What’s the Story with Mobile Learning in Edu and at SPU?

In a recent post I wrote about eBooks being one of six emerging educational technologies to keep an eye on in the near future. Continuing with that theme, I would like to share about the current status of mobile learning or m-learning in higher education and at Seattle Pacific University. The 2011 Horizon Report predicted that mobile learning will move towards mainstream adoption during the 2011-12 academic year.

In this post, I will:

  1. Define mobile learning.
  2. Describe how it can be used in higher education learning.
  3. Share examples of how Seattle Pacific University professors are using m-learning with their students.
  4. Share an upcoming opportunity for SPU faculty to discover more about how mobile learning can be used with their students.

What is mobile learning?

Mobile Learning or m-learning definitions fall into one of two camps, tech-centric or learner-centric. Traxler (2005, p. 262) defined m-learning as “any educational provision where the sole or dominant technologies are handheld or palmtop devices.” This definition clearly focuses on the technology being used rather than the learning that takes place. Learner-centric definitions emphasize the location of the learner –anywhere, and the timing of the learning activity –anytime (O’Malley et al., 2003). I choose the second definition to stay centered on learning and keep “the tail from wagging the dog.”

How is mobile learning being used in higher education?

Quinn (2011) shares Four C’s of Mobile that can help educators stay focused on appropriate uses of this educational technology. First, mobile devices can be a great way to access learning Content. Students can watch videos, listen to lectures, and even read articles or books on their mobile devices. SPU’s iTunes U site was recently optimized for iPhone and iPad use. Second, mobile devices are great tools for Capturing content. Students can use their phones to take pictures, as well as record audio and video, all which can be used to document evidence of their knowledge and skills in a course. Third, students can use mobile devices to Calculate. Instead of purchasing and lugging around a separate calculator, students can buy a scientific calculator app for less than a dollar that is available wherever they carry their smart phone. Great computational apps like Wolfram Alpha can be useful for finding and sharing statistical data during classroom discussions. Fourth, mobile devices can be used to Communicate with others. Students can send emails, texts, and use voice and video technologies to interact with their peers and professors. The Four C’s promote anywhere, anytime learning, allowing students to engage in learning activities in places where they might not be carrying their textbook or have access to a computer.

How is m-learning being used at SPU?

Seattle Pacific University professors are experimenting with mobile technologies in both face-to-face and virtual settings. One example is from Assistant Professor of Economics, Geri Mason, who has students answer a higher-level question at the beginning of a class using cell phones as a personal response devices or clickers. She uses PollEverywhere to survey students, having them text answers to an online database where they display on the projector screen as they are submitted. Once all students have participated, she has them break into small groups and discuss their answers. When finished, she calls on students to defend a position from one of the responses. Professor Mason also uses this technology for short quizzes, taking attendance, and gathering feedback on data collection assignments. She has harnessed what many would consider to be a disruptive technology and uses it for active learning.

Education Professor Andrew Lumpe has recently experimented with Blackboard Mobile Learn on his iPad. Blackboard Mobile Learn is a native mobile app version of Blackboard available on Apple mobile devices, as well as Android, Blackberrry, and WebOS (formerly Palm) smart phones. He has used it to participate in discussions with students in an online graduate course. Professor Lumpe gives the app mixed reviews for now. He likes how easy it is to navigate around the course on the iPad. He also likes how discussion forums are graphically represented. However, he does not like that the Control Panel is unavailable to make changes to the course and wishes there was a feature to receive notifications when new discussion posts are made. For now professors and students may prefer to use the browser version of Blackboard on their mobile devices.

Are you interested in learning more about m-learning?

Instructional Technology Services will be hosting a workshop on mobile learning on June 15, 2011 at 2 PM in the Library Instructional Lab. Professor Mason will share about her experiences with PollEverywhere and I will share highlights from an invited presentation I recently gave in Syracuse, New York at the SUNY Online Learning Summit.

Photo Credit: Dominic Williamson, Senior Graphic Artist, Instructional Technology Services

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