Teaching and Learning with Mobile Technologies

Teaching and Learning with Mobile Technologies

Hyo-Jeong So (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and Bosung Kim (University of Missouri–Columbia, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch184
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Abstract

For the past decade, handheld devices with mobile and wireless capabilities have emerged as the next promising generation of technology for teaching and learning. Today, handheld devices such as mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), portable gaming devices, and tablet PCs have already become pervasive in daily lives of students. With this trend, there has been increased interest as to how mobile technologies can be used to enhance teaching and learning. One of the challenges for educators is to examine how we can use the new innovations of mobile technologies to create learning experiences that are often limited in traditional classroom environments. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to provide innovative and practical applications of mobile technologies in a variety of educational contexts, including from K-12 to higher education and informal learning.
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Types And Characteristics

In this section, a few types of promising mobile technologies and their characteristics are described. A mobile phone is a portable communication device. Besides a basic communication service, current mobile phones offer a variety of services, including: (a) sending and receiving text messages, (b) reading e-mails, (c) browsing the Web, and (d) taking and sending photos. In particular, a recent High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), which delivers “peak rates of 14 Mbps and average throughput rates close to 1 Mbps” (Rysavy, 2004, p. 4), supports even more demanding services such as video conferencing calls and rich multimedia applications.

PDAs (e.g., Palm Pilot and Window Pocket PC), featured as a small-sized touch screen and stylus, are relatively small, light, and cheap compared to other mobile technologies. While PDAs have been primarily used for organizing schedules, taking quick notes, managing a list of contacts, and checking e-mails, they have also been the most popular handheld device for mobile learning. In recent years, the capabilities of PDAs have been expanded with a built-in voice recorder, camera, MP3 player, wireless connection, and increased memory. As such, people are looking for more applications of PDAs for teaching and learning than before.

A laptop computer is equivalent to a desktop computer in terms of functionalities, but is superior to a desktop computer in terms of portability (Yang, 2005). However, there are limitations to using a laptop computer for education due to its relatively high cost and relatively short battery life compared to other mobile devices.

Tablet PCs have a touch screen which is much larger than that of PDAs, and are lighter and slimmer than laptop computers. Like PDAs, people can directly write on the touch screen of a tablet PC with a stylus. Besides this basic feature, tablet PCs offer a variety of features, including “note taking facilities, text searching, document annotation, and speech recognition” (Sharples & Beale, 2003, p. 395). They are generally categorized into two types: 1) slate models which come without keyboards, and 2) convertible models which come with an attached keyboard (Van West, 2005). A keyboard and a mouse can be also used with slate models via USB cable or wireless connection. Therefore, tablet PCs can be used like laptop computers.

The commonalities of these wireless mobile technologies are portability, connectivity, and versatility. They enable learning to be ubiquitous in and out of classrooms, provide potential opportunities for collaborative learning, and enrich learning experiences with the support of technologies. Figure 1 below shows a mobility continuum in terms of learning, system, and communication. As learning moves from individual to collaborative, the mobility of learning devices is increasing. Accordingly, it necessitates more decentralized technology systems supporting many to many communication. For instance, participatory simulations (Colella, 2000) as a type of collaborative learning requires mobile devices that allow communication channels and input systems among multiple learners. The next section discusses four types of applications of mobile technologies along this mobility continuum: (a) mobile individual learning, (b) classroom communication systems, (c) mobile computer-supported collaborative learning, and (d) participatory simulation.

Figure 1.

Mobility continuum

Key Terms in this Chapter

Standards: Document agreements containing technical specifications or a precise criteria to be used in systems design and implementation.

Electronic Learning (E-learning): Defined as a special kind of technology-based learning. E-learning systems and tools bring geographically dispersed teams together for learning across great distances; it is now one of the fastest growing trends in computing and higher education.

Learning Object Metadata (LOM): Metadata that contain semantic information about learning objects. The main aim of LOM specification is to enable reuse, search, and retrieval of learning objects. The standard developed by the IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) in 1997 specifies a conceptual data schema that defines the structure of metadata instances for a learning object.

Ontologies: An ontology is an explicit, formal specification of a shared conceptualization of a domain of interest. This indicates that an onotology should be machine readable (which excludes natural language). It indicates that it captures consensual knowledge, that is not private to an individual, but accepted as a group or committee of practice. The reference to a domain of interest indicates that domain ontologies do not model the whole world, but rather modeling just parts, which are relevant to the task at hand.

Semantic Web: The Semantic Web constitutes an environment in which human and machine agents will communicate on a semantic basis. It is to be achieved via semantic mark up and metadata annotations that describes content and functions.

Interoperability: Ability to work together, sharing information, capabilities, or other specific goals while being different at some technological level.

Resource Description Framework (RDF): RDF provides a means for adding semantics to a document. It is an infrastructure that enables encoding, exchange, and reuse of information structured metadata. RDF allows multiple metadata schemas to be read by humans as well as machines providing interoperability between applications that exchange machine-understandable information on the Web.

Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM): An XML-based framework used to define and access information about learning objects, so they can be easily shared among different learning management systems. The SCORM specifications, which are distributed through the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative Network, define an XML-based means of representing course structures, an application programming interface, a content-to-LMS data model, a content launch specification, and a specification for metadata information for all components of a system.

Learning Objects: Defined as any entity—digital or nondigital—that may be used, reused, or referenced for learning, education, or training. Examples of learning objects include multimedia content, instructional content, learning objectives, instructional software and software tools, and persons, organizations, or events referenced during technology-supported learning.

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