What We Know
Mobile learning is not a new concept. Since the advent of mass media, educators have explored ways of melding the ongoing trends and developing technologies with the less change-able practice of education. For example, before mobile learning, teachers and research discussed e-learning and edutainment as ways to personalize learning and engage students. With mobile learning, the questions have not changed. How do might harness this new aspect of our lives to enhance education? Is it worth the effort?
Research from the past five to eight years approaches these questions in four ways:
- Evidence of the trend. These studies usually rely on surveys and interviews to establish the increased usage and importance of mobile technologies. The reports may also discuss how the technologies are used and implications for practice.
- Definition. These reports tend to be literature reviews or meta-analyses. They focus on using past projects and research to define mobile learning and build a theory or framework to guide future research and practice.
- Efficacy and Impacts. These reports tend to be studies of an implementation in one or more schools or a meta-analysis. The studies often describe the effects that mobile learning has had on student achievement, knowledge retention, and engagement.
- Best practices and Lessons learned. While each of the previous report types might contain a section devoted to best practices, some reports focus almost entirely on the subject. These reports discuss how best to integrate mobile learning into the classroom. Some reports also discuss the best kinds of applications for students; such reports may be useful when selecting apps to share with students.
Overall, the research, a very small sample of which is shared here, suggests that students and instructors are using mobile devices more frequently in their daily lives and desire to do the same within the classroom. CDW-G, a technology solutions company, conducted a survey of IT professionals, faculty, and students at both the high school and higher education levels. Sixty-nine percent of students reported wanting to use more technology in their classrooms as learning tools (CDW-G, 2012, pg. 9). According to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, young children between the ages of 3 and 7 are also accessing more technology (Chiong & Shuler, 2010). Mobile devices and applications have become an integral part of our lives, which leads to the next concern of how they fit within the classroom.
The reports that define or try to provide a framework for mobile learning agree on a few points. Mobile learning is a highly portable and ubiquitous method of enhancing learning.
As for the effects of mobile technologies on student learning, reports suggest they are positive. A large-scale study conducted in the UK found an 8 percent improvement in learner’s retention when they were part of the mobile treatment. The study also found a 9.7 percent improvement in the students’ achievement (Attewell, Savill-Smith, & Douch, 2009). Teachers also report student gains after they implement a mobile learning program. One first grade teacher conducted a case study with one of her students and tracked the girl’s improvement in reading after the teacher integrated iPods into the curriculum (Fusselman, 2010). While the effects may not always be large, the research suggests that integrating mobile learning into the classroom is ultimately beneficial.
The reports focus on best practices and lessons learned provide a wide array of advice, but one of the essentials across them is being certain of what the classroom and students need. The suggestions and shared experiences are a valuable read.
Read the Research
What do the studies of mobile learning in action tell us? Explore selected research literature related to mobile learning and build your knowledge of this emerging evidence base.