How mobile technology can benefit learning

Elliot Gowans, VP at D2L, talks about mobile technology benefiting learning

Many of us still remember how the mobile phone used to be (a large handset, buttons and ¾ yes ¾ an aerial), yet astonishingly, the iPhone has just celebrated its tenth birthday. A world away from those early models, its ease of use and touchscreen technology catapulted the smartphone into the mainstream and kick-started the stratospheric rise of the smart mobile device. Since then, mobile has changed the way we communicate, and continues to influence how we work, live and play.

Its influence is felt in education. Traditional lecture-based classroom teaching is now supplemented with technology-enabled learning, and this includes mobile. 

Children as young as primary age interact readily with digital devices such as tablets. Young people conduct their social lives through their phones, and instinctively turn to them first for news, information-sharing and entertainment. By capitalising on familiarity with mobile, education can motivate today’s digital natives through new and innovative ways of learning.

Always-on access

Young people expect always-on access to the information they need. Mobile learning can deliver the kind of content they can engage with ¾ wherever and whenever ¾ in a way that suits them. Portable smart devices can be used in the classroom as well as at home. They are interactive so content can be developed in stimulating formats, utilizing navigation and techniques familiar from digital platforms, including social media.

What’s more, mobile apps can help students keep track of their studies through automated updates and the means to check on assignments and their own progress.

Motivated learning

A 2017 study of the use of iPads in primary/nursery schools in Northern Ireland found a range of benefits from using the devices in the classroom. Among them is the interesting finding that children view learning on the devices as play and are more motivated and enthused as a result.

For the most part, principals and teachers at the participating schools suggested that the introduction of digital technology had a positive impact on reading and writing, as well as the development of numeracy skills. They believed that iPads in the classroom enhanced communication skills and that, particularly where pupils shared the devices, there was a high level of discussion.

21st-century learning experience

For older students, flexible, accessible mobile learning supports the development of their independence, ownership of their progress and time management of their studies. Students expect a 21st-century learning experience ¾ one that’s convenient, is tailored to their needs and saves them time, which is exactly what mobile learning does. Not providing such an experience can become a barrier to successful learning.

Mobile can also help parents connect with teachers and stay up to date with their child’s progress at school. Digital portfolios, enabled through a Virtual Learning Environment and accessible at home on mobile devices, help bridge the school-home divide, giving parents insight into schoolwork, class activity, pending assignments and their child’s progress. It also ensures they are aware of topics being discussed in the classroom, giving them the opportunity to bring the conversation into the home.

Preparing for the workplace

Embracing mobile in education also familiarises students with ways of learning that are increasingly adopted in today’s workplace, preparing them for what they will no doubt come across in future employment.

Learning continues to be a feature beyond education, but face-to-face training can be difficult for many companies to implement. E-Learning, which fits into employee schedules and can be accessed from wherever their job takes them, is gaining in popularity. Anytime, anywhere access to learning content is made possible not only by the ubiquity of mobile, but also the growing demand from today’s younger generation.

 Mobile technology has already begun to influence when, where and how learning takes place. In today’s hyper-connected world its influence will continue to grow with mobile devices occupying an ever more significant role in the classroom. The integration of mobile technologies into the learning experience supports new and exciting ways of delivering engaging content; it also helps build the digital skills young people need beyond education. 

Elliot Gowans is VP EMEA at D2L

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