Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mobile Learning: Is It Doing What It’s Supposed To?

Is mobile learning really doing what it’s supposed to be doing? The core allure of mobile learning is that you can engage in substantive, meaningful learning any time and any place. Ideally, mobile content and instructional strategies effectively create conditions for learning – you’re engaged, the content is relevant, you’re able to connect it to applications and real-life settings that mean something to you, and the activities prepare you to succeed in any outcomes assessment you might have to do. Interactivity, functionality, convenience, and just-in-time are key watchwords. Colleges and universities are using mobile applications for their online MBA programs, sustainability studies programs and project management, literature courses, and more.

I’d like to take a moment to suggest that mobile learning has yet to live up to its potential. Yes, it’s true that instructional materials are increasingly available, and that one can view presentations, listen to audio, read text, review maps and diagrams, and watch video. But, how often are the activities guided? Where does the material lead?

To ensure you maximize the benefits of m-learning projects, think about incorporating data collection, field work, location-based activities with team-members, sharing information with team members while working in a distributed field-based manner (in multiple locations).

It’s also true that there are any number of programs that provide flash cards, multiple-choice questions, and quizzes that you can take using your handheld. It used to be complicated to do so – it required awkward downloads and frustrating implementation. Now, it’s largely web-based, so all you have to do is access a URL that is mobile-friendly. It’s easy to do, but are the materials any more useful than ones you might access from your laptop? Again, it’s all in the instructional strategy. How are you supposed to interact? How do you keep from being either distracted by the materials, or simply passive?

Smartphones and other handheld devices are much more powerful and more flexible than ever. There are still some significant barriers, though. Let’s look at a few:

---iPhone and iPad do not accommodate Flash.
---BlackBerry apps are limited.

---Some screens are small and when you zoom it gets too pixelly for clarity.

---Incompatible text forms (not all eReaders will accommodate pdfs)

Interactivity is valuable. Finding the best way to interact means understanding the conditions and circumstances of your students and their environment.

Finally, the learning community building aspects of mobile learning are most definitely valuable. However, being social networking, simulations, and augmented reality activities need to be designed with care as they can quickly devolve into unfocused activities that do not contribute to achieving learning goals.

The key is to have a very robust instructional strategy and to make sure that the instructional content and the technology are aligned with what you want to accomplish.

OutStart Hot Lava Mobile -- Productivity Software

ProProfs Free flashcards maker

Moodle for Mobile

Quiz Creator by Wondershare


Hot Potatoes (version 6)

Articulate QuizMaker 09
Form-based editing with form view
Free-form editing with slide view
Demo: Think Like a Manager

Lessonbuilder for e-learning -- can be used within an LMS and also web-based (friendly for mobile devices)

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