Tuesday, September 18, 2012

mLearning

As I am researching the possibilities of a second BYOD for students, I've started to read articles about how smartphones and tablets are leading to new ways of learning.  Mobile devices that can be carried around in our pockets are the devies of choice for many who want to be constantly connected and able to access information from anywhere.   Many of these articles are pointing to the need for new models of education to meet the evolving needs of both current and new students.  These new students are both today's toddlers who have grown up as familiar with touchscreens as they are with books, adults who are questioning the value of traditional campus university education and the elderly who are gaining new skills in their leisure time.  Mobile learning, or mLearning, has led to "education that you can hold in your hand" on mobile devices.

Recently I was looking at the Design Mind blog post mLearning: Revolutionizing Education.  This post discusses the impact of mLearning on traditional education.  Below is a summary of some of the important areas where I think mLearning could have a real impact:

  1. Continuous learning - the traditional model of years of education being followed by years of working is changing as education is becoming more and more part of our daily lives.  All sorts of people are involved in online courses on mobile devices.  These lifelong learners are opening up whole new markets for education.
  2. Educational leapfrogging - the low cost of many mobile devies is giving students from poorer backgrounds the opportunity to leapfrog over outdated formal school systems.  Although these young people may be forced to leave school early to help sustain their families, access to education via mobile devices can be part of their daily routine.
  3. Older, lifelong learners and educators - grandparents are adopting mLearning in greater numbers than ever before.  These devices are often easier to use than traditional computers and are the devices of choice for many when using email, Facebook, Twitter and Skype.  Older people have more time to take online courses and the retired represent a huge pool of educators who can teach remotely and so address the scarcity of qualified teachers around the world.
  4. Breaking gender boundaries - some societies place barriers on girls continuing their education but mLearning allows them to access high quality education privately in their own time.  Another group who can also benefit are those with extremel disabilities who may not be able to access traditional schools and classrooms.
  5. Education's long tail - there is a vast amount of existing educational material on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo including tutorials from the Khan Academy and TED-Ed that can be re-aggregated by theme.
  6. Changing roles - handheld tools provide opportunities for students to share their knowledge with peers or even to teach adults through creating programmes or videos.
  7. New opportunities for educational institutions - schools and universities can extend their traditional offerings.  Examples include universities such as Harvard and MIT offering free online courses and schools exploring online courses to expand the options available to students.
  8. Customized education - people are able to choose their own paths and follow their passions.  Students of any age or background have the chance to pursue knowledge that is meaningful and relevant to them.
Photo Credit:  Samsung Galaxy Tab by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla, 2010   AttributionNoncommercial  

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