Research Trends in the Use of Mobile Learning in Mathematics

Research Trends in the Use of Mobile Learning in Mathematics

Helen Crompton (Old Dominion University, USA) and Diane Burke (Keuka College, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0783-3.ch101
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The use of mobile learning in education is growing at an exponential rate. To best understand how mobile learning is being used, it is crucial to gain a collective understanding of the research that has taken place. This research was a systematic review of 36 studies in mobile learning in mathematics from the year 2000 onward. Eight new findings emerged: (1) The primary purpose of most studies was to focus on evaluating mobile learning. (2) Case studies and experimental design were the main research methods. (3) Most studies report positive learning outcomes; (4) Mobile phones were the mobile device used most often. (5) Elementary school settings were the most common research context. (6) The majority of researchers did not identify a specific mathematical concept being studied. (7) The majority of the studies took place in formal educational contexts; and (8) research on mobile learning in mathematics is geographically diverse.
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As the field of mobile learning has developed and devices have advanced, there have been a number of ephemeral definitions of mobile learning. Earlier definitions have named a particular device which quickly becomes dated, or they have been technocentric (Crompton, 2013a). Nonetheless, trends have emerged from these definitions that highlight the four central constructs of mobile learning as pedagogy, technological devices, context, and social interactions (Crompton, 2013b). Aligned to these constructs, Sharples, Taylor, and Vavoula (2007) define mobile learning as “the processes of coming to know through conversations across multiple contexts amongst people and personal interactive technologies” (p. 224).

Using these constructs, (Crompton, 2013b) defined mobile learning as “learning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices” (p. 4). This is the definition selected for this article.

Determining which devices are included in m-learning has also been a topic of debate among scholars (Traxler, 2009). For this study, Crompton’s (2013a) criteria have been used (see p. 48) to define what qualifies as a mobile device. She proffers that the device must be portable and incorporate a prompt on-off button. The latter is extremely problematic with traditional laptops, as they take a while to start and they are typically not left on standby mode to use quickly. For this reason, laptops were not included as mobile devices in this study.

As mobile learning is a relatively new field of study, there is a paucity of studies that collectively review and analyze mobile learning research. The major reviews of mobile learning in education include a critical analysis of mobile learning projects conducted by Frohberg, Goth, and Schwabe (2009) as they focused on six criteria: context, control, tools, communication, subject, and objective. Using a framework to systematically analyze and position mobile learning projects, Frohberg et al. reported screening 1469 publications to finally analyze 102 publications. Frohberg et al. found that although mobile devices were primarily for communication, they found few connections to the research regarding communication or collaboration. The researchers also found that the majority of the studies supported novice learners.

Hung and Zhang (2012) conducted a study of mobile learning research trends from 2003 to 2008. Text mining techniques were used to provide basic bibliometric statistics, trends in frequency of topics, predominance of topics by country, and preference for each topic by journal. The researchers found that: 1) mobile learning articles increased from eight in 2003 to 36 in 2008; 2) effectiveness, evaluation, and personalized systems were the most popular area of study; and 3) Taiwan conducted the most mobile learning studies.

Hwang and Tsai (2011) conducted a study of research trends in mobile and ubiquitous learning from selected journals from 2001 to 2010. They found the number of articles published from 2005 to 2010 was nearly four times that of from 2001 to 2005. The sample groups selected for study ranked as follows: higher education (59), elementary students (41), high school students (17). Only a few studies selected teachers (6) and working adults (6) as the research sample. Their research found that most studies did not involve any learning domain, but rather, they mainly focused on investigation of motivation, perception and attitudes of students towards mobile learning. Contributing countries numbered 23 with Taiwan having the highest number of publications (51).

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