Learning Mobility

Cordelia – Nothing

King Lear – Nothing!

Cordelia – Nothing.

King Lear – Nothing will come of nothing; Speak again.

Silence. Stillness.

Disconnection. Nothingness.

Having recently experienced a tech meltdown ( CristinaSkyBox), issues regarding the relevance of being connected, of teaching digital citizenship/identity, of engaging learners and teachers with technology for education, it is no surprise that concerns about mobility have been most on my mind.

It is never sufficient to explain how mobility needs to be integrated into classrooms. Mobility of being able to connect without firewalls, mobility to use mobile phones – above all, the mobility to inspire minds. In many institutions world over, the rule of no mobile phones in the classroom is still strongly preached and enforced.

Question: what exactly are educators afraid of?

Are they indeed concerned for their learners or the fact that their classrooms are dull, boring, lifeless?

Or,  is it the threat that a younger generation,  who is more tech-savy, has the power to dismiss the teacher who does not wish to update him/herself both technologically and pedagogically? Were I student today at school (and please do note that I am in fact currently a student as well), I would be on my mobile device throughout boring lessons. Why would I even want to attend school if I was not learning how I wanted to, how I needed to and above all ,not  be respected as a 21st century learner?

Mobility to learn is not just related to M-learning. Mobility to learn is our reality today with OER, Open Universities, MOOCs, Web 2.0, mobile devices and so very much more.

Mobility is an attitude. A state of mind. A state of learning.

Question: what right do “teachers” have to censor learning?

What right do “educators” who are unwilling to keep up with current pedagogical approaches, with the needs of their learners, with the demands of real life outside the classroom, have to maintain silence? To establish educational censorship?
Bauer (2012)  explains how “Today’s students aren’t interested in “going online” to get things done. Booting up, opening the browser, logging on, navigating to the task — they’ll do it if absolutely necessary. Students live in a text and tweet world now and are more likely to consume information and access services if they’re mobile-friendly.
Tinto, suggests that in order to maintain student retention at higher education, that structures need to be put into place which meet their needs. In his study Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College, Tinto raises several issues in regard to student success and retention and explains how:

Involvement is also an important condition for student learning. Even among students who persist, students who are more actively involved in learning, especially with others, learn more and show greater levels of intellectual development.

Tinto also stresses the need of not only shared knowledge but share knowing – and shared responsibility. This is put into practice through communities where students are required to collaborate with each other. Result?

” students spend more time-on-task, learn more, and persist more frequently than similar students in stand-alone and/or traditionally taught classrooms. Their involvement with others in learning within the classroom becomes the vehicle through which effort is enhanced, learning is enriched, and commitments to their peers and the institution are engendered. By being placed in a setting where students have to learn together in a collaborative fashion, everyone’s understanding and knowledge is enriched. As one student observed, “not only do you learn more, you learn better.” (Tinto, Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College,)

It is through digital and mobile technology that these successes occur.

Bauer highlights how “According to market research firm IDC, by 2015 more users will access the Internet through mobile devices than through PCs. By not embracing mobile, institutions will not only miss an opportunity to communicate with their students, they will actually create an interaction barrier.”

Change comes slowly. Change does not happen in a vacuum. Change demands loss of fear and commitment. Bauer’s  (2012) results from a 2011 survey showed the following:

We were surprised to learn that students wanted more than just a handful of campus services on their mobile devices — they wantedeverything. The overwhelming majority wanted mobile access to view grades, check course schedules, and log in to the college’s learning management system, Blackboard. They also wanted access to essential services like the library database and course registration information, along with conveniences like dining menus and bus schedules.

The student survey also pointed out that a majority of the students felt that mobile apps were of high importance. It was clear that whatever we did with mobile, we needed to do it quickly. And in building our strategy, we needed to incorporate students in creating the vision – we couldn’t workshop something and pop it out on them. We needed their voices and ideas in our development efforts.”

Change. Change is embedded in life. Change should be embedded in education.

However, as Herrington & al (2009) note:

Despite the significant potential of mobile technologies to be

employed as powerful learning tools in higher education, their current

use appears to be predominantly within a didactic, teacher-centred

paradigm, rather than a more constructivist environment. It can be

argued that the current use of mobile devices in higher education

(essentially content delivery) is pedagogically conservative and

regressive. Their adoption is following a typical pattern where

educators revert to old pedagogies as they come to terms with the

capabilities of new technologies, referred to by Mioduser, Nachmias,

Oren and Lahav (1999) as ‘one step forward for the technology, two

steps back for the pedagogy’ (p. 758).

Barseghian (2012) recently pointed out:

The opportunity of using mobile devices and all of its utilities allows educators to reconsider: What do we want students to know, and how do we help them? And what additional benefit does using a mobile device bring to the equation? This gets to the heart of the mobile learning issue: beyond fact-finding and game-playing – even if it’s educational — how can mobile devices add relevance and value to how kids learn?

There’s not just one explanation. As mobile devices evolve and become ever more powerful and multi-functional, the answers will change. In the meantime, there are some things educators know for certain do make a big impact on learning.”


“Because mobile devices are the new piece here, people want to know does it make a difference,” Pasnik said. “When we know that learning happens because of relationships, and we want to keep that richness. So the question of the value of a single piece like the mobile phone becomes reductive. You falsely are having to focus in one element, when in fact, learning happens because multiple elements are interacting with one another.” (Barseghian, 2012)

With learning in mind, I turn to Herrington & al (2009) who call one’s attention to authentic learning:

“Authentic learning situates students in learning contexts where they

encounter activities that involve problems and investigations reflective

of those they are likely to face in their real world professional contexts

(Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Lave & Wenger, 1991). Herrington

and Oliver (2000) have identified nine characteristics of authentic


• authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used

in real-life

• authentic activities that are complex, ill-defined problems and


• access to expert performances enabling modelling of processes

• multiple roles and perspectives providing alternative solution


• collaboration allowing for the social construction of knowledge

• opportunities for reflection involving metacognition

• opportunities for articulation to enable tacit knowledge to be

made explicit

• coaching and scaffolding by the teacher at critical times

• authentic assessment that reflect the way knowledge is asses in

real life.”

Mobility is real. Mobile learning is reality. So, again I ask, what right do those who are involved in education, dare dismiss mobility? Mobile phones, iPads/tablets, iPods are all useful learning tools. Learners connect with their devices – and through their day-to-day devices, become more open, more accepting of being in a classroom. Or must they only be in a classroom to do tasks and actually learn?

Hockly (2012) clearly explains how teaching/learning tasks may be carried out in the classroom or on “the go”. Even when an institution denies permission to use M-learning, there are so many creative, inventive ways for educators to guide learner on how to use their mobile devices. It is a question of taking advantage of the moment, of opening learning opportunities to students.

No. This lack is not because of tech. There are too many teachers, who by sticking to routine lesson plans, afraid of taking the untread path, fearful of losing “power”, do not take advantage of relevant learning moments. Which begs the question – isn’t that why students go to educational institutions? Aren’t they there to learn?

Many comments, such as the ones published here and here, are unacceptable. If one is involved in education, one has social, ethical and professional responsibilities. Educators need to keep up-dated. Educators need to connect with their learners, guide them, show them how they can use their devices to learn and not only send texts to each other.

In the words of Siemens (2012) in regard to higher education:

Educators are not driving the change bus. Leadership in traditional universities has been grossly negligent in preparing the academy for the economic and technological reality it now faces.”

Changes. Economic, technological realities. It is not only at tertiary education where these changes should be taking place, but at all levels of education.

Mobility comes in many forms. Mobility is above all an attitude, a belief and practice of life.


Barseghian, T,  (2012) Amidst a Mobile Revolution in Schools, Will Old Teaching Tactics Work?

Bauer, P. (2012) Mobile: It’s Time to Get Serious

Herrington, J., Herrington, A., Mantei, J., Olney, I., & Ferry, B. (2009). New technologies, new pedagogies: Using mobile technologies to develop new ways of teaching and learning. In J.Herrington, A. Herrington, J. Mantei, I. Olney, & B. Ferry (Eds.), New technologies, new pedagogies Mobile learning in higher education (pp. 1-14). Wollongong: University of Wollongong. Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/

Hockly, N. (2012) in Mobile Tech, Nicky & Language Acquisition – IATEFL, Glasgow 2012

Siemens, G. (2012) The Future of Higher Education and Other Imponderables

Tinto, V.  Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College

Further Reading:

10 Sites to use with Mobile Phones in Education

E-moderation Station

Mobile Devices Drive Creative Instruction

Top 50 Mobile Learning Resources


16 thoughts on “Learning Mobility

  1. Pingback: Learning Mobility | Voices in the Feminine | Scoop.it

  2. There’s a difference, isn’t there, between using mobiles to access a VLE, or grades, or timetables – all of which is fine by me – and making the mobile central to teaching, which is what you imply. You say there are “so many creative, inventive ways” for mobiles to be used, but don’t specify what they are. can you give some examples of how a mobile device might be used in the classroom to teach, say, modern languages, or chemistry, in a way that’s superior to more traditional methods?

  3. Hi Rob,

    I didn’t want to make the post any longer than it is already, but one example I can give you is the following:

    When I begin a new course, I ask students to go walk around campus and take a picture of their favourite place. They then have to upload that picture to their blog and explain how they feel there, why it is there favourite place. Another variation I do, is to have students email me their images; I create a PPT (for instance, sometimes I use VuVox) and the class has to guess who the image belongs to.

    These activities strengthen the group’s identity and willingness to work together as a group and team.

    Other activities I have students working on with their mobiles, are obviously dictionary work and recordings – these recordings may be individual which they then upload to their blogs or may be role-plays in pairs. There are many such activities – interviews etc. Students love doing and through doing are focused on tasks.

    Obviously, if I see a particular student playing around with their mobile in class, I will quietly remind them and the situation is solved. As you may understand, it is the forbidden fruit which is most desirable; by discarding the mobile taboo, students are more at ease, less tempted and most important of all, they focus on class activities.

    On another note, the use of mobile phones may be introduced at any level of education and subject.

    Thank you again for your time and raising important issues.

  4. Thanks for the reply. I can see that the campus exercise might be fun, and might help cohort identity, but I don’t see much learning happening there. With the role-play activities, yes, recording them might well be beneficial, but doesn’t require a mobile. Any recording device would do, and, arguably, a simple device would be preferable, as there’s be no temptation to use other functions. What I would like to read about is some classroom learning activity which is really enhanced by the use of mobile technology.
    On another note, I read your comment “Why would I even want to attend school if I was not learning how I wanted to, how I needed to and above all ,not be respected as a 21st century learner?” with some surprise. On what basis do you think, say, a ten-year-old would know “how they wanted to learn”? Wouldn’t a teacher, with a greater level of knowledge and pedagogic training, be in abetter position to decide the best way to learn?

  5. Pingback: Learning Mobility | Dreaming Weaving Learning | ALife (Biotechnology, Algorithms, Complexity, AI, ...) | Scoop.it

  6. I take your point by not seeing “much learning happening” however for my students, it is a novel experience. They also blog, so tasks are not isolated as they may appear to you.

    The examples I gave are real and as I have just said, they are integrated with others. Do you have any idea what I am currently teaching or where? If you did, then perhaps you wouldn’t be so hasty in your comments.

    Nevertheless m-learning is not going to disappear because of a handful of people who have no creative ideas or are technophobic. Nor is using a mobile phone the only device to use – there are other mobile devices which are being used all over the world, with quite a lot of success. M-learning is also not exclusive to North America nor Europe; M-learning plays an important role in education in many developing nations. Perhaps you should travel more and see for yourself.

    As for your desire to read about more m-learning activities, I suggest you do some training, read some books or articles – there are plenty around. Additionally, I would suggest up-dating yourself in regard to what developments are happening with mobile phones and what they will be able to do in 3/5 years time – that is just a mere example.

    In regard to 10 year olds: I respect a 10 year old learner as much as a 20 year old learner. Their learning contexts may differ, yet the needs remain the same.

    Lastly, I’m afraid that the days when a teacher could pretend they were the “almighty fountain of knowledge” are way over. Dead. Gone. With attitudes like that, it really does not surprise me that so called “educators” complain about lack of discipline and interest in their classrooms. They should not even be allowed on the premises of an educational institution.

    On the other hand, dinosaurs died out. People who believed that the world was flat died out. People who are afraid of technology, people who wish to live in dark caves and not learn will also die out. Meanwhile the world continues evolving and despite those individuals, young people learn – even if not what the “might, all knowing” teachers think they are supposed to learn.

  7. Hmmm. First, yes, I do have a very good idea of where you are teaching, having read the About section here. I’m not sure what point you are making when you refer to that; as you put it, the value of mobile is that ” the use of mobile phones may be introduced at any level of education and subject.” So surely, your location is irrelevant. But, as I say, I do know where you teach.
    You have made assumptions about my attitude which are unfounded. I use technology all the time in my teaching, and indeed have been a leader in developing the use of technology in classrooms where I teach. The question I asked, and I think it’s a reasonable one, is what can mobiles do to enhance learning that can’t be successfully done with other materials? You offered two examples, both of which might be done just as well with other devices, and one of which is arguably not about learning.
    I think you may have misunderstood my comment about ten year olds. You say you respect learners regardless of age, and of course that’s fine – I don’t think any teacher would disagree with that. What I asked, though, was whether it was reasonable to allow a tean year old to direct their own learning – “learning how they want to” was how you put it – when, by definition, the ten year old would be highly unlikely to have the knowledge, expeience and practical skills to devise their own effective learning experience. To take an example. You teach languages, so let’s imagine a ten year old decided that the best way for him or her to learn French was to read L’Equipe on a mobile phone. Would you say, OK go ahead? Or would you say, no, you need to learn some vocabulary and structures before you can understand what that says? You imply that I suggested teachers consider themselves to be ‘almighty fountains of knowledge’; I never said or implied that. I said that it’s reasonable to suppose that someone with a degree, postgraduate training, experience of pedagogic techniques, and general life experience, is in a better position to judge what would be an effective learning method than a ten year old. Your response was to imply that I’m a dinosaur. And you talk about respect…

  8. Hi Rob,

    First of all, I would like to thank you for your clarifications and your time to respond. Let me begin by respect: no, I don’t have much consideration towards educators who, having so much at their finger tips in terms of resources and professional training, are unwilling to actually learn. Yes, I know very well how costly professional training is, for I have always made options to train and study myself. I am very much aware of the decisions involved, especially if one has a family to support as well. No, not simple.

    However, I do maintain my position: educators, like doctors (and many other professionals) need to keep developing their skills, they need to keep learning. Despite all my years of teaching experience, I maintain that I am not an “expert” but both a learner and teacher. Today, perhaps, I may be a specialist in certain fields, yet I say that with humility and respect to all those I learn from. Knowledge, knowing, includes humility to those of the past and to our contemporaries.

    When I began teaching in my youth, no one had desktops let alone mobile devices. Nevertheless, faced with unruly teenagers, inclusively a group who were drop-outs and marginalized socially, I did find ways to engage them in class. I did find ways which made them want to learn – and not only pass their course but to continue in education. Often without a course book – a black board and chalk were the tools (non-digital tech tools), I had in the classroom. So it is not only digital tech that teaches students. It is being able to connect with learners, to take advantage of learning opportunities which arise in the classroom unexpectedly. It is a question of sensitivity and pedagogy towards one’s learners. (and yes, I obviously prepared my own didactic materials for whenever there were no books).

    However, that was many moons ago. From secondary education, I began working at tertiary education in my 20’s. I still did some part-time teaching at secondary education ( I taught at the Arts School in Lisbon). And yes, I also have experience of teaching young learners – learners who did not know how to say a word in English. Today, whether I teach at tertiary level or secondary/primary level, students would be different. They are a different generation with different habit, expectations and needs. Yes, learning basic vocabulary (as you mention in regard to languages) is still essential. The approach today may be different.

    Digital technology doesn’t equal better teaching nor better learning. Digital technology without pedagogical appropriateness for both context and learners, is nothing more than fireworks to tick managerial boxes. As I often say, it is not really about the tools – it is about digital literacies. That is one of the essences which educators need to provide learners today. The way one goes about it will differ according to context.

    In regard to mobiles: M-learning is not restricted to the use of mobile phones as you well know. Nor do I think that M-learning can be implemented in a vacuum on it’s own. Furthermore, should mobile devices be used, they need to meet the demands of the curriculum and students’ needs. Personally I am not into using the mobile phone only with flash cards for vocabulary (for instance), but I do encourage learners to use them while they are in a queue, waiting for someone to collect them etc. In the case of 10 year olds, I would certainly choose a time in the week for them to practice this approach. But even that task would have other follow ups which would not necessarily be dependent on mobile phones.

    I would also like to explain that although I have been teaching at Higher Education for over 20 years now, I have also on occasion, taught teens. Why? Because I felt it was important to learn. To me, it is important to learn with pre-unversity students. And yes, there may be challenges but never dullness.

    The use of mobile phones is problematic. However, M-learning is not restricted to the use of mobile phones. Mobile phones are also developing at tremendous speed and I believe (from research and tech development that I know of) they will be beneficial to learners in many parts of the world, offering them a chance of education, which otherwise they would not have.

    You may now ask, so what is my policy in regard to mobile phones in the classroom? Firstly, they must be on silent. The occasional ring does not bother me nor interrupt my lesson – a giggle in class does not upset me. If there is abuse, then the issue is different and I have quiet words with that particular student after class. Because I do not ban mobile phones, because I encourage students to use their mobiles constructively for learning purposes, I no longer have behaviour problems in regard to mobile phones.

    As for giving learning options to students, yes. I do give all learners options whenever I see it is appropriate. That does not undermine my role as a teacher, nor do I see it anti-pedagogical to give learners a space of time to choose how they wish to carry out a task. By sharing a degree of power with learners, a teacher does not lose influence. By giving learners choices, a teacher is not abandoning responsibilities either, for whenever I do give options, I also provide clear instructions and frameworks for students to continue working on task with confidence and ability to achieve.

    I hope that I may have clarified my position better as well now. I certainly did not intend to call you (or anyone in particular) a dinosaur. On the other hand, it is necessary for teachers to keep up-to-date, to communicate and support each other whenever they are facing issues in the classroom.

    Finally, mobile technology is here. It surrounds us. Let students learn how to take advantage of all the tech possible for their own learning and development. The future is theirs.

  9. Pingback: Learning Mobility @AnacristinaPrts | A New Society, a new education! | Scoop.it

  10. Pingback: Learning Mobility @AnacristinaPrts « juandon. Innovación y conocimiento

  11. Rob Spence (@spencro) One of the teachers at my college has been having her students take photos of her whiteboard notes using their mobile phones and then uploading the notes to Evernote to share with the entire class. It’s been working very efficiently for her class and the students love it!

    Here are more tips for using mobile devices in classrooms that were posted by one inspired educator to the Scenes from the battleground June 16, 2012 blog you included in this post, Ana Cristina, and thank you for the hands-on tips for using mobile phones in the ELT classroom included in this post!!!

    “From The New Stateswoman blog.
    …I am no tech expert, however I do allow my pupils to use phones in class. Here are a few instances of this:
    1.They can take photos of text book pages and pictures so they can read/look at them at home.
    2.when we are in an ict room there are never enough pc’s for each pupil so sometimes some pupils research using their phone.
    3.they are often more comfortable using the camera/video on their phone than a school flip camera and so choose to use it by preference. This also means smaller groups in class when they are making videos
    4.there are Websites like polleverywhere that I use. This allows the pupils to text in answers and opinions anonymously so I can get some excellent AfL
    5.in class pupils are starting to ask if they can access my blog to get information to inform their work (this has been particularly noticeable during revision lessons)

    There are other instances too, like checking the spelling of a word using a dictionary on their phone that happen quite regularly in lessons. (Comment by geogteacher)”

  12. Hi Donna,

    Thank you for your time and consideration to pass by and contribute your reflections – all which I agree with.

    As for my examples – they are mere examples which can be incorporated in any course at any level; as you well pointed out, there are so many other uses with mobile phones. Furthermore, mobile learning is not restricted to the use of mobile phones but any/all mobile devices. It is a shame that “educators” refuse to acknowledge the learning power that their learners have today – or rather, could have, if only the teachers were able to guide and motivate them.

    My students have been using their mobiles for different purposes – from taking a snapshot of assignments, to graphs and charts on the board to their own individual creations to embed in their blogs.

    What many people seem to fail to recognise is that the use of digital technology does not happen in a vacuum but in well structured and related curriculum tasks.

    Thank you too for the inclusion of a video – delightful and stimulating; one that may make any possible reader here reflect.

    21st Century learner?

    21st Century educator?

    Yes! alive and kicking 🙂 willing to take risks, ready to engage and motivate todays learners with the devices they most appreciate. Learning is being able to evolve with the times and not to fear the youth of today. Not to fear the youth one teaches and guides for our tomorrows.

  13. Pingback: Learning Mobility | Dreaming Weaving Learning | BYOD iPads | Scoop.it

  14. I guess educators must ensure that the academic advantage will be their topmost priority. if it means they have to modify the method of teaching or to embrace a certain teaching medium for the students to understand the lesson better then they have to.

  15. Hi Ally, you are quite right! Sound pedagogy, bearing in mind academic needs and outcomes, are priorities that all educators need to take into account before using any kind of technology – whether digital or analogue. Mobile learning is not only using mobile phones – increasingly iPads are being used in educational institutions and they are considered to be part of mobile learning.

    I am actually teaching with iPads and although I still feel the need of a laptop/desktop for certain tasks with students, there is no doubt that students are keen to learn how to best use their iPads for learning. True, iPads are currently “sexy”; nevertheless, they do offer many advantages to education and learners.

    Not to mention how tablets and iPads now are a major factor in protecting trees 🙂

    Thank you for your time to share your thoughts!

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