Mobile learning: still on its way!


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Mobile learning is a current trend in the field of learning technologies. Mobile learning is learning that can be facilitated with the use of mobile devices and can take place anytime and anywhere.

Paraphrasing the term digital native, first coined by education consultant Marc Prensky in his 2001 article entitled “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”, we could say that a whole generation of mobile natives is currently growing. Today’s children are raised in a world where the wireless and mobile technologies are everywhere. Children are already familiar and comfortable with these technologies. Therefore, their education also needs to keep up with the affordances that mobile learning can offer.

Mobile devices in education can be (and already are) used to  access learning  materials, watch videos, participate in surveys, diagnostic on-line tests, formative, self- and peer- assessments,  access information about assignments, class schedules and student grades, share learning experiences and artifacts.  Moreover, when they are equipped with special apps, cameras, sensors and other built-in tools, students are able to experience a more interactive, adaptive, personalized and context aware learning.

Empirical research [1] on the use of mobile devices in educational interventions, published in peer-reviewed journals, reveals that the overall effect of using mobile devices in education is better than when using desktop computers or not using mobile devices as an intervention, with a moderate effect size of 0.523. Mobile learning has a positive impact on both students learning achievements and learning motivation.

The internationally recognized NMC Horizon Report series [2], describing the emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming years in education around the globe, in its 2013 edition, positioned mobile learning for near-term (one year or less) adoption in schools.

The subsequent 2014 and 2015 editions of the same series referred to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), as the practice of people bringing their own laptops, tablets, smartphones, or other mobile devices with them to the learning or work environment and predicted time to adoption one year or less. Recent surveys in K-12 and higher education across the UK and U.S. revealed that both teachers and students are using their own devices for “personal use”. A recent study by Gartner predicted that by 2017, half of the world’s employers will expect their employees to supply their own device for work.

The 2016 NMC Horizon Report edition predicted that over the next two to three years, every student in the US will be equipped with a computing device. The BYOD movement can facilitate a blended learning approach where students can experience a personalized, collaborative and authentic learning experience with a rather mid-term (two to three years) adoption trend. Furthermore, other technological trends extending mobile learning are on their way: virtual and augmented reality (two to three years) and wearable technologies (four to five years).

Mobile learning is growing at a rate of 18.2 percent per year around the globe [3] and the worldwide market for mobile learning is predicted to grow from US $7.8 billion in 2015 to $37.6 billion by 2020 [4]. Therefore, learning organizations will need to adopt appropriate technologies and policies in order to keep up with the growing demand.

However, despite the advantages of using mobile computing devices in education, there are many factors that still hinder their widespread adoption. Some of them are:  limited teachers’ ICT competencies, concerns about online safety, privacy and security issues, the risk of radiation, the idea that mobile devices can be a distraction for students and could lower their attention, connectivity problems and other technical issues (compatibility among apps, battery life) in combination with the lack of appropriate technical support, affordability and mobile device ownership issues, user interface issues (e.g. small screens), lack of proper mobile-oriented learning material, lack of educational policy guidelines regarding the use of mobiles in education. While there is a considerable amount of successful mobile learning projects, often these projects fail to scale up and become adopted from the greater education community.

Therefore, for a successful mobile learning implementation, many of the aforementioned factors need to be overcome. Two main steps towards this direction are: teacher professional development and the development of educational content and appropriate policy guidelines that integrate mobile technologies into the learning process. Of course these should be accompanied with the analogous economic investments as well.

Mobile learning is worth the investment; organizations such as UNESCO are enthusiastic about its potential to improve and facilitate learning [5]. Mobile learning can create more space for other learning approaches such as informal learning outside the classroom, 24/7 seamless learning, authentic learning in real contexts and inquiry-based learning.  It can also enhance the effects of certain pedagogies such as cooperative learning, self-directed and self-regulated learning. Mobile technologies along with the appropriate pedagogies can effectively support the goals of the 21st century learning.

Article written by: Stavros Nikou, STEM teacher –  Scientix Ambassador


[1] Sung, Y.-T Chang, K.-E., Liu, T.-C. (2016). The effects of integrating mobile devices with teaching and learning on students’ learning performance: A meta-analysis and research synthesis, Computers & Education, 94, 252-275.





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