The advent of multimedia on desktop computers in the late 1980s and early 1990s heralded an era of educational technology that held the promise of revolutionising the business of teaching and learning by facilitating a shift from traditional teacher-centred methods to more effective student-centred approaches. During the mid-late 1990s the popularisation of the Internet, added to educational technology a new dimension of “connectedness” between people and between people and information resources. Online learning and e-learning became icons of the era. In late 1990s and early 2000s major players in the mobile phone industry worked on developing a wireless infrastructure to allow for wireless communication between devices, WAP (wireless application protocol) being one of the principle outcomes. This set the stage for the wireless Internet and for another new dimension to educational technology, mobility. Thus, the maturation of multimedia, the Internet and communication technologies together with development and availability of ubiquitous computing devices and wireless networking birthed the notion of mobile learning (m-learning) or “learning on the move.” Like many other media technologies before, m-learning is considered to have the potential to reshape teaching and learning, in this instance, holding promise of unprecedented connectivity and learning interactions between learners, learners and educators, information and computing resources, anywhere, anytime. This article seeks to facilitate the realisation of the pedagogical potential of m-learning by proposing a model for the construction of m-learning spaces. The proposed model is founded upon a pedagogical framework directing attention to guiding philosophies, technology integration, and the capabilities of mobile devices.
The belief underlying the following discussion is that although technology use in educational contexts is not a requisite for positive change in teaching and learning practice, some degree of change in teaching practice is a requisite for effective technology use in educational contexts. The effective use of technology in educational contexts should precipitate significant and positive changes in teaching practice (Tearle, Dillon & Davis, 1999). History has shown that, the adoption of new technologies frequently occurs at a superficial level consequently failing to make significant impact on teaching and learning environments (Cuban, 1986; Hammond, 1994; Nichol & Watson, 2003; Conlon & Simpson, 2003). New technologies used inappropriately or in ways replicating traditional teacher centred approaches contribute little to improving the quality of the learning environment. From this perspective, effective integration of technology in the curriculum results from teaching practice informed by an awareness of available technologies within the context of pedagogical frameworks.
The manner in which m-learning is defined fosters certain perceptions and beliefs about its implementation (Laouris & Eteokleous, 2005). Of fundamental importance to pedagogical discussions surrounding m-learning is the provision of a teaching “centric” rather than “techno-centric” definition for m-learning (Laouris & Eteokleous, 2005). Techno-centric definitions of m-learning accentuate the technology as the focus rather than teaching and learning. The motivation for implementation of mobile technologies should be not be driven by the technology but rather driven by two phases of activities: Firstly, reflection on current teaching practice and learning outcomes in order to identify deficiencies or new avenues for new effective strategies. Secondly, consider if and how any of the array of mobile devices can be exploited in order to achieve more effective strategies and more effective, meaningful learning outcomes (Torrisi-Steele, 2004).
Congruent with this approach, m-learning may be defined as:
the integrative use of mobile devices into the curriculum in order to facilitate active and meaningful learning through the creation of learning spaces extending outside the physical and temporal constraints of the traditional classroom. These learning spaces (m-learning spaces) are characteristically dynamic, collaborative and focused on individual learner needs in the current context. (adapted fromTorrisi-Steele, 2006)
Key Terms in this Chapter
Meaningful Learning: Achieving a deep understanding of complex ideas. Meaningful learning implies that knowledge can be manipulated and applied to a variety of situations and contexts.
Constructivism: A philosophy for teaching and learning based on the notion of individuals generating their own understanding of the world in “their own way.” Constructivist theories of learning espouse learner-centred approaches that actively engage the learner in order to facilitate meaningful learning. Key theorists include Piaget and Bruner.
Mobile Learning (m-learning): The integrative use of mobile devices into the curriculum in order to facilitate active and meaningful learning through the creation of learning spaces which extend outside the physical and temporal constraints of the traditional classroom.
Socioconstructivism: Like constructivism active, learner-centred learning is emphasised. Interaction and communication are considered important for engaging in the active construction of knowledge through a process of negotiation. Collaborative learning is an important strategy within this view. Socioconstructivism is becoming an important guiding philosophy for the design of m-learning spaces.
Mobile Devices: Any small portable or handheld computing devices technically capable of connectivity (ideally wireless) to each other, other devices or Internet. Includes laptop computers, tablet PCs, PDAs, mobile phones, smart phones and MP3 players.
M-Learning Space: The learning environment within which learning activities are enriched by the use of mobile devices. M-learning spaces are supportive of meaningful learning. M-learning spaces are characteristically dynamic, collaborative and focused on individual learner needs in the current context.
Ubiquitous: Present and available anywhere, anytime. Used in computing to refer to access to computing technology away from the constraints of the desktop. M-learning is characterised by being ubiquitous.
Connectedness: The feeling of “being in touch.” “It is an emotional experience invoked by, but independent of others’ presence ( Rettie, 2003 ). Feelings of connectedness can range from general awareness of the presence of others (e.g., being online) to stronger awareness of social presence (e.g., exchange of text messages).