Opportunities and Challenges of Mobile Learning Implementation in Schools in Oman

Opportunities and Challenges of Mobile Learning Implementation in Schools in Oman

Muna Abdullah Al-Siyabi (Minstry of Education, Oman) and Yota Dimitriadi (University of Reading, UK)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJMBL.2020070103

Abstract

Mobile learning research has been flourishing to keep pace with the rapid technological advancement that has been invading all parts of modern life. There is a shortage of such research in Oman, especially in schools. The aim of this study is to uncover mLearning employment in schools in Oman by exploring two cases. The study investigates the perceptions of headteachers, teachers, technicians and students about the opportunities and challenges of mLearning. It involved two headteachers, 16 teachers, two technicians and 237 students in the questionnaires, and involved two headteachers, seven teachers in the interviews and 13 students in three focus groups. The results revealed that mobile learning enhances students' learning and engagement, enhances communication between participants, and provides authentic and situated learning. The results also revealed that teachers and students are faced with four challenges. These challenges include cognitively demanding environment, technical problems, disruption and distraction, and teachers' confidence.
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Introduction

Mobile learning research has been flourishing since the late 1990s (Cerratto-Pargman & Milrad, 2015). There has been a shift in the focus of mLearning research in the last 20 years from attitudes, perceptions and motivation (Hwang & Tsai, 2011) to more practical interests such as strategies for employing mobile technologies and the effect of mLearning on learning cultures and social practices (Cerratto-Pargman & Milrad, 2015).

However, few mLearning studies have been conducted in Oman, and their focus has been on higher education. For example, Al-Mamary (2009) and Al Hamdani (2014) revealed positive results of mobile technologies employment in higher education settings. These studies highlight mLearning’s positive contributions to student learning, but also highlight the lack of school-based research, which this study focuses on. The absence of such research has affected the Ministry of Education’s decisions on mLearning implementation in government schools. At the time of this study, only two private schools in Oman are implementing mLearning in their classes. The aim of this study is to investigate perceptions about the use of mobile devices in these schools. It explores the opportunities and challenges in employing such devices in the targeted schools with the aim to provide suggestions and recommendations to schools and policy makers about the opportunities of employing mLearning. The researcher adopted two theoretical lenses, the FRAME and SAMR models, to explore the participants’ perceptions about mLearning.

The aim of this study was to investigate the mLearning implementer perceptions of mLearning employment in the two schools. The two main research questions in this study were:

  • 1.

    What learning opportunities can the use of mobile technologies create in these two schools?

  • 2.

    What are the challenges surrounding the introduction of mobile learning in schools?

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Backround

Mobile learning (mLearning) is learning where the learner is not in a specific place, or utilises the features offered by mobile devices (O’Malley, Vavoula, Glew, Taylor, Sharples, & Lefrere, 2005). Mobile technologies facilitate the delivery of multimedia, discourse and discussion and synchronous and asynchronous content (Traxler, 2009). The content is delivered efficiently regarding authenticity, time and cost. Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, can enhance learning as they allow developing the students’ 21st century skills, such as solving problems and extracting and sorting information. However, learning could not be improved by just using a new technology, but through variation in teaching and learning methods (Hokanson, 2014). This is also emphasised by Sharples, Arnedillo-Sanchez, Milrad, and Vavoula (2009), who insist that the focus should not be on mobile devices, as they are simply tools that facilitate learning.

This research was conducted in Oman, which is located in the extreme south-eastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula and has a population of 4,432.380 according to the recent figures of the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI, 2017). Oman has 11 governorates (regions): Muscat, Dhofar, Buraymi, Dakhiliyah, the North Batinah, South Batinah, North Sharqiyah, South Sharqiyah, Dhahirah, Musandam, and Wusta, each of these governorates has a number of wilayats (districts) (Information, 2014). The current research was conducted in Muscat.

The new system of Basic education started in the academic year 1998/99. Basic education lasts for ten years and is followed by two years of post-Basic education. Basic education is divided into two stages: cycle one (grade 1 to 4), and cycle two (grade 5-10). In cycle one, male and female pupils are mixed in the same schools; while in cycle two they are separated into different schools. The Ministry of Education is responsible for the administration of state schools from grades 1-12. Private schools are run by private investors and supervised by the Ministry of Education (Portal, 2015; World Bank, 2013).

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