“Please switch on your mobiles”

The Guardian has an interesting article on how educational institutions are using mobile phones to enhance, support and deliver learning.

They were banned as a distraction in lectures and seminars, but now colleges and universities are exploiting them as learning platforms. Mobiles that double up as internet platforms and iPods and MP3 players that can download hefty video or audio files mean students own what is in effect a portable learning tool. Digital mobility is drawing in students through distance learning, outreach or aids for special needs. What’s more, the use of technology can be highly motivating, adding value and content in opening up entirely new teaching scenarios.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a passion for the use of mobile devices to support learning. I lean towards the use of portable entertainment devices as opposed to the use of PDAs. By this I mean using mobile phones, iPods, PSPs rather than the business orientated PDA (such as an iPAQ).

The PDA has many greater advantages over entertainment devices in terms of what it can deliver especially in terms of text entry and interactivity. For me though one of the key issues of any mobile device is how personal it is to the user. If you don’t own a device or even know you are going to have it for a long time, why would you use it on a regular basis or even keep it charged.

Handing out mobile devices in a classroom also seems illogical to me, why give all students a PDA when a laptop trolley (or even moving to a computer suite) would give a similar (or better) experience.

Though being on a field trip a PDA (or an UMPC) would certainly be a better choice over a traditional (heavy) laptop, more so with features such as GPS.

I also see that the mobile device as only one part of the learning design, the learning activity would not be solely delivered via a mobile device. It would be used in conjunction with non-mobile delivery and assessment.It’s also about choice.

Allowing learners to choose how, where and when they access learning has an impact on their learning compared to been dictated where and when they can learn.

As the article demonstrates I am  not alone in seeing the benefits of mobile learning.

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