Over the last decade, the importance of mobile devices has grown dramatically in education. The latest issue of RUSC. Universities and Knowledge Society Journal devotes a special section to the analysis and assessment of the current state of m-learning by studying specific cases - “Apps for M-learning in Higher Education“. It presents a general overview of successful mobile learning experiences in higher education. Its aim is to share best practices and create new opportunities in universities. Here we peek into the future depicted by the opening article “What is the future of mobile learning in education?”.
We are in the first generation of mobile learning, since it is in its early stage of development. Nevertheless, there are billions of mobile devices being used around the world (ITU, 2013). The next generation of mobile learning will be more ubiquitous; there will be smart systems everywhere that learners can learn from, and learners themselves will be mobile. Learners will learn from multiple sources rather than using one device. Also, the next generation of mobile technology will be virtual, with virtual input and output capabilities.
The use of mobile technology allows for cloud teaching where access to people, resources and information will float freely regardless of location (Sutch, 2010). Learners in different time zones and locations will be able to access tutors when needed. According to a Futurelab report (Daanen & Facer, 2007), by 2020, digital technology will be embedded and distributed in most objects. Personal artefacts such as keys, clothes, shoes, notebooks and newspapers will have devices embedded within them, which can communicate with each other (Daanen & Facer, 2007). This will make learning more ubiquitous and pervasive.
The use of mobile technologies is changing the way we live and how we access education. One clear development is a blurring of our social, business, learning and educational lives as the pattern of our communication and interaction across time and space changes (Demsey, 2008). Countries around the world are starting to see that Internet access anywhere and anytime is a human right for citizens and have set goals to establish the infrastructure to allow access by all, which will facilitate the use of mobile technology in education (BBC News, July 2010).
Mobile learning is not about the technology, it is about the learner. The learner is mobile and is at the centre of the learning, and the technology allows the learner to learn in any context. Vavoula and Sharples (2009) state that mobile learning is a social rather than technical phenomenon of people on the move, constructing spontaneous learning contexts and advancing through everyday life by negotiating knowledge and meanings through interactions with settings, people and technology.
In this fast changing world, different stakeholders will have to work together to develop new educational models to cater for new generations of learners who will be using mobile technologies that do not exist as yet. Educators need to re-conceptualize education and make the shift from education at certain ages to lifelong learning (Brown, 2005). The current educational model is outdated because it was developed before the advent of information and communication technologies. The current model, based on classroom-based face-to-face delivery, is geared towards educating a certain segment of the population. Also, teachers are being trained for the current model of education, and will therefore continue using the model when they become teachers. Teacher training must be re-invented to prepare teachers for the technology-enhanced educational system. Education must examine the way educational resources are designed and delivered and take into consideration the needs and characteristics of current and new generations of students. For example, in technology-enhanced delivery, what is the ideal length of a course and what support is required?
Mobile learning can transform pedagogy to cater for new generations of learners because it offers the opportunity to use active learning strategies and for learners to learn in their own context, which will result in higher-level learning (Cochrane, 2013; Stoerger, 2013). With mobile technology, a group of learners can access content from electronic repositories or create their own content, validate the content, and help each other regardless of location. Learner-generated content can then be used by other learners (Traxler, 2009). Mobile learning benefits learners because they can use mobile devices to learn in their own learning community, where situated learning, authentic learning, context-aware learning, contingent learning, augmented reality mobile learning and personalized learning are encouraged (Quinn, 2013; Traxler, 2010). Learning will move more and more outside of the classroom and into the learners’ environments, both real and virtual, thus becoming more situated, personal, collaborative and lifelong (Naismith et al., 2006). Mobile technology allows learners from different cultures to express themselves more readily compared to face-to-face situations (Wang et al., 2009). Also, learners can use the technology to develop communities of learners, where learners can tutor and help each other in the learning process, thus resulting in high-level learning.
The increasing availability of open educational resources for mobile technology is making access to learning more affordable for anyone who wants to learn. There should be more research on how to design and deliver learning to reach the masses, taking into consideration learners’ cultures, values, and local contexts. Education must take advantage of this abundance of mobile technology to deliver education to students anywhere and anytime (López Cruz & Gutiérrez Cortés, 2012).
Ally, M. & Prieto-Blázquez, J. (2014). What is the future of mobile learning in education? Mobile Learning Applications in Higher Education [Special Section]. Revista de Universidad y Sociedad del Conocimiento (RUSC). Vol. 11, No 1. pp. 142-151. doi http://doi.dx.org/10.7238/rusc.v11i1.2033