Mobile learning (or M-Learning) refers to learning that is delivered via portable devices such as MP3 players, cell phones, “smartphones”, pocket PCs, laptops, or personal digital assistants (PDAs). Blackberry, Palm, and iPhone are all examples of PDAs.
M-learning offers incredible access to a wide variety of learning applications. Content can be downloaded to these portable devices and utilized at times and locations convenient to the learner. Learning is not limited by the need to be in a classroom or connected to a computer. Locations for M-learning are limited only by your imagination. With M-learning people can learn on the bus, in their cars, while jogging, or as they walk their dogs.
M-learning can be very cost effective since devices such as MP3 players are relatively inexpensive. In fact, traditional text books are infinitely more expensive than MP3 players. As well, many people already own cell phones and usage is only expected to increase as ever-more diverse applications are designed (for example, multi-functional “smartphones” and GPS navigation systems). As well, the capabilities of other portable devices are continually expanding and more innovative approaches to learning are constantly emerging.
In addition, often there is no cost or only a limited fee to download content from the Internet. For example, if you were a history student, or just an interested member of the general public, you could freely download to your MP3 player the series of lectures on “Conversations with History” presented by distinguished men and women around the world, offered by the University of California. You could listen to these lectures at times and locations convenient for you.
M-learning is often fun and engaging and builds on both informal and formal learning strategies. M-learning, while not the answer to all learning needs, is a very effective emerging learning method that is well positioned to grow and enhance standard learning practices.
Technology in Action
The applications of M-learning are truly endless. For example, you could download a podcast to your MP3 player by a world-renowned expert on Egyptian civilizations to listen to on the subway on your way to visiting a museum with an ancient history exhibit.
This same scenario could be true for a high school class visiting a science centre. The teacher could send all students the link to a podcast given by an expert on human genetics which they could then listen to, via their cell phones or MP3 players, on the bus on the way to the science centre. Further, these students could make a photo documentary on their cell phones of their visit to the museum.
Or, you could make good use of your commuting time by reading a novel on your cell phone. In Japan, for example, “cell phone novels” are extremely popular.
Another example involves creating online quizzes for students to answer on a cell phone or Pocket PC.
Additional Resources about M-Learning
“10 Reasons Why Mobile Learning Matters” provides an excellent overview of the features and benefits of M-learning and is available at: http://mlearning.edublogs.org/2007/01/16/10-reasons-why-mobile-learning-matters/.
“What Can You Learn from a Cell Phone? Almost Anything!” overviews the great potential for using cell phones to enhance classroom learning. Please see: www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky-What_Can_You_Learn_From_a_Cell_Phone-FINAL.pdf.
You can try out some simple M-learning applications (including word skills, math skills, health, fitness, lifestyle and travel) at: http://learn.m-learning.net/iframe_page.htm.
Tribal CTAD shares valuable information on its website, including What is M-Learning?; How Can I Use M-Learning?; and M-Learning in Action: www.m-learning.org/how/adult-and-community-learning.htm.
Liz Kolb, an American educator, has created an informative site called “Cell Phones in Learning: From Toy to Tool”. This site includes a wide variety of information and a podcast on this topic: www.cellphonesinlearning.com/.
The Literacy is Priceless Blog for Reading Teachers has a fascinating article called “Using Cell Phones as Teaching and Learning Tools” that can be accessed here: http://literacyispriceless.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/using-cell-phones-as-teaching-and-learning-tools/.
For resources on podcasting, please look under the “Podcasting” section of this module.