Foreword to Mobile Education: Personalised Learning and Assessment in Remote Education: A Guide for Educators and Learners

Sharples, Mike (2021). Foreword to Mobile Education: Personalised Learning and Assessment in Remote Education: A Guide for Educators and Learners. In: McCartney, Kieran ed. Mobile Education: Personalised Learning and Assessment in Remote Education: A Guide for Educators and Learners. Digital Learning and the Future, 1. Oxford, UK: Peter Lang Ltd, International Academic Publishers, xi-xiv.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3726/b17634

Abstract

During 20 years of research and development in mobile learning we have discovered much about how students learn with mobile devices in classrooms, at home, outdoors and across locations.

The early studies explored how to deliver content to mobile devices. They showed that the new handheld digital assistants and tablet computers were not simply smaller versions of desktop or laptop computers but had distinct affordances for learning. Formatting content for small screens forced educational technologists to think about how to present material for effective learning, such as presenting instructional sequences through animations and short videos. The power of mobile technology to combine media capture (taking photographs, recording audio and video) with data collection, and calculation led to outdoor activities such as field trips and multimedia trails supported by handheld devices. In classrooms, students used mobile devices to take notes, perform calculations, visualise data and respond to quiz questions.

The next stage in development of mobile learning came with a realisation that the focus should be on mobility of the learner. Within a classroom, the context of learning is tightly constrained: students sit at tables or desks, their focus is on the teacher, they follow a lesson plan. When students learn at home or outdoors, those constraints are relaxed and changed. The learner has more agency to determine when and how to learn. Students can move across settings – school, outdoors, home – and use mobile devices to continue their learning. An influential paper by Wong and Looi (2011) identified ten elements of seamless learning, where mobile technology can support movement from one context to another. These included learning across time, across locations, between physical and digital worlds, and among multiple devices. No longer is the mobile learner restricted to using a single handheld device – with cloud-based technology, students can access and share content on many devices from many locations.

Now, mobile learning is being reconceived as learning activities that are embedded into the daily lives of students and lifelong learners. During a typical day, a university student might wake to a radio news item about higher education policy, read a blog about new technology, catch up on coursework over breakfast, watch a recording of the previous day’s lecture, attend classes and take notes, take photos of a science experiment, engage in a short course for interest, share notes with a classmate, add content to a team project, watch some YouTube videos for leisure learning – all with a personal mobile phone or tablet. The interleaving of work and leisure, mixing of media, and movement between curriculum-led and self-motivated learning form the fabric of everyday life for many students and adult learners.

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