M-Learning in Education

Tablet on desk with books

What is M-Learning?

Mobile learning, often called m learning or m-learning, is a type of e-learning that utilizes mobile phones, tablets and other mobile devices. Although the term may suggest that mobile learning is only concerned with using a phone, such as a smartphone, the term “mobile” refers to the learner’s position. As to say, mobile learning involves any learning where the leaner is mobile.

Ways to Use Mobile Learning in Education

There are many ways to utilize mobile devices into education. One of the easiest ways to do so is buy using  internet browsers on smart devices into the classroom. Almost all smartphones have an internet browser pre-installed. As such, it’s very easy to incorporate the internet into a lesson. One way this can be  done is by having students search for information to complete an activity. For example, in a foreign language class, students can use the internet browser on their phone to find travel information and plan a trip to a country that speaks the language they are learning.

Another way to use mobile devices in education is to utilize classroom management systems using mobile devices. These classroom management systems can e used to organize class content or keep track of student attendance. Students can use their mobile devices to login during class to as a way to check roll.

One more way to use mobile devices in education is by using distance learning. Smart devices aren’t necessary for distance learning; however, because of the features that many phones have, including microphones and cameras, using mobile devices in distance learning can be an easy way for students and teachers to communicate.

Using smartphone

Smartphones can be used in and outside of the classroom. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Mobile Learning

The obvious advantage of m-learning is that the learner can learn from anywhere in the world.  The mobility of the learner means that they can learn from teachers add other educators from all around the world much like other educational technology that uses the internet; however, an additional advantage is that because the learner can be mobile, the learner can learn in typical non-learning environments such as on a commute to work while waiting at doctor’s office.

Another advantage of mobile learning is the ability for learners and teachers to utilize hypermedia such as images, video and audio. Using additional aids such as these can lead to a more engaging lesson for the learner. Additionally, studies have show that using images and other inputs can help learners remember information better. For example, using images and audio is often used in language learning.

One more advantage of using mobile learning is that data about student performance can easily be collected. Using data collected by mobile devices, teachers can track time spent watching or viewing certain lesson content. Using this data, teachers can refine their lessons and lesson materials so that students understand the material much better.

Educators and learners being able to easily communicate outside of the classroom is another advantage of using m-learning. By using mobile learning students and teachers essentially have unlimited access to each other, as long as they both have a mobile device with them.

Besides communicating outside of the classroom, mobile learning can also be used inside the classroom. M-learning can be used to facilitate interaction between students and teachers. For example, teachers can use real time communication through polling apps during class to see if students are understanding the material. This can be very beneficial for students with social anxiety that may be too shy to ask questions in front of the class.

Students can often be more motivated to engage with a lesson when using educational technology. This also applies when using m-learning. Students are often told they cannot use their phones during class and letting them do so may make them more engaged and willing to participate. Further, is students are using their own devices, then they probably won’t have to be trained to use the technology which can save class time.

Mobile learning is cost effective. Because the cost of reproducing digital content is almost zero,  digital content used in mobile learning can become extremely economical as the number of students using the material increases. Instead of students spending $300 on a textbook, students can spend much less on digital copies of the book.

Disadvantages of Mobile Learning

One of the main disadvantages of using mobile learning in the classroom is that students may be distracted during class. When students have access to a mobile device, they can play games, send messages, or just surf the internet. These things of course take attention away from the teacher and the lesson.

Another disadvantage of using m-learning in the classroom is that their may be insufficient devices or resources for all of the students to use. Many students have access to phones;  however, all students may not have smartphones. Additionally, your school or learning environment may not have a good internet network for students to use. Finally, mobile devices have to be charged. This requires the teacher to prepare all of the devices. If students are using their own devices, they may have used them throughout the day and they may be low on battery. Having dead phones can absolutely ruin a lesson if the lesson is reliant on using them. However, this isn’t unique to using smartphones in class; it’s something that should be considered when preparing any lesson that relies heavily on technology that may not always be reliable.

Teachers must be trained to use mobile technology. If teachers are not properly trained to use the technology and the school administration pushes to use smartphones in class, then there could be many problems. Further, teachers really have to buy in to using the technology. If there is no buy in from the teachers, then lessons using the technology probably won’t be very good.

The Future of Mobile Learning

As technology becomes more accessible and cheaper to produce, mobile learning in education will continue to increase in popularity. There are so many advantages to mobile learning that all teachers will most likely use mobile devices inside or at least outside the classroom. The information and data collecting and analyses alone will most likely be heavily used to track teacher and student performance. Because testing is of great importance in education, metrics tracking students and teachers are surely to be used.

Increased smartphone capabilities will lead to more integration of mobile phones in education. Currently, smartphone have many features that couldn’t easily be integrated into curriculum even ten years ago. As mobile devices have more and more features, teachers will find more ways to integrate mobile devices into education.

The two biggest disadvantages in m-learning right now are the lack of resources, including devices and networks, and proper teacher and student training. The first problem will be taken care of as the price of technology used in mobile learning falls. As with most technology, the price to produce the technology falls as it becomes older.  The second problem with mobile learning will be solved as these mobile devices are more commonly used in day-to-day life by students and teachers. This everyday usage of these technologies is highly related to the cost. As the price of these technologies falls, more students and educators will adapt to using the technology making them more familiar with using the technology.

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