The Future of Mobile Learning


This week we’ve mentioned a variety of things that make mobile learning a special and unique endeavor. But mobile learning is still in its infancy. The technologies and the world are changing at a rapid pace, and it’s hard to predict what the future will hold. So what do we foresee in the coming years?1.1

Improved Integration. In daily life, mobile technologies are becoming increasingly integrated into everything we do. Almost everything we need to know about our life – from the weather, daily appointments, contacts, etc. – is encased in a single device. New wearable technologies and “smart home” systems mean that even our bodies and our houses can be monitored and controlled through our mobile devices. We see this trend continuing in education as well. Students will be able to access everything about their education on the same device where they check about upcoming sports practices and play the latest games. Teachers will have everything they need to manage classrooms and prepare lessons at their fingertips whether they’re at school, home, or the grocery store.

More Data. As data becomes easier to collect and store, more of our daily decisions can be informed by a true understanding of our world. Mobile apps are common for tracking every aspect of our lives and presenting to us the data we need to continue to improve. In an educational setting, we see students tracking more and more of their own data related to their learning on their own devices and using it to set and monitor goals. We see teachers and administrators using data on their devices to make real-time informed decisions both in the classroom and in policy meetings. We see edtech companies using data to drive innovation and improve the products they put out to the public.

New Research. Researchers have been formally working to understand how students learn best since the turn of the 20th century and have shaped how we educate children today. It’s taken a long time and a lot of work to gain these insights and identify true research-backed best practices. Mobile learning best practices can certainly piggy-back off this history of findings, but research is needed to understand the ways in which mobile devices impact how learning takes place. We hypothesize that these devices have unique opportunities to offer education; more research is needed to identify how we can capitalize on all they have to offer. We expect research on mobile learning to continue to grow and contribute to our understanding of student learning.

pioneersBetter Implementations. When the first districts started rolling out mobile device programs, there were a lot of fears and concerns. Would students actually pay attention in class? How do we keep them safe on the Internet? What if they lose or break this expensive technology? The list goes on… But as mobile learning programs have grown and shown success, parents, educators, and administrators are less hesitant and showing more excitement about the opportunities mobile learning brings. The lessons learned by the early pioneers are informing current programs, and a variety of resources now help guide adopters in many aspects of implementing a mobile learning program, from developing policies to selecting resources to fostering buy-in from parents.

Increased Access. Just as TVs once transitioned from novelty items to must-haves in every American home, we see mobile devices taking on this status and being increasingly represented in households, both in America and around the world. Though these devices are currently cheaper than the home computers they often replace, there is still some economic barrier to adoption. However, as with most technologies, we see prices continue to drop so that individuals of all socioeconomic statuses can have access to these devices and all they have to offer. Already, many initiatives seek to bring mobile devices to impoverished countries, recognizing that the cost of a single device is far less than the cost of all the tools it can replace (e.g. a library of books) to enrich people's lives.  The high-speed Internet access that drives the power of these devices is also becoming ubiquitous world-wide and will continue to break down barriers of access.

Mobile learning is here and is going to continue to have a dramatic impact on the way people learn and use their knowledge. We can only guess at what the future will hold. Five years ago there was no iPad, and now they have taken over education. We are excited to see what incredible innovative educational tools we will be writing about in another 5 years. To read more on this topic, check out our latest book, Mobile Learning: A Handbook for Developers, Educators, and Learners.


About Author

Jen Sabourin

Jen Sabourin, Ph.D., is a Software Developer and Research Scientist as part of SAS’ Social Innovation Division. Presently, her work is focused on using SAS resources and analytic capabilities to have a positive impact on the world, with a special focus on K-12 education initiatives. Jen holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from North Carolina State University where her research focused on artificial intelligence and data mining applications for education. She is also passionate about broadening participation in technology and data science and introducing students of all ages and backgrounds to the joys of computer science and analytics.

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