My answer is a simple one; because it helps students develop skills like creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking to prepare them for their 21 st Century future. However, it isn`t as simple as that.
M-learning or mobile learning, defined as “learning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices”, has both critics and proponents.
There are different opinions about the whole mobile learning movement, ranging from ” it is a distraction to learning” to “it is the way of the future”. I am a proponent of the judicious use of mobile learning devices.
What devices are we talking about specifically? “Mobile devices are devices that are mobile (can be used anywhere, not tied to one place), suitable for holding in your hand (do not need to be installed on a desktop), easily portable (can be carried in one’s bag or pocket and refill battery anywhere) as well as light (devices do not weigh much).” (Crescente and Lee, 2011)
What are the pros ?
Interactivity – Learning is often social and collaborative. Texting, e-mail, twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, can all help teachers and students gather and share information. If used correctly, mobile devices can make it easier to interact in more and varied ways.
Learning 24/7 – M-learning focuses on the mobility of the learner, interacting with portable technologies. Using mobile tools for creating learning aids and materials becomes an important part of learning, both at home and at school. An example of this is the flipped classroom. (Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.)
Future proofing – Just 20 years ago, the idea of asking your phone a question would have been largely incomprehensible to most. Working with mobile devices will not only be a part of their everyday lives as adults, but it will also be vital part of many career paths.
Up to the minute information – Traditional textbooks can never be as up to date as mobile devices and therefore the information they contain, and the work produced on the basis of that information, can be poor.
Higher engagement – Research and statistics reveal a higher engagement rate when learning is delivered using the mobile format. This engagement goes on to improve levels of literacy, numeracy and participation.
Lower Costs – the cost of mobile devices is significantly less than PCs, laptops and fully stocked libraries.
Inquiry based learning – students develop personal learning networks, to improve their development.
What are the cons?
Digital divide – The accessibility and cost barriers for some socioeconomic groups.
Safety – Without awareness of good digital citizenship students` personal and private information and content may be at risk.
On topic? – The risk of distraction should be considered and monitored.
If mobile learning is to be used successfully by teachers and students to improve teaching and learning, then it should be used correctly.
What is the prior knowledge?
What does the student understand about the tech? The app? The content? Did the teacher prepare all the resources for the class and does he/she know how to use the tech?
Is Technology the right choice?
Will using it be a distraction or could a different way to teach the content be more effective? Whilst developing 21st Century skills is important, could some of those skills be better developed using a more low-tech approach? (group work, team-talks etc)
Are the student following directions from the teacher with a pre-determined destination? Surely an advantage of mobile learning is that it helps students independently demonstrate learning. Teachers should share the learning objectives, lines of inquiry, evaluation criteria and scaffold the work, the students then proceed through the unit of work and make something cool to show their work.
Link to learning outcomes?
Is the activity planned with the curriculum learning objectives as a core? The things we want the students to learn and the action they take based on it should be the destination and the technology should help the students to get there. The teacher will backwards plan to help in this aim.
Did the students have an opportunity for reflection? Did they give feedback to the teacher to help him/her in his formative assessments? Perhaps through discussion, informal questioning, writing a reflection, or a blog? Perhaps digital feedback could be gathered by using things like Google Forms, blogging, online polls, voice notes, various classroom apps.
Some classroom examples
Visually Explore Outside of the Classroom
Allow students to travel the globe from the comfort of their classroom desk. In an increasingly global economy and world, mobile learning is a great way to explore beyond the reaches of the classroom.
Capture Lessons With Digital Cameras
Students can use a digital camera, a cell phone, or tablet to capture lessons from their environments such as geometric shapes and more.
Look up words in the dictionary, inquire about dates in history, find the capital of a foreign country or any question you need an answer to.
10 Unique Lesson Ideas for BYOD and BYOT – Getting Smart by Getting Smart Staff – bring your own device, bring your own technology, BYOD, BYOT, cell phones for learning, ipads in the classroom, lesson, m-learning, mobile learning, texting in class. (2011). Getting Smart. Retrieved 25 June 2016, from http://gettingsmart.com/2011/10/10-unique-lesson-ideas-for-byod-and-byot/
Definition / Definition. (2016). Flippedlearning.org. Retrieved 25 June 2016, from http://www.flippedlearning.org/definition
Learning Design – Mobile Learning Handbook. (2016). Sites.google.com. Retrieved 25 June 2016, from https://sites.google.com/a/adlnet.gov/mobile-learning-guide/best-practices
Mehdipour, Y. & Zerehkafi, H. (2013). Mobile Learning for Education : Benefits and Challenges (1st ed.). International Journal of Computational Engineering Research. Retrieved from http://www.ijceronline.com/papers/Vol3_issue6/part%203/P03630930100.pdf
M-learning. (2016). Wikipedia. Retrieved 25 June 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-learning#Challenges
Mobile Learning and Policies – Key issues to consider. (2016) (1st ed.). Paris, France. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002176/217638E.pdf
Networks, S. (2016). 4 Benefits of having mobile technology in the classroom. Securedgenetworks.com. Retrieved 25 June 2016, from http://www.securedgenetworks.com/blog/4-Benefits-of-having-mobile-technology-in-the-classroom
Why mobile learning is key to student recruitment and engagement. (2016). Online-educa.com. Retrieved 25 June 2016, from http://www.online-educa.com/OEB_Newsportal/mobile-learning-blackboard/