Learning on the Go

NIU MobileNIU has released its first campus-wide mobile app, NIU Mobile for Apple (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), Blackberry, Android, and webOS devices.

The app connects students and faculty to NIU resources on-the-go, including the campus directory and calendar as well as athletics schedules and scores. Campus maps can help new students find their way around campus, and Emergency Information is easy to access. There is even a portal to search the library catalog.

NIU Mobile also includes access to Blackboard Mobile Learn, so students can access course materials, post to the discussion board, and check their grades from anywhere. Faculty can also post announcements from the app.

This video provides a demonstration of the NIU Mobile app and highlights its most exciting features. However, Mobile Learning encompasses more than checking grades from a phone or posting announcements while traveling.

What is Mobile Learning?

There are many definitions of mobile or m-learning, ranging from simple definitions such as “e-learning through mobile computational devices” (Quinn, 2000, para. 1) to complex theoretical definitions of mobile learning as a function of its facets (Laouris & Eteokleous, 2005, para. 15). However, across all definitions there are several common themes:

  • Learning occurs outside of the classroom. Students learn from wherever they are, or from contextually-relevant locations (like museums or landmarks)
  • Learning occurs at any time
  • Learning is facilitated by a mobile device, which can include smartphones (like an iPhone or Android device), cell phones (without web browsing capabilities), tablets (mobile devices with larger screens, like an iPad), and even laptop computers

It is important to note that mobile devices are often viewed as the driving force for mobile learning, but that is not necessarily the case. Mobile Learning is really about new ways to access content and engage with students, as well as innovative methods to analyze information and create media.

Why does Mobile Learning matter?

Internet-capable mobile devices are becoming more prevalent, and new devices like tablets are expanding the possibilities for portable devices. In fact, by the year 2015, it is estimated that 80% of all Internet usage will be done from mobile devices (Ericsson, 2010, para. 5). Mobile devices can be used to access information, communicate with others, compose text, and create media.

Mobile learning can be more engaging for students because it accommodates multiple learning styles, particularly the auditory and kinesthetic styles. Because students are not tied to a classroom, mobile learning can be used to augment real-world experiences, like gathering data, making observations, or conducting interviews.

Convenience is also a factor in mobile learning. Students can access materials at any time and from anywhere, which makes learning accessible to students who might otherwise struggle with courses. Also, high-speed mobile Internet is available in locations where traditional high-speed connections have not yet reached. Pilots of mobile learning initiatives have been conducted with students in remote locations and in developing nations, where mobile technology exists but hard-wired infrastructure is not available (Parker, 2011).

What qualifies as a mobile device?

Mobile learning naturally brings smartphones to mind, like the iPhone or an Android-powered phone. These devices have vast capabilities, including accessing Internet content, running a continually growing selection of programs called apps, and creating and editing media like photos, audio, and video. These devices generally have GPS features for location-specific content.

Tablets, like the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or the Motorola Xoom, are more like keyboard-less laptops. They run apps similar to smartphones, but have larger screens and more processing capabilities. Laptops are also considered mobile devices, since students can utilize them from anywhere, although they are certainly less mobile than smaller devices.

However, these high-end devices are not the only options for mobile learning. While many students do not have smartphones, most do have cellphones. In fact, 93% of adults age 18-29 use a cellphone (Voxy, 2011). Most modern cellphones have capabilities that can be used for mobile learning, like text messaging and cameras.

What activities/techniques are possible?

Technique What is it? How can it be used in the classroom?
Text messaging (SMS)
  • Short text-based messages of 160 characters or less
Mobile photos and video
  • Most modern cellphones are equipped with cameras for photo or video, some high resolution (5-9 megapixels)
  • Smartphones can run apps for photo and video editing
  • Students can document locations or events by taking photos with their phones
  • Students can record presentations as practice or post short videos for classmates to review
eBooks
  • eBooks can be read and annotated on mobile devices or dedicated readers (e.g. Kindle, Nook, etc.) as well as desktop computers
  • eBooks can include videos and other interactive media that print textbooks cannot
  • Faculty can select textbooks that are available both in print and electronically so students can choose
  • Faculty can create eBooks instead of PDF files for course documents

 

Quick Response (QR) codes
  • Created using free services, saved as images
  • Can direct to a website, display a short message
  • Displayed on posters, cards, t-shirts, etc.
  • Scanned using free apps
  • QR codes can be used for a scavenger hunt, where each code provides a clue to the location of the next code
  • QR codes can be shorthand to direct students to important resources or detailed information
Apps
  • Wide variety of available apps with educational uses
  • Use for classroom activities or as optional study aides
A limited list of potential apps (all free and available for multiple devices): 

  • Evernote: synchronize notes across devices and desktop
  • i-nigma: a simple QR reader
  • foursquare/gowalla/scvngr: location-based apps that can be used for scavenger hunts
  • Dropbox: synchronize files between desktop, mobile, and web
  • Much more

 

Learn More

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is now offering a Mobile Learning Series of workshops. The series began with Learning On the Go: Introduction to Mobile Learning. The presentation from that workshop is available at http://prezi.com/1bxnml5lyi9p/learning-on-the-go/. The series continues with Quick Response (QR) Codes on October 27, 2011 from 10:00 am to 11:30 am and Text Messaging in Teaching on November 17, 2011. Each workshop is independent of the others, so sign up for all or just one! Plus, look for more topics coming in future schedules, including creating and using eBooks, location-based learning, podcasting, mobile media, and more.

Resources

Ericsson (July 9, 2010). Mobile subscriptions hit 5 billion mark. Retrieved from: http://www.ericsson.com/jm/news/1430616

Laouris, Y. & Eteokleous, N. (2005). We need an Educationally Relevant Definition of Mobile Learning. Proceedings of the 4th World Conference on mLearning. October 25-28, Cape Town, South Africa. Retrieved from: http://www.mlearn.org.za/CD/papers/Laouris%20&%20Eteokleous.pdf

Parker, J. (2011). Mobile learning toolkit. Retrieved from: http://jenniferparker.posterous.com/mobile-learning-toolkit

Quinn, C. (2000). mLearning: Mobile, Wireless, In-Your-Pocket Learning. LiNE Zine. Fall. Retrieved from: http://www.linezine.com/2.1/features/cqmmwiyp.htm

Voxy (2011). Are we wired for mobile learning? Retrieved from: http://voxy.com/blog/2011/02/are-we-wired-for-mobile-learning/?view=infographic

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