This article aims at examining what is mobile learning and how it is designed and evaluated. The authors discuss how learning contexts are created through interaction and how portable and ubiquitous technologies can support effective conversations for learning based on a theory of mobile learning.
First of all, a new conception of mobile learning is put forward since the previous definitions ignored the wider context of learning as a style of mobile lifestyle. The authors propose that “mobile” in mobile learning includes various aspects, i.e. mobility in physical space, mobility of technology, mobility in conceptual space, mobility in social space and learning dispersed over time. Thus, the study of mobile learning refers to the study of how the mobility of learners augmented by technology could bring benefits to the process of acquiring new knowledge, skills and experience. Secondly, theoretical foundations of mobile learning were presented. Accordingly, mobile learning is characterized as the processes of coming to know through exploration and conversation across multiple contexts, amongst people and interactive technologies. Then, the process of designing mobile learning and the critical factors for mobile learning project are illustrated. An important thing is that specific learning objectives should be ensured before the design. After that, the authors identify the challenges for mobile learning evaluation, new tools and methods for collection and analysis of mobile learning data and a framework for mobile learning evaluation. The challenges contain unpredictability of the context of use, unpredictability of the learning process, unpredictability of the mode of use, looking beyond the “wow” effect. And the evaluation framework structures comprise 3 levels, micro level, meso level, and macro level to assess usability, educational effectiveness and overall impact. Finally, the authors illustrate 3 examples to show the applications of mobile learning. Though the activities show that mobile learning has successful pedagogical implications and the students were motivated, some problems still existed, e.g. cost issues.
Overall, the article is quite enlightening. It provides us with a practical method to realize lifelong learning. Mobile learning enables us to study at anytime and anywhere as long as we have a Smartphone at hand. A common learning method is to download some Apps. For example, I downloaded an App for my vocabulary learning. When I encounter an unfamiliar vocabulary, I can look up it easily by using the App. Also, I used it to memorize vocabularies when I was waiting in line. Moreover, mobile learning facilitates collaborative learning. In last class, we experienced mobile learning by producing commercial videos. Before the class, we were required to use the mobile phone to take photos about advertisements. Then, in the class we worked in groups and were assigned different tasks. We had to choose one proper picture from the photos that we took before and find the suitable music on the Internet, design advertising verbals, and record the script by using the Smart phone. The activity successfully motivated the students to learn and encouraged the students to be creative. Nonetheless, mobile learning has its own limitations. The unstable mobile phone signals, limited battery capacity and etc. may make the learners annoyed. Too much exposure to mobile phone will be harmful to the learners’ health. Further, the young learners may not be able to control themselves to use the mobile phones for learning rather than playing mobile phone games. Consequently, though mobile learning has many advantages, we should use it carefully. The teachers need to guide the students to use mobile learning properly. And as in mainland China, primary and secondary schools don’t allow the students to use mobile phones and many other electronic devices, it might not be practical to use the method for the students at that level. But I believe that it definitely will attract the attention of the college students.