Utilizing Mobile Technologies for Classroom Learning

New developments in mobile technology have shown that they have a large amount of potential for educational use. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center reported how mobile technology could be used in education. The technologies considered by the report include iPods, cell phones, and portable gaming devices. More children under the age of 12 are using mobile technology than ever before. In fact, over 50 percent of children under age 12 currently own a cell phone. This report examines more than 25 mobile learning devices and discusses their educational potential.   

Because mobile technology is becoming so prominent in children’s lives, many schools are attempting to use it for teaching and learning. The report included information about activities intended to develop critical thinking skills, master literacy, learn world languages, and improve skills in mathematics, engineering, technology, and science. Some of these examples of mobile learning utilized the standard features of mobile devices, while others used new innovative features.

The experts completing this report were somewhat disappointed because of the limited number of quality programs in the United States that currently incorporate mobile devices into learning. U.S. educational leaders have not yet developed a standardized strategy for incorporating mobile learning into schools. Though some schools have created their own innovative teaching plans, many schools do not use mobile technology at all. The experts’ report lists five unique benefits provided by mobile technology in the classroom:

  1. Mobile devices encourage students to learn “anywhere, anytime” because they can process information inside or outside the classroom.

  2. Mobile technologies are relatively inexpensive and can reach underserved students with limited incomes.

  3. Mobile devices teach students social skills that are necessary for success in the 21st century.

  4. Mobile devices are small and are a natural fit for use within the learning environment.

  5. Mobile technology provides students with a personalized educational experience because the devices can be customized and used in many different ways.

There are also five predominant challenges facing mobile learning today.

  1. Negative Implications: Some mobile devices may contribute to unethical behavior by students or distraction in the classroom. Mobile devices may also compromise the physical health and privacy of students.

  1. Cultural Norms: Most teachers and parents currently consider cell phones to be a distraction in school.

    3. Theory of Learning: At the time of publication, there is no accepted theory of learning for mobile technologies.

    4. Differentiation: Mobile technologies are diverse, which presents a significant challenge for teachers.

    5. Limitations: Some mobile technologies feature poor designs with usage limitations that may adversely affect learning.

In spite of these challenges, there are several market trends that improve the usefulness of mobile technologies in education. For example, most cell phones include features that were once expensive luxuries. Many cell phones also include GPS technology, and it is now possible to use a large number of software applications on devices from different manufacturers. Finally, many mobile devices now include a touch screen, which improves the way students interact with them. 

Given all of this information, there are five main goals to which educators using mobile technologies in the classroom should aspire.

  1. Educators must seek to understand that mobile language is unique for educational reform. This segment of education requires much research and support from both the public and private sectors to succeed.

  2. Educators must develop interventions for mobile learning to promote public understanding of the technology’s ability to improve education for children of all ages. One way to accomplish this is by creating examples of mobile technology in education and presenting them to the public.

  3. Educators must actively promote the use of mobile technologies in the classroom to the public and to educational policymakers.

  4. Educators must prepare for the use of mobile technologies in the classroom by training colleagues to use and incorporate mobile devices into learning.

  5. Educators must seek support from the country’s leadership for the educational use of mobile technologies.

Mobile technologies are unlikely to depart from children’s lives any time soon. The potential of these devices for educational use cannot be ignored. While the debate has always been whether or not these devices have a place in the classroom, educators should now focus on how they can be used.

To learn more about the use of mobile devices for educational purposes, consult the following links.

Going Nomadic: Mobile Learning in Higher Education

Supporting Cell Phone Use in the Classroom (PDF)

Mobile Phones in Educational Settings (PDF)

Dial M for Mobile (PDF)

Mobile Learning: Education with the Help of Your Cell Phone