Mobile Learning…for the World
By Mark Sivy, Ed.D.
UNESCO and UN Women held the global Mobile Learning Week 2015 this past February. The purpose of this annual meeting is to bring together an international group of practitioners, researchers, and other stakeholders for the purpose of promoting mobile technologies as a means to advance education. This year’s theme of Leveraging Technology to Empower Women and Girls focused on how “with appropriate implementation and training, mobile technology can open doors of opportunity to women and girls who are often under-served educational.” According to the event description, the symposium explored “how newly affordable and increasingly ubiquitous mobile devices can improve access to education, strengthen learning outcomes and, ultimately, nudge the world closer to true gender equality, both in education and beyond.”
Why Mobile Learning?
Mobile learning is playing an increasingly important role in international training, talent development, and education processes 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 learning space. When offering learning opportunities for young adults and 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.
To fully understand mobile learning, a common definition is necessary. Finding this is as elusive as a definition for many other contemporary terms such as e-learning, virtual learning, and web-based learning. A good generally applicable definition for mobile learning can be developed from. So mobile learning, based upon the 2008 Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) description of educational technology, can be comprehensively explained as “the study and practice of facilitating learning and improving human performance through various mobile contexts and interactions by creating, using, and managing appropriate technologies, learning processes, and resources.” From this definition, one can see that mobile learning is a complex relationship between multiple components, including:
- 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.
Making It Work
Mobile learning can facilitate and leverage processes such as innovation, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, productivity, and leadership, but is dependent upon addressing many factors. The implementation of a mobile learning strategy should be guided by learner needs, the available capacities to design and provide exceptional learning content, and learner access to the Internet and mobile devices. 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: “If you could kick the person in the pants [who is] responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
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.