It’s ironic. For the last fifteen years or so, teachers have had to fight against a rising tide of mobile phone use in the classroom. And now, we have to undo those last fifteen years of demanding and pleading for students not to use their phones, to now telling them that phones are actually key to their educational development!
So what’s behind this change?
Mobile technology can boost achievement generally- if used correctly
Mobile learning in education is becoming more and more popular. And study after study is indicating that mobile apps built for education can boost attainment at school. How? By making learning fun. We never said that m-learning was inspired by a revolutionary idea!
For example, a study by the U.S. Department of Education found that children who used a PBS Kids vocabulary app improved their vocabulary by up to 31%. That was on the basis of the children wanting to use the app every day for two weeks, which isn’t an outlandish amount of screen time for modern kids!
So the parent buys a phone for their child. They also download some educational apps. Then they let the kids run free. Where do teachers fit in?
Unguided learning isn’t learning at all
It isn’t easy to separate the younger generation from their smartphone technology. Carvalho and Ferreira’s study, Mobile devices in school, in teaching / the learning process- the roadmap points out how mobile technology is so firmly embedded in the lives of young people today, that they practically expect it to be a part of their education, too. Hence why m-learning in education is turning into the next big thing.
Students looking up and referencing facts on their own is one of the many benefits that mobile technology has given to pedagogy. But how does the student know what to search for? And how does the student know what’s sound information, and what are sound analyses, and what aren’t? The importance of mobile learning only stretches as far as there are teachers to guide students. And that’s because unguided learning is simply wasted time.
Teachers inspire learning, technology teaches facts
Quick reference to factual information is one of the central benefits of mobile devices in education. Mobile learning in education is defined by what can easily be broken down into factual information- hence why technology is best used in subjects like maths, and not English literature. But m-learning isn’t confined to what computers can understand, but how we get technology to work for us.
Carvalho and Ferreira’s study accurately describes the many benefits of m-learning in education: mobile devices are easily usable, portable, versatile, adaptable and customizable. But most of all, they help students, teachers and parents to overcome the physical boundaries of the classroom and to learn anywhere, at any time.
You might then ask what teachers actually bring to the table. It’s all about motivation. Like we’ve already claimed, unguided learning is often wasted time- and what teachers do best is to inspire a positive attitude towards learning. Without that, students don’t want to learn. With that, and with m-learning, students want to learn, and can learn wherever they are.
Nearing ubiquity, smartphone adoption is rapidly reaching saturation in many countries as the allure of these supercomputers in our pockets grows too strong for even the most determined Luddite to resist. The world finds itself with over 2 billion smartphone users this year.
At the same time, even mighty Apple’s rate of innovation seems to slow as successive generations of smartphones grow unimaginably powerful but with fewer and fewer genuinely ‘new’ features each year. (in fact they’re now taking features away!)
What smartphones actually mean is mobile internet use, which has rocketed in line with handset numbers. Following in the wake of this technical revolution has been a explosion of new possibilities of what we can access, manage and learn from our pockets. This last activity in particular is an area where educators are waking up and pressing ahead with adopting tools and changes to work practises which is transforming learning.
With 67% of organisations now offering mobile learning in some form, and 37% providing touch screen devices of some sort for learning and development, the rate of adoption and therefore transformation of how, where and when learning happens is lightning paced. Educators in businesses and schools are realising the digital wonders in students pockets are perfect accompaniments and enablers to: flipped classrooms, learning on the go, individualised courses and learning rates, and microlearning. Cloud-based teacher-created content now has the perfect conduit to be published through – with ALL the other knowledge needed for courses.
mLearning encapsulates all the best signs and chances that learning will evolve to become more flexible and tailored than is currently imaginable. As a result, we will ALL benefit as we grow collectively smarter.