M-learning

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[Photo by Sean McEntee under CC BY 2.0 licence from http://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/5324223435/]
With the spread of mobile technologies, teachers and students have many new ways of using the internet and related software and services in education. The term m-learning, or mobile learning, refers to all education involving mobile handheld devices and, increasingly, wearables (or wearable computing).

- ► types of mobile devices - For now, the most common mobile devices are mobile phones. These include the basic phones common in many parts of the world, are largely restricted to making phone calls and sending SMS messages, but are nevertheless capable of supporting learning in contexts where educational institutions and qualified teachers are in short supply. More advanced feature phones may be able to send MMS messages, take still photos, play MP3 audio files, and possibly access the web, and therefore offer more teaching and learning options.

Not all m-learning depends on mobile phones. Other commonly used devices include:

  • e-readers (like the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and the Sony Reader; note that the iPad and some other tablets can also function as e-readers)
  • digital media players (including Apple's iPod and iPod Touch, and MP3 players)
  • PDAs, or personal digital assistants (but note that these are gradually becoming obsolete thanks to the spread of smartphones)

Some of the above devices share common ground with the new generation of smart devices. Located at the sophisticated end of the technological spectrum, smart devices offer enhanced functionality, including options which are better aligned with contemporary active, collaborative, learner-centred pedagogical approaches. Indeed, some researchers prefer the term u-learning, or ubiquitous learning, which places less emphasis on mobility and contextual independence and more emphasis on the situated, contextualised learning enabled by mobile devices, and smart devices in particular. Smart devices include:

  • smartphones (like Android phones, BlackBerrys, Apple's iPhone, and Windows phones)
  • tablets (like Android tablets, Apple's iPad, and tablets using the Windows OS)

Smartphones and tablets fall into 4 main categories depending on their operating systems, as shown in the table below:

---Operating System---
---Company---
---Smartphones---
---Tablets---
---Android OS----
---Google (USA)---
---e.g., HTC Desire, HTC One, LG Optimus,---
---Samsung Galaxy, Sony Xperia (see the full list)---
---e.g., Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab,---
---Sony Tablet, Toshiba Thrive (see the full list)---
---BlackBerry OS---
---RIM (Canada)---
---only BlackBerry phones---
---[none]---
---iOS---
---Apple (USA)---
---only the iPhone---
---only the iPad---
---Windows Phone---
---Microsoft (USA)---
---e.g., HTC Titan, Nokia Lumia, Samsung---
---Focus (see the full list)---
---[note that Microsoft tablets use the Windows OS---
---common to Windows PCs]---

New possibilities will open up in the near future with the arrival of smartwatches and smart glasses (and eventually smart contact lenses) as well as other types of wearable computing. Robotics is also developing rapidly, producing new branches of research such as RALL (robot-assisted language learning).

- ► BYOD & BYOT - While some educational institutions continue to provide mobile and other equipment for students, many have shifted to a BYOD or BYOT model. Although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are also sometimes used with a slightly different sense:

  • in a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model, students may bring their own internet-enabled devices, sometimes selected from a limited range of devices preselected by an educational instititution
  • in a BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) model, students may bring any internet-enabled devices they wish.

For more information on the use of BYOD/BYOT models, see the videos: A New Vision for Mobile Learning (Katy ISD, 2012) and Why BYOD? (Cheryl Fiello, 2012).

- ► educational uses of smart devices - Specifically, smart devices may be used to:

  • access the mobile web through a web browser, which means they can access any web 1.0 or web 2.0 sites. They might be used to download and listen to podcasts or view vodcasts, for example.
  • download apps which can run independently of web access and are optimised for mobile devices. Many apps offer mobile-optimised versions of web 2.0 tools like blogs and wikis, IM and VoIP, and techniques like digital storytelling.

Many mobile device owners use some combination of mobile web access and apps, but the trend is very much away from the general-purpose web and towards specific-purpose apps. As the world increasingly shifts towards mobile devices (see forecast below), this will have important ramifications for education.

InternetDeviceShipments (BII, 2012).png
Source: BI Intelligence (2012).(https://intelligence.businessinsider.com/global-internet-device-shipments-forecast).

For an overview of mobile tools relevant to libraries and librarians, see the 23 Mobile Things site or the ANZ 23 Mobile Things site.

- ► types of m-learning - There are a number of different types of m-learning, which can be arranged along a rough continuum from the more passive to the more active, and from the more pedagogically traditional to the more pedagogically contemporary. These types of m-learning include the use of educational apps and e-books, polling, multimedia recording, QR (Quick Response) codes, geosocial networking, and AR (Augmented Reality). While some of these types of learning can involve the mobile web, most operate through apps on mobile devices.

- ► more - For an overview of the development of m-learning - going back to the origins of the idea several decades ago - take a look at Mike Sharples' slideshow A short history of mobile learning. The infographic The Next Steps offers helpful ideas on how to begin introducing m-learning into educational contexts. For new ideas on how to use mobile learning, see the Mobile Learning Pinterest board. For academic and journalistic references about m-learning, see the M-learning references page or the list of m-learning journals. You'll also find current information in the E-learning tag cloud.



Credits: The menu buttons were created with the As Button Generator. The image at the top of the page is available under a Creative Commons licence from Sean McEntee's photostream on Flickr; the original can be found here. The widget, top right, shows the 10 latest stories from Mark Pegrum's Scoop.it feed on mobile handheld technologies, entitled Ubiquitous Learning. The graph at the bottom of the page comes from Business Insider Intelligence; the original is available here. I owe the ANZ 23 Mobile Things link to Garry Potter.

Contact: There's no such thing as a finished wiki. Like all wikis, this one is a work in progress and there will be changes from time to time in organisation, content and links. However, don't let that stop you from contacting me at any time with comments, suggestions or questions.