Mobile learning is a largely untapped and misunderstood resource for educators. As a “disruptive” technology, mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, mp3 players, etc.) are often viewed with suspicion by teachers, parents, and administrators, or even outright banned. Working as an EFL teacher in Seoul, South Korea, this is especially pronounced for me. Since mobile learning presents an opportunity to teach our students 21st century skills, and to do new things in new ways, it should be wholly integrated into curriculum and embraced wherever possible.
Why should the stakeholders in education embrace mobile learning? Using mobile learning’s instant access to a wealth of information in the classroom reflects the world we live in. Why should a student have to memorize so many facts when Google can locate them in less than a second? Effectively using mobile learning means transitioning away from memorization and rote learning to being able to gather, process, synthesize, and communicate relevant information quickly. Also, the number of mobile devices across the world has exploded in the last decade and appears set to continue that way. Today’s “digital native” children are completely at ease using mobile technology and seem to be more engaged in lessons when using it (cite: http://www.edudemic.com/5-critical-mistakes-schools-ipads-and-correct-them/). Promoting digital literacy, which includes responsible use and creative thinking, are absolutely imperative for the digital world in which we live.
How can we better integrate mobile learning? I’ve created a list of guiding principles, but I know this is something I’ll revisit constantly to fine-tune:
- First, don’t expect personal use to translate into effective classroom use. For example, administration should not just hand iPads to teachers and expect amazing, 21st century lessons. Training and collaboration are required, and should be an ongoing process. (cite: 5 mistakes)
- Don’t be a Luddite. Many of the school systems in Korea lock down access on school computers, meaning teachers and students cannot access email and many other beneficial sites. How does this help anyone? (cite: https://www.edutopia.org/adopt-and-adapt-shaping-tech-for-classroom)
- When making your lesson plan, always ask: is this doing a new thing in a new way? Invention, innovation, and disruption are the order of the day in our fast-paced world. Requiring students to do a standard PowerPoint presentation is only slightly different than a poster board. While it may help demonstrate understanding of a topic, it is hardly a new way of doing things. Encouraging students to tap into the nearly unlimited resources on the Internet means no one should be doing projects they have zero interest in.
- Ask for student feedback. It’s amazing how much educators can learn if they’re willing to listen.
Lastly, here are some examples of classroom activities that I believe incorporate these principles (geared toward EFL):
- Use audio recording apps to have students speak about a topic, then comment on their peers’ recordings. This is a great chance for them to gain a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as work collaboratively to discuss a topic.
- Use different translation apps to change sentences from the student’s native language into English. Have them attempt to correct the sentences, rate the apps, and discuss the positives and negatives of translation apps. Also a good opportunity to look up and practice vocabulary, especially for higher level classes.
3. Download any number of virtual flashcard apps for test/quiz prep. Some of my favorites allow users to create their own flashcards, so students can quiz each other while they prepare for a test. I think this will be particularly useful in the test-driven Korean educational culture.
Daccord, Tom. “5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make With iPads (And How To Correct Them).” N.p., 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
Prensky, M. (2005, December 2). Shaping Tech for the Classroom. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/adopt-and-adapt-shaping-tech-for-classroom