including both personal and public technology, are used to increase the mobility of learners, so as to gain new information and knowledge across different contexts.
The theoretical background of mobile learning draws on ideas from Sharples et al. (2007), which focuses on mobility and context as central concepts. They hold that, learning does not happen in a fixed place but flows across five dimensions: physical and conceptual space, technologies, social space and time.
Moreover, based on the idea that learners understand the world and knowledge through exploration, conversation and collaborative knowledge building, the characterization of Mobile Learning is fine-tuned “as the processes (personal and public) of coming to know through exploration and conversation across multiple contexts, amongst people and interactive technologies” (Sharples et al., 2009).
Designing Mobile Learning
Five essential factors should be considered when a Mobile Learning Project is implemented (Naismith & Corlett, 2006):
- Access to technology: available electronic devices.
- Ownership: owning the technology.
- Connectivity: gaining, sending, sharing or presenting learning resources.
- Integration: incorporating mobile learning projects with the curriculum.
- Institutional support: creating mobile learning resources, training staff and providing technical support.
Image by Mimi Thian from Upsplash
Affordances of Mobile Learning
- Flexibility in terms of studying time and locations. Mobile learning empowers students to study anytime and anywhere. As long as students have access to mobile technologies, they are able to conduct various learning activities.
- Engaging students’ interest in learning. Compared with traditional learning in classrooms, mobile learning can arouse students’ learning interest more effectively. In the MyArtSpace project wherein students visited museums with the aid of mobile technology, they were reported to manifest more engagement with the exhibits than in previous visits (Sharples et al, 2009).
- Seamless learning. Mobile and ubiquitous technologies enhance learning by sustaining learning across different learning contexts, which is referred as “seamless learning” (Chan et al, 2006). According to Sharples et al (2009), “seamless” learning activities bridging physical environments and classrooms provide new opportunities for students and teachers to review learning processes together.
- Lifelong learning. Mobile technologies support people in a lifetime of learning. Sharples et al (2009) suggest that young children are able to explore their surroundings with mobile technologies. As they mature, these technologies are utilized to support personal projects like language learning and developing hobbies. Furthermore, the aged resort to mobile technologies for aid in memorizing.
Image by Ambreen Sajjad from Humanity
Limitations of Mobile Learning
- Technical issues in mobile learning. Learners tend to encounter some technical problems such as transfer latency and cumbersome use of varied disperse applications when employing mobile technologies. These technical challenges can increase learning difficulty and undermine students’ learning interest to some extent.
- Philosophical, social and ethnical issues. According to Sharples et al (2009), whether the technology will become an extension of human cognition and memory has aroused heated debate. People also have trouble eliminating unwanted experiences with mobile technologies. Furthermore, it is difficult to define the legitimate sphere of parents and education administrators when managing and assessing children’s mobile learning.
- Hard to evaluate mobile leaning outcomes. Evaluation of mobile learning outcomes is challenging due to some traits of mobile learning including unpredictable using contexts, unpredictable learning processes, unpredictable using modes as well as necessities to look beyond students’ pure enjoyment (Sharples et al, 2009).
- Have you experienced Mobile Learning? If yes, what devices, apps, or platforms do you most frequently use and why?
- As an English teacher, will you incorporate Mobile Learning into your teaching? If yes, how? If no, why not?