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Mobile Learning

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What is Mobile Learning?

The term “mobile learning” can be applied to any learning activity that utilizes a mobile device (defined here as smartphone, tablet, or cell phone), from a simple text message to a sophisticated augmented reality experience. Mobile learning seeks to utilize the near ubiquity and unique capabilities of mobile devices to make course materials available to students wherever they are, and to create new kinds of learning experiences. Mobile learning is not merely shrinking your course on to a phone--it’s about creating opportunities for students to take it with them into the world.

What's Unique About Mobile Devices?

If you own a smartphone, it is the one connected device you take with you wherever you go. Smartphone technologies, such as Internet access, built-in cameras and GPS open up a multitude of learning possibilities. These are the five “C’s” of Mobile Learning, as identified by Clark Quinn.

  • Content: Providing instructional materials that students can access anywhere, or in specific contexts (like instructor commentary for a museum trip).
  • Capture: Using mobile devices to capture images, video, sound, GPS coordinates, and ideas (as notes).
  • Communicate: Being able to stay in touch with classmates anywhere or during specific field activities.
  • Compute: Using Devices to assist in calculating, language translating, and other computational tasks.
  • Combine: Using the previous four functions together in interesting ways, like augmented-reality experiences that capture GPS location, orientation, and images, and supply relevant content to the learner.

But Not All Students Have iPhones or Androids!

Smartphone adoption is not yet 100 percent among students, but it is quite high and growing. Over 80% of 18-29 year olds in the US have a smartphone, and targeted surveys by the Mobile Learning Initiative Suggest that as many as 90 percent of DePaul students own smartphones. But until everyone has a smartphone, here are some strategies to make sure mobile learning doesn't leave anyone out:

  • Students can be asked to pair up for field activities.
  • Many mobile-learning activities do not require a smartphone but only basic phone features like text messages and/or a camera.
  • Alternative activities or instructions can be provided for students who don't have or don't want to use their smartphones.
  • Academic units that rely heavily on mobile learning can develop a system for lending out devices to students.

Contact MoLI for a consultation on implementing these and other solutions for your course.

Mobile Learning Experiences

Learn how DePaul professors are integrating mobile learning into a range of courses by watching the videos below:

Recommended Apps for Teaching and Learning

Students have many types of mobile devices, and the tools recommended on this page are available on the major mobile platforms. Many of these tools are also available on the web for students who do not have a smartphone or tablet. We recommend that if you develop a mobile-learning activity that utilizes a specific service, it should be available on iOS, Android, and the Web. (Contact MoLI if you have specific questions.)

Mobile applications can support teaching and learning both in and out of the classroom. The list below represents a small percentage of the apps that might be useful for faculty and students.

While DePaul does not provide support for these apps, we provide these examples as a starting point for further exploration. Note that mobile apps can evolve and change very rapidly. When using any freely available app, be prepared for possible changes to user interface and features.

Interactive Class Polling

Watch and learn how two DePaul professors in the College of Science and Health use Socrative and Poll Everywhere to engage their students.

  • Socrative is a student-response system that allows faculty to engage students in the classroom through real-time polling, quizzes, and other activities. Socrative is compatible with any web-enabled device, including smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
  • Poll Everywhere allows you to create real-time polls with either open-ended or quantitative questions. Students can respond through its app, the mobile web, a laptop, or text messages.

Note-taking and Fieldwork

  • Apps such as Evernote allow students to enter text notes, capture images, audio, and video, record GPS coordinates, as well as organize and tag notes. These apps sync to the cloud so students can access their notes wherever they are, and notes can be shared with instructors and classmates. Instructors can use apps like these to design assignments for students go into the field to capture images, record audio interviews, or take geotagged field notes and share them with the instructor.
  • Google Translate can be a helpful tool for anyone learning a new language. Students who are travelling—whether abroad or right here in one of Chicago's linguistically diverse neighborhoods—might find it especially useful. The app allows you to translate languages three ways: by entering text, capturing images containing text, or recording sound. WordLens, aquired by Google in 2014, allows for real-time translation using a smartphone's camera; soon the technology will be available in Google apps.

Study Aides

  • StudyBlue is a free tool students can use to make and organize flashcards on their mobile device or a web browser. Note that flashcards can only be shared using a paid account.
  • Quizlet is a tool similar to StudyBlue in that it allows students the ability to create digital flashcards. However, it also supports other study prep tools, such as fill-in-the-blank quizzes, spelling tests, and even games like matching. Requires a Google login but is free to use.

Staying Safe with Mobile

Some instructors have expressed concern about students using mobile devices out in the field and the possibility of theft. These are some tips you can share with students to reduce the risk.

  • Try not to look like a tourist. If you look and behave like a tourist who doesn’t know where he or she is going, you’re more likely to be targeted.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be so engrossed in your mobile device that you ignore the world around you.
  • Try to avoid high-foot-traffic areas when actively using your device. Try to find a place where people aren’t actively walking near you.
  • Be careful near doors on the CTA, especially when they’re opening and closing. Some thieves on the "L" will snatch valuables and run off just as the doors are closing.
  • Go in groups of two or three.
  • If you don’t feel safe, put your device away.
  • When not in use, put your device in a secure location, like a zippered compartment or a pocket where you can feel it against your body
  • In case your device is lost or stolen, make sure it is protected by a password/pin/pattern lock so none of your personal information is at risk.
  • Use an app that will help you find your device like Find My iPhone or Android Device Manager.

Contact MoLI

If you are interested in Mobile Learning, we'd love to hear from you! The Mobile Learning Initiative (MoLI) was formed to explore mobile learning and support faculty who are interested in integrating mobile learning solutions into their courses at DePaul.

For more information about mobile learning at DePaul, contact MoLI@depaul.edu. MoLI is a collaborative effort between FITS, the DePaul Library, the School for New Learning, the Office for Teaching, Learning and Assessment and Media, Production and Training (MPT).

Further Resources

Designing mLearning: Tapping Into the Mobile Revolution for Organizational Performance

Clark Quinn's “Designing mLearning” is both a reference resource and an instructional tool for successfully integrating mobile-based technology devices into a pedagogical structure. Addressing the foundations of general learning concepts, Quinn prepares instructors for the idea that mobile technology is an integral aspect of academia, enhancing and expounding upon existing educational means. Even though the technology Quinn mentions is out of date, the mobile learning principles he outlines still apply to current devices.

The Mobile Academy: mLearning for Higher Education

Addressing areas such as administrative concerns, as well as social media, “mLearning for Higher Education” targets solutions based on practical, existing considerations that exist for higher education organizations. Quinn offers a strategic means toward strengthening existing infrastructure, while creating a better learning environment for students, teachers and administration.

ECAR Study of Undergrads & Technology

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Technology 2013 summarizes the findings of the annual survey of undergraduate students and technology use. This most recent study finds that students are ready to use their mobile devices for learning, but expect to have guidance from their instructors and institutions. The report also notes that use of these mobile devices in the classroom is not common, and students report being prevented or discouraged from using mobile devices in the classroom.

Educause MRC12: Mobile Teaching and Learning: Engaging Students and Measuring Impact

How well does the mobile platform engage students in the learning process? Given as a presentation for the EDUCAUSE Midwest Regional Conference 2012, this overview identifies means to assess the leveraging of mobile technology within various learning environments. Assessment regarding the utilization and implementation of mobile technology resources can play a key factor in the design, execution and offering of an online or hybrid course.

7 Things You Should Know About Connected Learning

The connected learning model views student learning as occurring both inside and outside the classroom. Technology, people, and experiences may facilitate or contribute to that learning. Our roles as educators is to help students connect all of these various learning experiences in order to create an individualized, yet cohesive learning experience. The connected learning model serves as one pedagogical underpinning for the use of mobile devices in learning.

IDDBlog: What Mobile Platforms Can do for Higher Ed but Aren't (Yet)

Both mobile hardware devices, as well as the software applications running on said hardware, are continually evolving. Consumer electronics offer a myriad of conveniences for individuals seeking out such mobile utilities. That being said, much of the technology comprising mobile platforms has yet to meet the needs for educational institutions. Why? Mr. Joppie explores several key technologies found within a multitude of mobile platforms and elucidates why consumer expectations differ from education necessities.