Advancing Collaboration between M-Learning Researchers and Practitioners through an Online Portal and Web 2.0 Technologies

Advancing Collaboration between M-Learning Researchers and Practitioners through an Online Portal and Web 2.0 Technologies

Laurel Evelyn Dyson (University of Technology Sydney, Australia) and Andrew Litchfield (University of Technology Sydney, Australia)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/jmbl.2011010104
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With growing interest in mobile learning to address the educational requirements of a generation of students who have grown up with digital technology, and given the widespread adoption of mobile devices by indigenous people and in developing countries, there is a need for improved practice and better theoretical understanding of m-learning. This could be achieved through a more accessible body of knowledge of m-learning principles, teaching strategies and case-studies. This paper proposes the establishment of an online portal to influence and support good m-learning practice. An m-learning portal, incorporating a range of online, Web 2.0 and mobile technologies, would foster collaboration between researchers and educators and inform emerging national and international approaches using mobile technologies at all levels of the education sector and across all disciplines.
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In the first decade of the twenty-first century, interest in m-learning – learning facilitated by mobile technologies – is emerging as the most important innovation in education (Guy, 2009; Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2005). This has come about most obviously because of the availability of wireless technologies but also, in large measure, from a realization that there is a serious mismatch between traditional teaching methods and the current generation of learners. In addition, given the widespread adoption of mobile technologies in disadvantaged communities, m-learning can play a vital role in re-engaging the disengaged and narrowing economic disparity between the developed and developing world.

M-learning has the potential to depart significantly from traditional, didactic teaching pedagogies and also from the e-learning practices that grew out of them in the 1990s. Since e-learning systems are good at mass delivery of content, they tended to perpetuate the old transmission model of education (Martin & Webb, 2001). Figure 1 is a French drawing from 1910 which presciently foretells technology-supported teaching in the year 2000: students sit passively downloading information that has been “digitized” in the teacher’s book-mincer or “web server”. The lack of expression on the students’ faces indicates that little learning is happening. Today, inactive, didactic lectures, and their online equivalent, remain the dominant modes of instruction at university.

Figure 1.

Educational technology in the year 2000, as viewed in France in 1910 (From


As a “disruptive” new technology mobile devices have an interesting potential to support new learning and teaching practices. By contrast with both classroom teaching and e-learning, m-learning can be “spontaneous, personal, informal, contextual, portable, ubiquitous (available everywhere) and pervasive” (Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2005, p. 2). M-learning supports constructivist and experiential pedagogies, and lends itself to student-centred learning, where learners create new knowledge and content for themselves (Cochrane, 2006; Litchfield, Dyson, Wright, Pradhan, & Courtille, 2010).

In this paper we explore how the existing knowledge and experiences of researchers and practitioners might be leveraged to spread understanding of m-learning further. Despite growing recognition of the advantages of m-learning, the use of mobile technology in education is not as widespread as it should be. M-learning is yet in an exploratory phase, with educators still working out how to do it, how to finance it, which subjects and groups of students might benefit most, and how to get academics on board (Dyson, Raban, Litchfield, & Lawrence, 2009). There remain many gaps in our understanding of m-learning, such as its practical implementation across a range of disciplines, its theoretical foundation, and how to deal with ethical issues. We firstly discuss how m-learning can revitalize the learning not only of the “digital natives” generation but also of previously disenfranchised groups of learners. We then present our proposal for an m-learning portal to serve as a catalyst and offer practical support for change in the educational sector.

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