Much was discussed during the UNESCO Mobile Learning Week in Paris. The image presented here was ironic, appearing as it did on the door to the main venue of the conference, but as several pointed out, the device in the image is a reference to a bygone age when mobile phones were primitive. Hopefully we have advanced technologically and culturally in that time, but some of the problems we experienced then are still with us today. Here is my summary of seven of the themes and challenges raised during the conference.
1) A digital divide still exists across society, even for those who own smart phones. Significant problems include a lack of broadband connectivity in various parts of the world. Many more people now own mobile phones, but a large proportion of these are non-smart (i.e. don’t have internet capability). However, these are still used effectively by those who desire to access educational opportunities to which they would otherwise have no access.
2) Literacy levels are still very low across many parts of the world, not just in developing nations but also the industrial world. There is a great need for basic literacy education, and several mobile learning projects are beginning to address this.
3) Learners need consistent, reliable access to learning materials, but also connections to peers and teachers if learning by mobile is to be effective. We cannot fully duplicate on-campus experiences, but we can certainly strive to provide an equivalent.
4) One of the most powerful methods of learning (and associated pedagogy) is to incorporate social media into mobile phone use. This addresses number 3, and provides learners with a lifeline when they are in need of motivation, inspiration and support.
5) Pedagogy supporting mobile learning is generally mixed and/or blended for many, with resources available inside classrooms, but also beyond the classroom, downloadable from a variety of platforms and providers. The quality of this varies but it is difficult to attempt to address this problem (but see number 3 above).
6) Mobile learning content for children needs to be engaging and activities should be focused on clear learning outcomes. Games seem to be an important element in children’s mobile learning and has for example been effective in teaching refugee children new languages.
7) Interaction with others through mobile devices still appears to be the most effective method of remote learning available. Good content coupled with expert support and peer interaction that is consistent and reliable can result in quality learning outcomes.
About the author – Steve Wheeler:
Steve Wheeler is Associate Professor of learning technology in the Plymouth Institute of Education at Plymouth University. I chair the EDEN Network of Academics and Professionals and I serve on the editorial boards of a dozen international journals, including the open access publications Research in Learning Technology (formerly ALT-J), Digital Culture and Education, EURODL and IRRODL. I’m a Fellow of the European Distance and E-learning Network (EDEN) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. My research interests include learning technology, cybercultures, creativity and social media.
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