Mobile Learning in Schools

We live in a changing world, where new technologies play a greater part in our lives.  The new technologies as mobile phones, laptop computers, ipads, ipods change the way that we communicate and the way that we access and receive information.

This new information is not limited to parents. Our children – today’s students have access to this information. Afterall, we want our children to have the best access to information and communication so that they can do well in school and that we can keep in contact with them.

Children have access to not only mobile phones but access to social networking sites as Facebook, Twitter. They also have access to internet sites as Youtube, MySpace, news sites as Yahoo7.  They can download, upload, transfer information.

They can access this information on their mobile phones, anytime, anywhere, 24/7. Today’s students can download Podcasts onto their mobile phones, access the internet, watch videos. The information they receive in instant. Never again do they have to wait for the 6pm news or wait for the morning newspapers to receive their information. Books and magazines – printed information, may become a thing of the past.

Today’s students are ‘Digital Natives’ (To coin Prensky!).  Students do not have to go to libraries, books computers and internet cafe’s to access information. The information has come to them. In what is called ‘Ubiquitous computing’, today’s computers and information have been adapted into their environment.

What does this mean for education?

The changing world means that we also have to think about education. No longer is learning teacher centred. As students have more access to information, learning is moving towards student-centred or Constructivist learning. As children communicate via emails, mobile phones, social network sites – they are helping each other to learn in a network of children.

While teachers continue to teach from textbooks and recommended library books and selected internet sites, today’s students are accessing their own information from not only the internet, but also from other sources such as Youtube, podcasts etc. Generation Z, today’s students – tommorrow’s leaders, have never known life without the internet.

If teachers and education standards do not keep up with the new technology, students may not find education relevant and be ‘disconnected’ from learning.

There are also the possiblity that if we do not embrace new technology, that our students will not be prepared for the future.  The Global economy is changing and so are today’s workforce. No longer just working in factories, today’s workers require skills that allow them to be creative and to be innovative.

The 21st Century workplace demands that workers not just able to use computers, but are able to access and use information, to create new information. 

Today’s schools need to be more than just ‘factories’ of education, turning out students versed in traditional subjects such as Mathematics, Science, History, English.  Today’s schools need to prepare our students for the changing workforce and the 21st century Global economy.

What Is Mobile Learning?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neZYE9gBIuE

What is Mobile Learning?

Today’s information has come to the learner. No longer confined to hours of library study or even at a computer, today’s students can access the information when they want and where they want. 

Mobile learning has been defined as ‘Learning that happens across location, or that takes advantage of learning opportunities offered by portable technologies”.

Today’s mobile phones have ‘apps’ or applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Games, video players and voice recorders. Students can also use their mobile phones to take pictures via the inbuilt camera and make their own videos.

Students can also use mobile phones to access the internet and look up their own information.

Practical Application

As a History teacher, mobile technology would certainly have some advantages to learning. Below is a picture of a mobile phone being used to access the internet to look up ‘Who was the last King of France?’.

Mobile technology is not only great for looking up information, but students can use devices as mobile phones for applications such as ‘Google Earth’ to find the location of important places.  For example, students can use Google Earth to find the location of the Pyramids of Giza, the location of the Gallipoli battlefields.

The Problems of Mobile technology

The use of mobile technology is not without its obvious problems.

Almost every month in the news, there are images of students involved in fights, being recorded by other students. As more students posess mobile technology and access to social networking sites, there are fears of increased ‘cyber bullying’.  In some instances this has led to fighting between students, families involved and even cases of suicides of those students who have been bullied.

On youtube, there are images of Teachers being recorded by students on their mobile phones. This raises obvious ethical, moral issues of privacy for teachers.

There are also concerns that not every student has access to ‘mobile technology’ especially in some socio-economic areas and Aboriginal communities. For example, as part of my class immersions, i heard a story from a teacher where a student did not have textbooks. How are we to apply Mobile Technology for students when some do not have access to basic school textbooks?

Technology is a great tool but it would be a real disaster for educators to assume that every student has access to this technology. The last thing educators should do is to make students feel inadequate or out of place because they do not have access or knowledge of this information.

We must also consider the dangers of what students are accessing on the internet.  Even innocent internet searches can bring up harmful information. For example, If i wanted students to research ‘Deserts’ and to look up the meaning of ‘Oasis’. The Google search enging brings up many websites including Dating services. 

Below is a ‘screenshot’ of the Google Webpage displaying the results for ‘Oasis’.

Before we let Mobile technology ‘off the leash’ there are some real and practical concerns that need to be addressed.

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