Advancements in technology are a significant driving force in educational innovation, but a strong focus on technology means that human aspects and implications may not be given the attention they deserve. This chapter examines usability issues surrounding the use of mobile devices in learning. A key aim is to empower educators and learners to take control of personal devices and realise their potential in relation to teaching and learning. The background section reviews the development of usability studies and explores why mobile device usability presents specific new challenges. The impact of changing requirements in education, and new visions for ways of thinking and competences that learners should be acquiring, are also examined. Finally, the chapter provides a set of concepts that can inform conversations between educators and learners, mobile system engineers, developers, support staff and others.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Mobile Learning: Learning with personal, portable devices; it enables learners to build knowledge and construct understandings in different contexts, and often changes how people learn and work.
Accessibility: A term interchangeably used with ‘usability’ or even ‘availability’, but its core meaning is the extent to which a system can be used successfully and comfortably by users with disabilities or special needs.
Pervasiveness: The aim of pervasive computing is to create a computing infrastructure that permeates the physical environment so that computers are invisible, e.g. chips are embedded in everyday objects.
Informal Learning: Learning that is not organised and structured by an institution. It may take place in environments that already have some connections with learning, e.g. museums and art galleries, or anywhere the learner chooses.
Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs): Small, handheld computers, typically used for time management, simple applications and communication. PDA functionality is increasingly being integrated with mobile phones.
Human-Computer Interaction: Within computer science and systems design, this area of concern involves the design, implementation and evaluation of interactive systems in the context of the user’s task and work.
Usability: A computer system’s usability is based on measurements of users’ experience with the system, but the focus tends to be specifically on the user interface.