Nabeel Ahmad (@nabeeloo) and Dominic Mentor provided tremendous help and guidance for me in pulling current literature on an emerging paradigm - mobile learning theory. They taught the first ever United States graduate school course about mobile phone learning at Teachers College about 5 years ago and it continues to be one of the toughest classes to get into. Below are some of the paragraphs from the Literature Review (Chapter 2) section on Mobile Screencasting, specifically looking at the idea of mobility and mobile learning.
Mobile Learning Theory
A theory of mobile learning is essential when thinking of the role of mobility and communication in learning environments. (Sharples, Taylor, & Vavoula, 2005). In mobile learning, students learn across both space and time and move from topic to topic. Like a blended environment, learners move in and out of engagement with technology. A key point in mobile learning theory is that it is the learner that is mobile, not the technology (Shuler, 2009). As devices are ubiquitous, learning can be interwoven with activities part of everyday life. Control of mobile learning environments can be distributed, and context is constructed by learners through their interaction with devices and with each other. They acknowledge that mobile learning can both complement and conflict with format education, and it raises ethical issues both of privacy and ownership.
A broad literature review of mobile technologies and learning stated that a challenge for both educators and designers is one of knowing how to use mobile tools in the most meaningful way (Naismith, Lonsdale, Vavoula, & Sharples, 2004). The authors suggested that a blended learning approach is necessary when using mobile technologies in learning settings. That is, all instructional and learning activities do not necessarily need to be done using mobile phones, but rather those types of activities must be balanced out with other instructional and learning strategies. As mobile technologies are becoming more ubiquitous, the greatest challenge will be to “discover how to use mobile technologies to transform learning into a seamless part of daily life to the point where it is not recognized as learning at all” (p. 5).
Dede identified four areas where scholars, practitioners, vendors, and policy makers converge in discussions, implementation, and support of educational technologies: devices and infrastructure, safety and privacy, digital assets and assessments, and human capital (Dede & Bjerede, 2011). Dede proposed alternative models of educational improvement that can be supported by mobile technologies. He described evolutionary change as how mobile dev ices are used within and outside classroom s to enable a 1:1 ubiquitous-computing environment. Revolutionary change focuses on mobile broadband beyond used to expand human support beyond the classroom and school day, and thus invent new structures for formal education. Disruptive change involves mobile devices being part of a strategy for eliminating inflexible, traditional methods of education.
Shuler (2009) identified key opportunities in mobile learning such as the promotion of anytime, anywhere learning, the ability to reach under served children (low cost, high accessibility), the ability to improve 21st century social interaction, the flexibility to fit into diverse learning environments and the ability to enable a personalized learning experience. She also identified challenges, contesting that there is no established mobile theory of learning, and that there is a divide in what parents and teachers see and what experts see. Most notably, she stated that poor design often affects usability. She described touch screen interfaces as the “21st century” button (in addition to gestural inputs), and mobile devices and systems have become much more consistent across manufacturer and operating system. Shuler states that there are five primary goals for mobile learning. It is important to invest in understanding the development of kids who grow up in a mobile world. It is necessary to develop educational interventions that are scalable, and most importantly build tools where educators can develop. Teacher preparation is key in a mobile world, and leadership must be present in a school setting in order for mobile learning to succeed. A quantitative study by Pierce and Ball (2009) explored teacher perceptions and how those perceptions may serve as either a barrier or an enabler to their intention to integrate technology into their teaching. Students in secondary schools in Australia used mobile devices for graphing calculators as well as algebra and geometry programs. They found that some teachers tended to see students’ use of the devices as being separate from their regular course time, though many teachers responded positively to the statement that technology can be used to engage students more real world problems.
New forms of digital media are beginning to influence children and their families. Three case studies on the deployment of smart mobile devices and applications revealed some key findings for educators (Chong & Shuler, 2010). Many families engage in a pass-back phenomenon, where an adult’s mobile device is given to a young child to temporarily interact with and be entertained. It was reported that while kids claimed to only play games, parents believed that children did a variety of activities on mobile devices beyond games. The children in the studies particularly liked the iPhone and iPod touch devices because of the touch screen and direct manipulation (Chan & Black, 2006), and overall children were able to use the devices without any guidance from their parents. Chong and Shuler (2010) stated that parents play an important role in shaping children’s experiences with mobile devices, and this role extends to teachers and schools as more mobile devices are integrated into school settings. The researchers concluded that mobile devices can be used to supplement learning experiences, but ultimately all the choices must be made towards always surrounding children with high quality educational resources.
Key trends in emerging technologies will have impact over the next several years (New Media Consortium, 2011). There exists an abundance of resources and relationships that are made easily accessibly through the Internet. An environment of anytime, anywhere learning and collaboration across decentralized information structures has been created through emerging technologies (Project Tomorrow, 2010). The report identified challenges and constraints with the same technologies. With increased use and exposure to tools and new media, digital media literacy becomes increasingly important in every academic and professional arena. The existing measures of assessment and measurement are not caught up with the technologies, leading to new forms of publishing and authorship. In the near term, e-books and mobile devices will be far more prevalent in schools. In a few years, augmented reality and game based learning would be more present. In the long term, both gesture based computing devices (movement and touch) as well as an abundance of data would help steer educational technology decision and policy.
Ling (2004) stated that mobile devices have social consequences, particularly in private settings. A phone can be used to provide safety (through immediacy of connection) coordinating activities, and providing accessibility while being shielded from the private sphere. He suggested that teens adoption of texting has changed the nature of mobile communication. Technical determinism is where technologies form and mold a society, where social determinism has technology continually being reinterpreted by users within that society. Gunawardena and colleagues (2009) defined social networking as the practice of expanding knowledge by making connections with people with similar interests
In 2008, Franklin and Peng conducted a case study to determine if students’ production and sharing of math movies could be a useful formal and informal learning tool. Unlike the previously described studies, they included an examination of how teachers felt about the students’ engaging in this type of learning. The researchers observed two math classes at Midwestern middle school in the United States that were taught by separate teachers Students used iPod Touch devices to view and share tutorial movies they had created using multimedia creation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple iMovie, and Adobe Photoshop. Each student was loaned an iPod touch device and they shared their production in and out of the classroom (Franklin & Peng, 2008). Using observations, interviews, and data analyses, the researchers concluded that the use of the movies and devices had great potential as a learning tool for middle school math algebra students. They suggested that the eighth grade algebra students who participated in the study had successfully complemented their understanding of algebra by building math movies and sharing them on handheld devices. While some teachers found the devices disruptive, most teachers did not deny that the students were engaged and that the iPod Touch devices were worth exploring (Franklin & Peng, 2008). This study provides interesting qualitative insight into emerging technologies used with middle school students, but it does not directly address how this particular tool fits in with or supports the teachers’ broad understanding of education. Rather, the focus is more on student views, student outcomes, and understanding of the logistics necessary for successful use of the handheld devices.
Header photo by Robert S. Donovan