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Reflection on “Mobile learning: Small Devices, Big issues”

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.


About en6494yolanda

This blog is all about new literacies and language learning!

8 responses to “Reflection on “Mobile learning: Small Devices, Big issues”

  1. I agree with you that use apps to memorize vocabularies or look up for strange words. What’s more, it’s convenient to access international news & learn different cultural background knowledge in target language—English. We can know something or learn something immediately via our small phones. As for young learners, useful instructions about how to make use of digital devices should be offered by their teachers in a friendly way. Some of students are likely to distract from language learning when surfing the internet, but that’s not the reason why we do not use digital literacies anymore! Instead, clearly instructions and criticizing bad usages of digit devices could help students.

  2. Lewis ⋅

    Many thanks for your sharing. Basically, since smartphones ever invented, our life styles have been changed with unconscious. In the past there is no mobile phone, we can only use the phone connected by wire to call someone. But now, smartphones not only provide a more convenient way in voice chatting, but also text chatting using SMS or Whatsapp.

    It is no doubt that smartphones overcame the physical constriants. We can get the information what we want to know at any time.

    One thing I am concerned about tablets. As we know, SamSung provides tablets with mobile phone function. It thus makes the clear boundary between mobile phones and tablets blur.

    Perhaps in my understanding, mobile learning tools are not confined to smartphones but include tablets.

    • Similar to you, in my opinion, tablets belong to mobile learning tool as well. But as tablet has bigger screen than smartphone, it cannot be as portable as smartphone. It’s really interesting that today the size of smartphone become bigger while the size of tablet become smaller.

      • lewis ⋅

        Oh…I can’t agree with your point on tablets. It was because from the point of history, the latop computer manufactuers would like to invent a portable computers with very light weight, however, most of them are unsuccessful. I do remembered that Japanese manufactuers like Fujitsu, Sony and Panasonic invented some portable computers but it is very unpopular. Later Windows Mobile CE and Palms were popular for a while (in my impression less than 1 year in HK). Finally, Steve Job, Apple, invented iPad. It change our mind.

        Do you know the reason? The reason is that Steve Job invented the new touch screen technology using electrostatic but not the pressure for touching and controling the tablets. In the past, we always think that we need a real keyboard or keypad. But Steve Job has opposition on it. His key to success is “creative”.

        Back to the article, the mobile learning should not be confined on the objects including smartphones and tablets. The creative idea is the crucial point for teachers and students to realise their ideas on language learning.

        Perhaps, I feel that the smartphones may be replaced by something invented in future.

      • Well, thank you for your long reply. Definitely, creativity is important. And the concept of “small devices” in mobile learning incorporates many other electronic devices. Hope that they could be used by more people for language learning.Thanks!

  3. jadechen1

    Hi Yolanda, I like your own thoughts about mobile learning very much. They’re quite realistic. Just to share some of my thoughts. After I read Milton’s article, I think that I need to change my idea of “learning”, or “studying”. We have so often treated learning as a serious business, but the article claims that mobile learning has blurred the distinction between formal and informal learning. So I think even if we’re just browsing our weibo or skimming through the entertainment news or chatting with a friend living faraway on our mobile phone, we are also learning through “conversation”—an important concept in the article. So actually I think that when we talk about our learning experience with mobile phones, we don’t need to feel obliged to say that we download apps to learn English vocabularies or listen to English radios, etc.— although it may be quite true. I mean, we may need to broaden our understanding of “learning”. What do you think?

  4. jadechen1

    Oops! I’m here to correct a mistake in my last comment. It should be “Sharples et al’s article” instead of “Milton’s article”. (Embarrassed—why can’t I use emoticons here like those in Weibo and Qzone? Disappointed… )

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