Mobile Learning Using Mobile Phones in Japan

Mobile Learning Using Mobile Phones in Japan

Midori Kimura (Tokyo Women’s Medical University, Japan)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-613-8.ch005
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The past ten years has seen remarkable developments in mobile devices, especially mobile phones, and interest in the potential of using mobile phones in an educational setting has intensified recently. The author’s working group, in cooperation with eLPCO (e-learning Professional Competency) at Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan, started a mobile learning project in 2002 to demonstrate model programs of mobile learning using mobile phones (mLearning/MPs), with the findings from all the experiments conducted over the past seven years contributing to the educational process. This chapter first discusses the barriers, such as the psychological, pedagogical, and technological issues, that mLearning/MPs had to overcome. Next, the author introduces findings obtained from four projects carried out on the English language by mobile phones, and then provides suggestions on essential conditions required for a good program for mLearning/MPs. The chapter proposes open source-based mobile services as a way of overcoming barriers faced by mLearning/MPs, and as an effective model for English language learning using mobile phones.
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There are teachers and researchers who are enthusiastic about using mobile technologies. They believe that providing the means for learners to study “anytime, anywhere” will encourage more frequent and integral use of learning technologies, as opposed to the more occasional use generally associated with computer laboratories (Roschelle, 2003). There are good reasons for establishing study programs using mobile phones in Japan.

  • (1)

    Most students already possess a mobile phone, but they may not possess a computer; therefore, using mobile phones for learning allows everyone to study under the same conditions.

  • (2)

    The average round-trip commute is about two and a half hours, so it is beneficial to find something useful to do while commuting.

  • (3)

    A mobile phone has faster access and is easier to use than a computer for mailing and browsing the Internet.

  • (4)

    Mobile learning, in other words, “learning anytime, anywhere,” is more feasible by mobile phones than by computers.

However, some caution has been raised with regard to assuming that mLearning/MPs will become the next generation of learning simply for the reason that most learners already possess mobile phones (see Australian Flexible Learning Framework, 2007: The MoLeNET Project, 2007). Levy and Kennedy (2005) also argue that the widespread acceptance of communication technologies in non-learning contexts does not necessarily mean that they will be effective or valued in educational contexts. In view of the controversy surrounding the value of mobile phones with regard to education, the four projects we carried out over a seven year period were very significant in the sense that our experiments and the results they produced always set out to provide models for mLearning/MPs, and promoted the effectiveness and the potential of mobile phones for learning.

Our working group started the mobile learning projects using mobile phones in 2002 in collaboration with eLPCO (e-Learning Professional Competency) at Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan. The results from all of the experiments we conducted in the four projects enabled us to contribute to the English language education process. In this chapter, we will discuss mLearning/MPs from the psychological, pedagogical, and technological points of view, based on the needs, learning attitudes, and learning strategies of the students. Furthermore, there will also be a short discussion of the feasibility of using mobile phones as a learning tool for improving language test scores.

When we started the mLearning/MPs project, it was believed that only computers were capable of being a useful tool for education in the 21st-century, and many people had not yet recognized the value of portable computers or mobile phones, or of mobile learning itself. However, many people in Japan, both university students and working people, spend hours commuting, and it would be to their advantage to find something meaningful to do while they are commuting, such as learning on the move. On the other hand, many people, including teachers, who advocated the more conventional styles of learning, were insisting that students who were serious about studying should sit at a desk in the library or in front of a computer in a laboratory, and that mobile phones were merely a bothersome distraction to learning. As a result, although e-learning has become more common, the amount of research done on mLearning/MPs has been limited, despite the extremely widespread use of mobile phones throughout Japan, especially among university students, and greater use of mobile phones over personal computers (PCs) (Kogure et al., 2006).

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