Transitioning into an Era of Mobile Learning

It’s undeniable – kids are glued to their phones. Enter any high school and you will find groups of students staring at a smartphone screen. There’s an actual sense of attachment between kids and their phones; just try to take it away.

Even if they are quite obviously bond to their device, another undeniable observation can be made: our students are consumers of information and media, and not contributors. Sure, there are pockets of students that are regular vloggers, who post videos on their personal YouTube channel, follow and write blogs… but the average user is consuming information, and at best, sharing what they viewed or read.

The applications used to produce  annotated pictures, videos, short articles, infographs, sketchnotes, memes – most of what is currently being published on the Internet, are available for smartphones. There’s an app for that, and unlike our generation, the students in our classrooms our more open to using a smaller device as a tool.

Furthermore, most wouldn’t think of leaving the house without their telephone. In other words, kids have a tool with them at all times. Is it realistic to think that given the accessibility and portability of the smartphone, you would almost expect an increase in online production?

Well there has been, but not quite in an educational context.  Perhaps it’s time we start teaching our students to use their expensive mini tools for more than posting pictures, commenting on memes, and watching videos.

If we can ever dream of getting them there, we need to grant them access to their devices.  We need to utilize this tool a little better, rather than stacking all cellphones in a neat little box at the front of the class. It would be like watching swimming videos and expecting the student to know how to swim, without ever entering the water.

And we’re going to need to change our teaching methods to get there. Because if we use the same old strategies, we’re trying to make a square fit into a circle, and we all know how that turns out. We need to rethink how we’re asking our students to communicate their learning, and in a way that’s more meaningful to them. Because that phone – it’s pretty much “their world” and it needs to be relevant. We’re trying to connect to their everyday lives.

We can’t expect them to type countess essays, but we can ask them to build a portfolio of their learning inside and outside of the classroom. They can collect artifacts of their learning, share them, reflect on them, discuss them.

There are countless applications accessible on smartphones that support mobile learning. WordPress, cloud computing (OneDrive and Google Drive), Evernote/OneNote, and ePortfolio applications are a few examples of tools available to communicate learning, but many more exist.

Financially, we should be using this to our advantage, since cellular telephones are of not cost to school boards, other than granting these tools access to WiFi. What about the students that don’t have a mobile device? We already grant access to technology in the form of computer labs, laptop carts, tablet trays, etc… A lending system can be put in place to fill the gaps. If we’re expecting our students to be creative, so can we.

Furthermore, as the phone belongs to the learner, the student has more control of the tools they use to communicate their learning. This requires flexibility on the teacher’s part, but compromises can be made, guidelines can be established. After all, mobile learning needs to work for everyone.

Or we can play it safe – and there’s nothing wrong with that; you’re granting access to information from anywhere. Most LMS systems such as Blackboard and D2L have applications for both Android and iPhones, improving e-learning by eliminating geographical restrictions.

Whatever method you chose, let’s make the most of the tools students have at their disposal, and reconsider the manner in which our students will communicate their learning to benefit the learner. After all, we’re preparing them to contribute to a society in which technology plays a greater and greater role. Let’s get them thinking, actively contributing, and developing into responsible digital citizens.

Don’t know where to start? Here are a list of sites that can help you in the transition:

Using Smartphones in the Classroom

How to Use Cell Phones as Learning Tools

44 Ways to Use Smartphones in Class

Smartphones: From Toy to Tool