Mobile Learning in K-12 Education

This page is a supplement to Mark Pegrum & Grace Oakley's paper entitled Mobile Learning in K-12 Education: Teachers' Technological, Pedagogical and Organisational Considerations, delivered at MobiLearn Asia, Singapore, 24-26 October 2012.


This paper reports on research into the use of mobile handheld technologies throughout the schooling system – from kindergarten through primary to secondary level – based on teacher surveys and interviews, as well as classroom observations, conducted in Perth, Western Australia, over the past 18 months. While there are clear differences in the use of mobile devices at different levels, a surprisingly large number of common themes have emerged. Many centre around binary considerations regarding the technology itself, its pedagogical uses, and the organisation of the classroom. In most cases, however, teachers are not faced with an either/or decision, but with a continuum of possible choices.
We will structure our exploration of the educational uses of mobile handheld technologies, most notably iPads and iPod Touches, around these binary considerations. Firstly, we will explore the technology itself, beginning with a focus on the hardware and the use of analogue vs digital tools, continuing with a focus on the software in the form of free vs proprietary tools, and then moving to a broader focus on technology vs pedagogy. Secondly, we will turn to pedagogy itself, considering traditional vs contemporary pedagogical approaches, apps for consumption vs production and, from the point of view of teacher professional development, teachers as learners vs teachers as experts. Thirdly, we will consider the dynamics of technology usage, exploring collaborative use vs personalised use, formal vs informal learning spaces, and finally lower vs higher year levels. Thus, we will conclude our discussion of common themes emerging at all levels of the schooling system with some remarks on the differences between levels. This will lead into a brief account of two school case studies which illustrate how the general considerations come into play in two specific, and very different, educational contexts.
--Nine Considerations for Mobile Technology Use--

The nine considerations and associated recommendations which are at the core of the paper were initially derived from Phase 1 of the study Exploring the Pedagogical Applications of Mobile Technologies for Teaching Literacy, conducted in Western Australia in 2011-2012. They were then refined and elaborated in light of additional insights which emerged in Phase 2 of the same study. These considerations and recommendations reflect the researchers' and teachers' views of the current state of best practice with respect to using mobile handheld technologies, especially iPads and iPod Touches, in the classroom. The full report is available from

  • 1: Consider analogue vs digital tools.
    • Recommendation 1A: Use blends of analogue and digital technologies to achieve varying educational aims.

  • 2: Consider free vs proprietary tools.
    • Recommendation 2A: Explore both free and paid apps, seeking a pedagogically and financially effective combination.
    • Recommendation 2B: Ensure that students use web-based services as well as native mobile apps to increase their exposure to a range of digital tools.
    • Recommendation 2C: Establish a common database of useful apps and web services to be shared among a community of teachers.

  • 3: Consider technology vs pedagogy.
    • Recommendation 3A: Place pedagogy and content ahead of technology, ensuring that the selected technologies support the intended learning outcomes.
    • Recommendation 3B: Integrate the use of mobile technologies into the wider learning ecology, so that they are not seen primarily as entertainment devices.
    • Recommendation 3C: Capitalise on the engagement potential of mobile technologies to keep students on task – especially, although not exclusively, in contexts where there are behaviour management issues – thereby facilitating pedagogical aims and supporting student learning outcomes.
    • Recommendation 3D: Capitalise on the benefits of mobile technologies, including relevant apps, to support students with special needs.
    • Recommendation 3E: Use mobile technologies as a springboard for teaching students how to manage technology and use it appropriately for a range of purposes.


  • 4: Consider traditional vs contemporary pedagogical approaches.
    • Recommendation 4A: Consider whether, how and when mobile handheld technologies should be used to support traditional or contemporary pedagogical approaches.
    • Recommendation 4B: Consider how mobile handheld technologies can be used to transform learning, moving it (further) in a social constructivist direction, rather than merely enhancing traditional or existing tasks.

  • 5: Consider consumption vs production.
    • Recommendation 5A: Use content transmission or behaviourist apps, where appropriate, to reinforce learning, but not to the exclusion of more production-oriented or creative activities.
    • Recommendation 5B: Explore the use of generic apps to promote student creativity and higher-order thinking.

  • 6: Consider teachers as learners vs teachers as experts.
    • Recommendation 6A: Identify key leaders and teachers who will share enthusiasm for the use of mobile handheld devices, act as role models, and offer support to other staff.
    • Recommendation 6B: Emphasise pedagogy ahead of technology, reminding teachers that technology complements – and does not in any way make redundant – their existing content and pedagogical knowledge, though it may require further development of pedagogical knowledge as they seek strategies for effectively integrating mobile devices into their classrooms.
    • Recommendation 6C: Give teachers access to hardware and software with plenty of lead-in time before they start to use it with students.
    • Recommendation 6D: Provide teachers with bracketed time for professional development, both formal and informal.
    • Recommendation 6E: Offer targeted and contextualised professional development, if practical, with 1:1 support being supplied at the point of need.
    • Recommendation 6F: Remind teachers that they do not necessarily have to be technological experts from the start, but can learn with and from students about new technologies.
    • Recommendation 6G: Encourage teachers to join, and share ideas in, a sustainable community of practice.


  • 7: Consider collaborative use vs personalised use.
    • Recommendation 7A: At early childhood and primary levels, explore mobile handheld devices as shared tools for collaborative tasks (though individual tasks are still possible).
    • Recommendation 7B: At middle and upper school levels, consider a 1:1 model of mobile handheld technology use (both for individual tasks, and for collaborative tasks where the collaboration occurs online).
    • Recommendation 7C: In the medium to long term, consider a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) model, encouraging students to personalise their devices and their learning environments.
    • Recommendation 7D: Whether using class sets or personal mobile devices, put in place an acceptable use policy, teach students about digital safety, digital privacy and digital reputation, and help them to develop digital citizenship skills.
    • Recommendation 7E: Involve parents in their children’s education by holding information sessions about mobile technologies and their dangers, especially but not exclusively when a BYOD/BYOT model is employed.

  • 8: Consider formal vs informal learning spaces.
    • Recommendation 8A: At early childhood and primary levels, encourage students to use mobile handheld technologies outside regular classroom spaces.
    • Recommendation 8B: At middle and upper school levels, encourage students to explore ‘seamless learning’ by integrating their learning across formal and informal spaces, including school and home.
    • Recommendation 8C: Capitalise on the networking which is possible between staff, students and parents in virtual spaces accessed through mobile handheld devices.

  • 9: Consider lower vs higher year levels.
    • Recommendation 9A: At early childhood, primary and middle school levels, encourage directed-play and creative approaches to using mobile handheld technologies.
    • Recommendation 9B: At middle and upper school levels, consider mobile handheld devices as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, laptop and desktop computers.
    • Recommendation 9C: Consider e-textbooks, including those designed by teachers, as a replacement for hard copy textbooks.


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  • Puentedura, R.R. (2011, Dec. 8). A brief introduction to TPCK and SAMR. Ruben R. Puentedura’s weblog.

Credits: The image above right is available under a Creative Commons licence (CC BY 2.0) from Sean MacEntee's photostream on Flickr; the original can be found here.

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