Once learners have devices and the institutional support structures are in place (see the implementation section) the question remains: What’s different about mobile learning?
"[M]obile learning in a wider TEL [Technology-Enhanced Learning] context is the whole problem. It no longer has anything to do with that or institutional contexts. TEL is top-down/centre-out/we-take-the-lead; we are in a situation that’s outside-in/bottom-up/they-take-the-lead."
Professor John Traxler, University of Wolverhampton
As this quotation from Professor John Traxler makes clear, mobile learning presents something of a problem for educational instutitons. Whilst the potential of mobile devices for learning is huge, questions remain as to their value for teaching. This subtle tension between the affordances of mobile learning and the constraints of established practice means that, as mentioned throughout this infoKit, mobile learning can serve as a ‘Trojan horse’ for wider institutional changes.
One of the biggest changes that mobile learning affords is to blur the previously distinct line (and set of practices) between distance learning and face-to-face (F2F) learning. Park’s (2011) framework for mobile learning goes some way to helping map out the different types of ways learners can interact with instructors and one another. However, a more holistic approach such as Laurillard’s Conversational Framework or Koole’s FRAME model may be more appropriate. See the frameworks for mobile learning section for more details.
In terms of the specific details of the type of learning activities that can be undertaken with mobile learning, this will vary from educator to educator and discipline to discipline. “Mobile learning technologies clearly support the transmission and delivery of rich multimedia content” states Prof. John Traxler (2009), but they “also support discussion and discourse, real-time, synchronous and asynchronous, using voice, text and multimedia.” Just as different disciplines lend themselves to different styles of teaching, so different mobile learning approaches will be necessary.
Before giving examples of the types of mobile learning activities that can be undertaken by learners it is worth pointing out the ways in which such activities should be reconceptualised to take account of what is possible. The SAMR model by Ruben Puentedura is not so much a framework as a taxonomy of types of learning activity:
Conceptualising technology-enhanced learning activities with the help of the SAMR model helps avoid shallow uses of mobile devices for learning. For example, accessing a pre-existing VLE or learning platform through a smartphone may count as mobile learning but, on Puentedura’s model, constitutes ‘substitution’, the lowest form of technology-enhanced learning.
As examples from Jisc publications demonstrate, mobile learning can take on a variety of forms and work in a number of contexts. Case study five in effective practice in a digital age (pages 28-9), for example, demonstrates the ways in which learning is supported in authentic environments at Southampton Solent University through the use of iPod Touches. Likewise, case study six in effective assessment in a digital age (pages 40-41) shows how feedback can be enhanced by being given and received via mobile devices. Case studies two, seven, eight and nine in emerging practice in a digital age feature examples of mobile learning, with case study seven showcasing the work of ALPS (see snapshot) where students on placement can have access to resources, support and assessment tools.
Further examples can be found from ESCalate, the MoLeNET programmes and the Excellence Gateway.