Let us look at some of the main concerns faced by educationists and m-learning advocates and methods by which these issues may be overcome.
What if my teachers and staff are not tech savvy?
One of the key criteria for any new technological to be successful is that it needs to be easy to learn, with immediate benefits. Mobile phones are not new technology. Smartphones are designed to be intuitive and do not require special training to use.
What may require some hand holding is the use of software that will enable your teachers to deliver customized content to student mobile devices. While these are designed to be easy to use, as with any new software there will be a small learning period during which teachers will become more familiar with the software features. Internet browsing and basic formatting skills are important, but they are not critical to be able to offer mobile learning to students.
If your teachers are already browsing the net, emailing and creating documents and presentations with ease, they will have no trouble adapting to mobile learning applications.
Will students use it to cheat?
Let’s face it. Some students will always try and cheat. Be it crib notes, or old-fashioned copying, cheating does occur. Mobile learning enables students to utilize their studying time effectively by providing bite-sized chunks of material in a way that can be easily reviewed. It does not facilitate cheating.
While there is evidence that mobiles are being increasingly used by students to cheat, implementing m-learning pedagogies will not necessarily raise the number of cheaters.
To overcome cheating issues, many schools and educational institutions prohibit students from bringing mobile phones into the exam hall, or at the very least have them switched off. Warnings and penalties can deter cheaters, but vigilance during examinations for all types of cheating including mobile phone usage will just have to continue.
Will learning material need to be reformatted?
Most mobile phones are compatible with standard text, music and video formats available today. If reformatting is required it would usually be to standardize your formats and can probably be done on your own computer.
Based on your existing material, how you package your content for mobile phone delivery is up to you. Sometimes it could be as easy as recording a lecture or copy-pasting a laboratory process. The advantage of mobile learning is that the small screen let’s you look only to the important points that need to be reviewed. For multiple choice exam preparation like the SATs, you can use m-learning software like Mobl21, which enable you to create quizzes and vocabulary flashcards easily, and supports popular file formats add media like audio and video.
Isn’t this just a high-tech package for the same old dull and boring content?
With evolving learning tools, pedagogies must evolve too. From drawing on chalkboards to using OHPs (Overhead Screen Projectors), playing alphabet songs to computer learning, our methods of instruction change with changing technologies.
While current learning pedagogies are still trying to incorporate mobile learning methods, it is definite that today’s students lean more towards active discovery as opposed to age-old passive absorption. And mobile learning is all about providing interactivity in learning.
If the goal is education, content cannot be “dull and boring”. Learning and learning material must be dynamic for it to be assimilated by the information-overloaded students of today.
Flashcards, quizzes, podcasts, videos, historical speeches, graphic timelines, real-time global collaboration, satellite maps… a whole interactive encyclopedia of information is available in a few clicks. Using it effectively just requires some creative application.
What about the digital divide? Not every student is tech savvy.
While it is valid that some students still have no access to technology, what is also true is that mobile technology is now globally available and pervading every aspect of our lives.
In the 2009 Parent-Teen Cell Phone Survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, 75% of 12-17-year-olds now own cell phones (up from 45% in 2004).
Implementation of m-learning methods early in schools is also an effective way to overcome this digital gap. Classrooms provide the ideal equal learning ground, with students able to mimic peers and quickly learn from each other. Mobile learning will also enable students to exchange data, find information and collaborate, all vital skills for today’s wired world.
How will I measure learning effectiveness?
The same way you do today. Ask questions on lessons that have been revised, have students write papers and assign projects which require subject understanding to be completed.
Additionally choose mobile learning applications that enable you to create content which you know will be of value to your students. Some applications, like Mobl21 provide you with the flexibility to create notes and flashcards and even monitor which learning material your students are working on.
While new technologies are always exciting, creating the habit of using the mobile phone for learning, requires effort and persistence on the part of both the teacher and the student.