In our book, we interviewed dozens of educators and administrators, and we heard again and again: There’s just something about these devices. Well, we were curious about this statement and tried to dive a little deeper … Just what is it about these devices?
10 distinguishing factors set the mobile learning experience apart from other technologies – whether pencil and paper or a laptop! We believe what makes mobile devices so different is their creative synergy. More specifically, mobile devices are...
- Connected – The instant-on, instant-access feature of mobile devices is something that has changed many facets of our society at large: the way we communicate with one another, gather and store data, indulge our curiosity, and more. All of these have huge implications for education. Instead of waiting for a machine to boot up and connect to the Internet, mobile devices are on and connected to the web almost instantly, allowing for efficient use in schools (with less time wasted waiting for machines to catch up). The connectedness also encourages students to find answers on their own devices, with a web search being a few clicks away.
- Aware – The myriad of sensors available on many devices – such as camera, microphone, touchscreen, gyroscope, and geolocation – combine to make the mobile experience unique. It can “see” what you see, know where you are, hear what you hear, and respond accordingly. Sometimes, these sensors are viewed as “creepy,” but they can also improve and change the user experience, making it more relevant and personal. Beyond cool peripherals (like iBeacons and things like blood sugar monitors and stethoscopes), the camera feature has changed the game by becoming easier to use and integrate with other media.
- Multi-modal – This characteristic expands on the sensory features and encompasses the ability of mobile devices to integrate features in a completely new way. While digital cameras were pervasive and advanced before mobile devices, the process of taking a picture and downloading it to the computer, and subsequently using it or printing it, is unarguably clunky. With a tablet, students can take a picture, edit it, share it, and use it in a project seamlessly, enabling lessons that use photos (like exploring and identifying plants and construction of ebooks). What’s more, learning about technology occurs seamlessly alongside learning of the subject matter.
- Familiar – Look around: mobile phones and tablets are everywhere, and many students (and even higher percentages as they get older) have their own devices or access to them at home. When teachers begin using mobile devices in the classroom, there is often little to no instruction needed on how to use them because they’re so pervasive in our culture .
- Personal – In BYOD (bring your own device) and 1:1 settings, the personal nature of mobile devices can be fully realized. As students approach their learning on the device, they can have their choice of note-taking apps, for instance, and can customize where the apps are kept for ease of use. Users with special needs or interests can use personalized learning resources, seamlessly. Personalizing learning has been on the horizon in edtech, and mobile devices deliver more than any technology to date.
- Comprehensive – We’ve all heard the tagline: “There’s an app for that!” It’s certainly catchy, but also rings true. When the iPad came onto the market in early 2010, we didn’t really know what to make of it. As app offerings have grown, expanded and matured, there are vast offerings for users. A device can be a calculator, camera, flashlight, compass, pedometer, textbook, audio recorder… and on and on. There are many types of apps, and apps for nearly every lesson we can imagine. A key point we make in our book is that pedagogy should always precede technology, and we also suggest the Great App Checklist to aid in evaluating apps. (Post coming tomorrow!)
- Consolidated – Having all of the features we’ve mentioned in one device – being able to consult an ebook, YouTube, your calendar, and the Internet seamlessly – offers a consolidated experience. Innovative teachers in mobile classrooms devise lessons that stack apps so that creativity and learning correspond directly to standards or learning objectives. The consolidated nature of mobile devices also presents a great way for students to stay organized (and even learn organizational skills!)
- Portable – As the name suggests, mobile devices make the aforementioned benefits available anytime, anywhere. On-demand answers to any of your questions, problem-solving resources, creativity spaces, data collection and documentation tools, vehicles for communication and sharing, and much more – all this can fit comfortably in your pocket. Having access on-the-go to homework and research also enables students to make more productive use of their time; car trips or time between sports practices can be used to do reading or collaborate with classmates.
- Relevant – When students observe their parents or other adults in the workplace, they likely see mobile devices being used for much more than games, social media, and communication with friends. They see mobile devices being used for research, navigation, data collection and analysis, and a myriad of other applications. Therefore, when mobile devices are integrated in the classroom, we have the opportunity to teach students how to use them productively and in ways that are relevant for thriving in today’s workplace. As we’ve noted, there is a big difference between using devices and using them productively, which is a key tenet of any mobile learning program. Giving students the opportunity to gain these real-world skills while in school is a huge benefit of mobile devices and today’s technological landscape.
- Secure – Yes, data privacy and security concerns abound in the educational technology environment. Because of mobile devices’ intrinsic vulnerabilities (they’re easily stolen or lost, especially in the hands of young users), mobile platforms and apps have been designed to be even more secure than traditional desktop computers. Many require passwords to unlock the device or access sensitive information, and offer further protections against loss and theft (including GPS locational tracking). Mobile devices are also easily updated (more easily than desktop and laptop computers) with the latest software and are less susceptible to malware attacks. The security environment is always changing, but the point stands: mobile devices in education are protected and on the ball.
We agree with teachers: there is something different about mobile devices. And the biggest perk is bigger than any device: mobile learning. Sure, the devices are shiny, exciting, and state of the art, but what's most exciting are the possibilities they bring to the classroom. Ultimately, it’s not about what the devices offer; it’s about how they change the learning environment and experience for the student. Check out our suite of free mobile learning tools.