Mobile usage can be waste, limited to consume, and not aligned with learning goals. Learning may never happen with many of the daily practices when using mobiles. However, we have already addressed those issues, and we have concluded that learning with mobiles is possible, though not easy. With mobiles, we can augment reality, leverage collaboration, communication and interactions. Probably, there is no better device for delivering educational media like podcasts, audio books, news, images and videos. Alongside, its ubiquitousness makes it ideal like situations like trips. And there are many other reasons that lead us to think that learning with mobiles must be possible, even great.
The question now is how: How can I schew the wasteful uses of mobiles in education? How can I make learning happen deeper and richer? How can I benefit from the potential of mobiles and align their use with my learning goals?
Similar thoughts were expressed by White & Martin, when, after admitting that “many of the typical informal uses of mobiles seem incompatible with or disruptive to the goals of education”, they advocated for “a different vision of mobile devices in education, one that sees young people’s informal digital practices as holding great potential to transform practices of the mathematics classroom” (20014, p. 64).
So mobiles can be both wasteful and greatly beneficial tools for learning. What does it depends on? Where’s the key? We are going to approach this question from two complementary perspectives.
The first one posit that mobile is part of informal learning. Three weeks ago we discussed about this, and concluded that formal and informal learning help each other, and they have to be integrated, since the learner is the same person in both cases. Likewise, White & Martin suggested that “we should invite and incorporate students’ existing competencies into novel learning environments” (p. 65).
The second perspective focuses on design, and is quite more specific than the first one. This time is not about bringing student’s learning tools into classroom, but about designing new tools for them. Martin et al (2012), as well as Falloon (2013) provides important guidelines in order to align mobile apps -and websites- with learning goals, thus avoiding wasteful use of those devices. Let us finish with 5 points:
- Websites for mobiles must be adapted to small screens. The amount of information and the number of options in the main menu should be designed according to the size of the screen. This improves usability (Martin et al., 2012). Nowadays there is a great solution for a wide variety of screens called Bootstrap.
- The size of information and media in bytes should be revised for slow download speeds (Martin et al., 2012).
- Solutions should be tested in a wide number of devices, since browsers in different devices behave different (Martin et al., 2012).
- Scaffolding students’ interactions and stepping them “through learning concepts in a systematic and organised manner” result in evidences of learning. Interestingly, effective examples of this can be found in apps that more closely resembled a traditional teaching model, where there is a clever combination of embedded pedagogy and app design (Fallon, 2013).
- Free apps usually present two drawbacks: links to external websites -including Facebook’s likes and Twitter’s follows- and banner advertisements. Moreover, these randomly vary, leveraging distractions and impeding learning (Fallon, 2013).
- Martin, F., Pastore, R., & Snider, J. (2012). Developing mobile based instruction. TechTrends, 56 (5), 46-51.
- White, T., & Martin, L. (2014) Mobile learning and math. TechTrends.
- Falloon, G. (2013). Young students using iPads: App design and content influences on their learning pathways. Computers & Education, 68, 505-521.