What the heck is mobile learning anyway? In order to get frame the conversation in this blog, I think that it is important that we first develop a mental framework for what it is that we are talking about in the first place. First of all, we need to clarify terms. Mobile learning is sometimes referred to mLearning or m-Learning or Mobile eLearning. Personally, I want to stay away from these terms because I think we have enough acronyms in education and adding another will just continue this legacy of needless jargon and unnecessary confusion. By their very nature, professional acronyms excludes wider a understanding and conversation as only a select group of individuals are privy to their meaning. I’ve overheard a number of parent/teacher conversations iover the years where the teacher is regurgitating a number of acronyms and the parent nods with apparent comprehension but ultimately has no clue as to what the teacher is saying. This, however, is for another time…
So I’m going to call it what it is – Mobile Learning. So what does Mobile Learning mean? I don’t know whether we can quantify a specific definition that is all encompassing but I think we should stick with the idea that mobile learning is about using digital devices as tools to learn interactively wherever one finds themselves and whenever one wants to learn. Sure, mobile learning is about convenience – kids can review notes while their parents drive them to after school activities or while on the bus. However, in defining mobile learning, the focus cannot be on convenience but upon effectiveness. These tools must be effective if they are worth incorporating them into student learning environments. Let’s look at it more as an assistive technology for everyone.
Where is the place of mobile learning in the classroom? While this is quite a large question that I will probably deal with in a later post, let me mention here that the dream of having one computer per child in classrooms is dead. What killed it? Economic realities. Please feel free to disagree with me but with the advent of Web 2.0 tools and the Wi-Fi enabled iPod Touch with a full-featured web browser, who needs a $1200-$1800 laptop when the same needs (namely, a device that allows for two-way, multimedia communication) can be met with a $300-$400 iPod? With computers, the initial costs are high, maintenance costs are high and the machines become obsolete quickly. Handheld devices, however, are much more portable, much less expensive, and most importantly, students already posses them! As a result, school costs can come down dramatically if we tap into valuable assistive technologies that students already bring to the classroom everyday.
While Mark Presnky may be falling more and more out of favour these days , as can be seen in this article challenge to Prensky’s natives/immigrants idea by George Siemens, I nevertheless want to point you to a keynote speech that he made at Handheld Learning 2007 as a segment into Mobile Learning and why it is important.
You can find it here.