The Psychological Challenges of Mobile Learning

The Psychological Challenges of Mobile Learning

Melody M. Terras (University of the West of Scotland, UK) and Judith Ramsay (Leeds Beckett University, UK)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch046
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Abstract

Mobile learning is the use of wireless handheld devices to support learning and teaching across different psychological, social, physical and temporal contexts. Research focuses on the technology, user skills and preferences, contexts of use, guidelines for evaluation that support mobile learning. The 24/7 nature of mobile learning blurs traditional boundaries of time and space both physically and psychologically and presents a number of psychological challenges that are a product of the user's socio-cognitive profile: human mental processes are limited and rely upon environmental cues to support them. Learning occurs across times and contexts: mobile learners must plan, organise and keep track of learning material accessed at different times in different locations. This presents psychological challenges, as human mental resources are subject to well-established constraints. Understanding the psychological challenges and the skills necessary to overcome them are essential for the design of effective mobile learning experiences.
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Overview

This chapter provides a state of the art overview of the Psychological challenges of mobile learning. Within this chapter the term Psychological challenges refers to the tasks, difficulties and obstacles that mobile learners encounter during the mobile learning process. Psychological challenges can be differentiated from other more practical challenges such as difficulties concerning access or use of technology per se, as Psychological challenges reflect the Cognitive and Psycho-social profile of the learner. With respect to a learner’s Cognitive profile, our information processing abilities are limited, especially working memory and attentional resources, and this places constrains on the amount of information we can process and therefore learn at any one time. Memory is also highly context dependent and the changing contexts, across both space and time, that are associated with mobile learning places these limited resources under additional strain. The psycho-social profile of the learner must also be considered as individual differences in motivation, self-regulation, attitudes, experiences and preferences for learning and technology use contribute to learner behaviour and the success of the learning process.

For the purposes of this chapter, mobile learning is defined in its widest sense and refers to use of handheld devices such as mobile phones and tablets to access learning resources such as on-line distance learning materials that have been formally provided by an educational institution, or more informal informational resources that can be accessed via internet search engine (e,g. Google) on the internet such as blogs, Wikis (e.g. Wikipedia) and Social Networking platforms (e.g. facebook and YouTube).

Rapid technological advancements are substantially influencing the learning landscape offering learners, providers and developers a range of new platforms for learning such as Web 2.0. The new learning opportunities afforded by mobile devices bring challenges, and the pace of technological change is currently outstripping a detailed pedagogical framework for its use. Mobile learning offers a range of practical challenges such as the availability of mobile devices, robust wireless networks and the appropriately designed learning materials that are tailored for use on mobile devices such as the recently introduced ipad Turnitin application.

More importantly, mobile learning also poses a significant number of psychological challenges. The potential 24/7 nature of mobile learning blurs traditional boundaries of time and space, both physically and psychologically, and presents a number of psychological challenges that are a product of the user’s socio-cognitive profile: human mental processes are limited and rely upon environmental cues to support them. Learning occurs over time: mobile learners must plan, organise and keep track of learning material accessed at different times. Therefore, it is important to differentiate between subjective (psychological) and objective (physical) time, as time can be perceived differently depending on context, task and the individual’s socio-emotional state. With mobility, contexts change and this also presents a psychological challenge, especially to memory as context dependent retrieval cues may not be available to support memory (Terras & Ramsay, 2012, 2014).

From a Psychological perspective, mobile learning can be defined as the use of wirelessly connected devices to augment learning and teaching within and between different psychological, social, physical and temporal contexts. From this perspective, the most influential characteristic of mobile learning is the mobility of the learner across different contexts of learning and the demands this makes of limited mental resources that are heavily influenced by context.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cognitive Constraints: Restrictions imposed by the limited nature of human cognitive architecture and information processing abilities.

Psychology: The scientific study of human behaviour.

Perception Of Time: How an individual perceives and experiences the duration of an event.

Meta-Cognition: The aspect of human thought that relates to awareness of how one is responding to and processing information.

Mobile Learning: Using a wireless device to access resources and engage in learning across a range of contexts.

Spatio-Temporal Context: Consideration of the context in which learning occurs that reflects both the place (space) and the time sequence (temporal aspect) of the learning event.

Individual Differences: How behaviour and psychological abilities (both cognitive and psycho-social) vary from one person to another.

Learner Skills And Preferences: The cognitive and psycho-social abilities that learners possess and they way in which they prefer to use technology to learn.

Psychological Challenges: Difficulties or obstacles that arise due to the cognitive and psycho-social abilities of the learner.

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