Making the Most of Informal and Situated Learning Opportunities through Mobile Learning

Making the Most of Informal and Situated Learning Opportunities through Mobile Learning

Mar Camacho (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2970-7.ch018
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Mobility and networking are two important emerging issues that affect educational practices nowadays. Learners and teachers are continuously involved in ubiquitous relationships with other people on the Internet, swapping information and sharing knowledge and skills. However, in the Mobile Learning area, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on mobile technologies and the transfer of content, whereas the potential to support community building processes and collaboration through their integration within social networks has tended to be underemphasized. With the advent of Mobile Learning, a certain growth in its practice and research has been activated by technological innovation and progress. Mobile technologies offer potentiality for the exploitation of contextual learning and have unbound learners and technologies out of the limitation of classrooms at the time that enhance collaborative processes in informal contexts. The emergence of mobile gadgets has democratized the access to technology, changed the concept of user-generated content, and allowed learners and technologies to experiment with technologies outside the classroom, although it has posed challenges to educational stakeholders on how to match the nature of their practice for both life and learning with those traits that educators would like to heighten.
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1. Background

1.1. Towards a Distinct Mobile Culture: Informing the Nature of 21st Century Learners

The aim of this chapter is to provide a revision through the most relevant theoretical frameworks in the field of Mobile Learning, especially when linked to social learning and the nature of 21st century learners. An overview is offered of the most outstanding features concerning the pedagogical challenges that it may suppose for Higher Education stakeholders, and poses some questions on the challenges that educational institutions have to face, especially concerning the blurring between formal and informal learning. A final part is devoted to account for those issues which could promote successful learning practices through mobile devices in informal situations and to account for a distinctive mobile literacy. The chapter concludes that mobile learning can make valuable contributions to linking different learning environments at the time that it provides many opportunities for exploring ways in which students own mobile devices might be integrated into teaching and learning in higher education. Amongst other benefits, mobile learning is seen as providing considerable opportunities to link formal and informal learning across a range of educational contexts.

The pervasiveness of mobile technology is absolutely changing the way we teach and learn. Mobility is understood as a great catalyst of change, and together with digital media offer learners the tools to develop knowledge, and the skills and social practices required to entirely participate in contemporary society. This continuously changing social landscape evidently affects the ways in which participation is assumed, and whereas young people hold the different practices of mediated social interaction, educators endeavor to discover ways to connect these expressions in order to stimulate learning.

The impact that Mobile Technologies have had upon the learners’ lives has led them to become involved through a situation which permits them to be involved in educational undertakings basically driven by personal needs and circumstances. Kukulska-Hume (2010) and Luckin (2010) provide the definition of ‘Context-awareness’ as the awareness of one’s surroundings and their potential to provide information and rich learning experiences, which essentially becomes in this context, a starting point for learning. As the authors state: “Context-aware learning, therefore, is about enabling learners to use personal and social technologies to draw on aspects of their environment, including people who can join in or help, approaching the environment as a dynamic learning resource.”

Thus, at the time that a distinct mobile culture emerges, in which learners take mobility and context-awareness as departing point and become more visible as innovators, creators and producers (Kukulska-Hume, 2010) they develop new skills and literacies empowered by mobile technologies that provide them additional opportunities to extend their learning and tie the use of social media to their own context and interests. The omnipresence of mobile technologies appears to be causing these developments and there is evidence that educational institutions and stakeholders need to provide new insights into these emergent practices. Thus, this cultural shift towards a more learner-centered education also poses implications for the adoption of mobile technologies and directly challenges practitioners and researchers to provide appropriate answers. At the same time, and following with Kukulska-Hulme (2010), “the combination of mobile technology and mobility generates a mobile culture where learners’ specific needs in relation to their current location and context become important stimuli for learning designs.”

Texting, microblogging, video creation or mobile storytelling are instances of educational possibilities that mobile technologies offer, and evidence the value for including them into teaching and learning processes (McFarlane, Triggs and Yee, 2008, p.7) The quick production of mobile technologies offer new opportunities for exploring ways in which students own mobile devices may be included into teaching and learning processes in all educational levels. Although mobile technologies extend learning beyond traditional teacher-led classroom, it is hard to grasp the essence of Mobile Learning, as it will be seen later on in this chapter, to show the way in which it contributes to the theory of educational practices. There is a clear need to provide new insights into emergent practices with mobile technologies that have implications for practitioners, researchers and educational stakeholders.

Regarding the expectations exerted upon 2st century learners and their learning profiles, there emerge from an educators’ perspective, a number of learner skills, attributes and competences, which need to be taken into account (See Figure 1). Kukulska-Hulme (2010) addresses the change of key competences in the lifelong learning culture and lists how mobile technologies can be helpful to satisfy the calls for these new competences.

Figure 1.

21st century learners’ skills


The aim of many educators is to use new technologies in ways that will enable such competences and skills to be reinforced or to occur. Although there is a prevalent opinion that the school as a social institution still has central roles to accomplish, and that in the future it will still be the central building piece where to build educational groundings, there is also solid consciousness of the necessity to adapt its objectives, organization and functioning to the needs and requests of the knowledge society (Drucker, 1994; Kozma & Anderson, 2002).

The internationally recognized NMC Horizon Reports identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe. Each report is intended to surface significant trends and challenges and to identify a wide array of potential technologies or practices that are likely to enter mainstream use with their focus sectors within three adoption horizons over the next five years.

The 2012 Higher Education Edition, recently published, reports on the following key trends:

  • 1.

    People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.

  • 2.

    The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and our notions of IT support are decentralized.

  • 3.

    The world of work is increasingly collaborative, driving changes in the way student projects are structured.

  • 4.

    The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators.

  • 5.

    Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning and collaborative models.

  • 6.

    There is a new emphasis in the classroom on more challenge-based and active learning.

Regarding the areas of emerging technology to watch it should be said that both the mobile apps and tablet computing are among the technologies which have one year or less time of adoption, whereas Game-based Learning and Learning Analytics will take from two to four years of adoption.

Considering the expectations that educators have of 21st century learners, as outlined in the previous section, and the importance that Mobile Learning is gaining through the years it is necessary to see how the personal use of mobile technologies may address these challenges.

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