Pedagogical Applications of Mobile Technologies

Mobile TechnologyDo your students use mobile technologies in the classroom? Mobile technologies such as tablets, eReaders, smartphones, and laptops are becoming more and more prevalent on campus. “In a recent study, conducted by Pearson Foundation, the majority of students say that technology makes learning more fun, it helps them study more efficiently and they prefer it over traditional textbooks. Experts say mobile technology cultivates greater engagement in today’s classrooms, enables easier contextual learning outside of the classroom, and gives many students the opportunity to develop and practice important technology skills” (source). As the use of these devices continues to grow, it is natural to begin asking how these technologies can be used to improve student learning. The term m-learning is often used to refer to using mobile technologies to facilitate learning. Incorporating mobile learning into your class can be both challenging and rewarding. Below are some recommendations to keep in mind when you consider incorporating m-learning to your classroom.

Why use Mobile Devices?

  • eReaders (like Kindle)- there is more and more talk (including from our own governor) of all textbooks moving to digital only format in the near future.
  • As of 2011, announced it was selling more ebooks than both hardcover and paperback books combined.
  • Use of mobile devices across all job fields has become common, almost mandatory, so we need to make sure students understand how to use these devices; use of constructivist learning where students gain transferable workplace skills.
  • Students like their mobile devices, so using them can result in students who are more engaged in the content.
  • Use of mobile devices can allow students to speak without being judged.

Face-to-Face Classroom Activities (inside and outside the class time):

  • Students can make videos and take pictures as part of an assignment
  • Have students answer polls (Poll Everywhere and the Canvas Polls app)- gives the ability to gauge the level of student learning quickly, as well as quickly show student opinions, such as with debates
  • Use of tools such as screencasting software and apps provides a means of student and instructor presentations
  • Students can text questions to the instructor (make sure you have clear policies and procedures in place if you choose this method)
  • qstream can be configured to send daily subject matter questions to students to keep them engaged in the content.
  • There are tons of free or very low cost apps students can use to assist in learning (anything from apps that help students create presentations to astronomy apps to apps that help students practice a foreign language)
  • Instructors and students can create QR (quick response) codes; create codes that can be scanned for helpful hints, additional practice materials, videos, etc.; create multiple assignments and students scan a QR code to see which assignment they must complete (hand out QR codes we created for the Screencasting workshop); can use QR codes to create a scavenger hunt – helps students find “things” on college campus- this could be used in the FFL courses.
  • Twitter can be used to teach journalism (practice writing short, attention-grabbing headlines)
  • Google Earth can be used to facilitate learning in geography, history, architecture classes, etc..

Creating a Mobile-Friendly Online Course:

The way people access information online is evolving. Google reports that by 2013 more than half of website visits will come from mobile devices rather than desktops or laptops. This can be problematic because mobile devices often present information quite differently from a laptop or desktop. In addition to layout concerns (varying screen sizes), some types of content will not load on some mobile devices. Some guidelines:

  • Limit your instructional interactions on mobile devices to basic communications, such as announcements, discussion posts, and blogs. Most course management, such as using the grade center and adjusting navigation, is best left for when you are accessing Blackboard through a laptop or desktop.
  • Flash will not work on iPhones and iPads. Use mp4 for your video files.
  • Use the Attach File feature in Bb to attach media and documents to items instead of embedding files in the text editor. Use PDF instead of Word so more devices can read the file.

Concerns with the Use of Mobile Technologies:

  • Student distractions- communicate expectations and put the responsibility for learning on the student.
  • Mobile technologies are different—some have poor design, not all apps are available to all devices—so it can be a challenge to find an activity for everyone.
  • It can be difficult when trying to grade or gauge participation on some assignments; for example, if you require all students to answer polls in class, you must be able to see who submits answers, and how do you handle a situation where a student doesn’t have a mobile device or forgets to charge the device before class?
  • You must keep in mind FERPA when asking students to load material to external sites.
  • How much use can you require? Students have different data plans, some have unlimited text messages, some pay per message, etc.; it is also very important to remember that not every student has a cell phone, however students can check out iPads from Jackson Library.