Tangible benefits of mobile learning

This is the second in my series of blog posts looking at the JISC Mobile Learning infoKit, published in 2011 and available here. My blog posts in effect re-purpose the infoKit as they consist of my notes and thoughts on what has changed in the mobile learning terrain especially in the light of evidence being found and discussed in the Places project, evaluating the use of tablet PCs at University of Leicester. To give further background, I also worked on the DUCKLING project and keep referring to findings from the e-book reader case studies in that project (in which we pre-loaded simple e-book readers with learning material and shipped to distance students in lieu of much printed material and notes).

Introduction (continued)

Why Mobile Learning?

“Looking at mobile learning in a wider context, we have to recognize that mobile, personal, and wireless devices are now radically transforming societal notions of discourse and knowledge, and are responsible for new forms of art, employment, language, commerce, deprivation, and crime, as well as learning.” (Traxler, 2009)

Although Traxler rightly points out negative products of mobile device use, his key point of ‘transforming societal notions of discourse and knowledge’ reveals why educational institutions must incorporate these notions if they are to remain relevant.

Tangible Benefits

A very useful list of measurable mobile learning benefits is proposed in the infoKit. I mark each benefit we saw in the DUCKLING e-book reader study, and benefits we are seeing in Places tablet PC studies:

  1. Personal, private and familiar – the ‘personalness’ reduces the sense of obstacles to learning -DUCKLING, Places
  2. Pervasive and ubiquitous - DUCKLING, Places
  3. Fitting into the lives of learners – allowing user to make use of even spare 10 minutes – DUCKLING, Places
  4. Portable – enabling learning in any place and at any time – DUCKLING, Places
  5. Immediacy of communication – Places
  6. Bringing learning to those in remote or isolated areas – DUCKLING, Places
  7. Location-aware contextualisation – GPS capability
  8. Immediate capture of data and learning processes – camera, video, sound recording, text input – Places
  9. On-the-move access to tutors and peers- Places
  10. Learners can receive reminders and chasers – Places?
  11. Bite-sized resources – helpful when learning skills or on-the-job – DUCKLING, Places
  12. Abstract and concrete knowledge can be integrated – Places
  13. Peer-to-peer network fosters student-centred learning – Places
  14. Promotes active learning – Places
  15. Enables new learning environments
  16. Accessibility – DUCKLING, Places
  17. Enables reflection close to the learning event (in both time and place) – Places?
  18. Reduces technical barriers to e-learning- DUCKLING, Places

Now that I’m considering the DUCKLING use of simple e-book readers by busy distance masters students, and the Places use (also by busy distance masters students) of the iPad with the bespoke app containing multimedia learning materials, I see that in both, the main use of the device is to serve to the students learning materials created by instructors, and the main intended benefit that they can carry around all of this learning material and study it anytime, anywhere. No communication was possible using the e-book reader, but of course it is possible with the iPad. With the iPad, students are encouraged to use Twitter to keep in touch with their tutor, and to use discussion boards to discuss with tutor and peers. Knowledge creation or capture using the iPad was not exactly designed into the course; however, students are reporting new study strategies they are developing with new apps they discover, such as a mind-mapping tool and Evernote for storing notes in the cloud.

I wrote ‘Places?’ next to those benefits which are possible with the iPad, but for which I have not yet seen evidence from the students.

There are a couple of other examples of mobile learning which deliver obvious benefits but which fall outside of my two projects, which I’d like to note. One is the use of mobiles as a field notebook; for example, students are walking around, observing plants, taking photos, making notes, measuring, comparing, filming live action. They might be storing this data only on their own devices, or they could be saving everything to a central location in the cloud. This corresponds to benefits 7, 8, 12, 14, 15, 17, and 18.

The other notable example is the use of iPhones at University of Leeds medical school (Apple, 2011). 4th and 5th year medical students are loaned iPhones which are loaded with many key medical and pharmaceutical texts, as well as medical apps, so that right in the clinic they may check references, note issues arising, and use many other useful medical apps, with an iPhone which is more hygenic for being on the wards than is a traditional notebook. I would say this use demonstrates every benefit in the list except possibly number 6.

Have you encountered other tangible benefits of mobile use not in the above list? Leave a comment!

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, University of Leicester

Apple. (2011). Apple (United Kingdom) – Education – Profiles – Leeds School of Medicine changes learning culture with work-based iPhones. Apple Education Case studies. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from http://www.apple.com/uk/education/profiles/leeds-uni/

Traxler, J. (2009). Current State of Mobile Learning. (M. Ally, Ed.)Mobile Learning Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training, 5(2), 9–24. Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/books/120155/ebook/01_Mohamed_Ally_2009-Article1.pdf

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