What follows is a brief survey of the positive features of mobile learning devices (MLDs) and the positive impact they can have on teaching and learning. A number of common themes emerge from the relevant literature. There is also summarised some considerations regarding the implementation of MLDs in schools.
Mobility, sometimes termed ‘portability’, is perhaps the most common property of MLDs cited to endorse their contribution to teaching and learning.
An exciting consequence of this property is that students are able to move beyond the classroom and connect their learning with the outside world. In the study by Norris et al, referring to a trial of MLDs in a Singapore school which coincided with a significant surge in progress, it is noted how students would take photos of examples of obtuse angles that they found in their local areas. The authors of the study celebrate the connection of the ‘abstract with the concrete’ (find quote). Similarly, Pachler et al, appreciate the MLD’s ability to turn ‘everyday lifeworlds into learning contexts’ (p. 186). So, an MLD’s portability allows for an enriched learning experience as students can potentially be situated in the very environment they are studying (say, a forest whilst studying food chains in Biology) and have access to fully interactive resources. Once students understand the abstract explanation of the operation of an eco-system, they could witness it in action and therefore consolidate, appreciate and wonder at this learning.
This leads on to how mobility could help foster the radical developments in education favoured by Pachler et al. The MLD demands a greater emphasis on ‘situated learning’, a learning style of purported superiority to traditional methods. MLDs would help to usher in more informal learning in a time which sees a ‘decreasing reach in school-based learning.’ (p.188). In other words, Pachler et al see the use of the MLD as one pathway to a richer way of learning and welcome a future of more ‘beyond-classroom’ teaching. It is with this view that the present study will return to to dispute.
Norris et al, also praise the MLD’s mobility as it facilitates collaborative learning. (find quote). Contrasting the devices with the laptops used formerly in their place, the authors of the study mention how, in the Singapore case study, students would be able to move freely around the classroom to speak to other students and refer to their devices, unencumbered.
Finally, Norris et al point out how the mobility makes MLDs ‘always available’ and that the class participating in the study contained pupils who would independently investigate tangential questions during class discussion. The ease with which they could do this encouraged them.
Norris indicates that the syllabus delivered in the Singapore school, where lessons were fully-enacted on the MLD, helped to facilitate independent learning. The subject of one lesson analysed was the processes of plant-life where students were offered a selection of activities (drawing programmes, match-up exercises etc.) on the MLD interface. Students were able to work at their own pace, selecting given activities at a time that suited them. The virtue of MLD-enacted lessons such as these and lesson which rely on MLD apps discussed by Pachler et al is that they provide students with a decent selection of activities, which are ideally fully interactive and comprehensive to user. Thus, myriad independent learning opportunities can be afforded without teachers having to give voluminous explanations and resources to their classes. That said, the extent to which apps can be relied upon to challenge students with higher-order tasks is questioned in this study.
Pacher et al also stress the benefits that will follow if MLDs are embraced considering the centrality of these devices to the lives of young people. The authors figure MLDs…