Although mobile learn has its limitations, and suffers from the hype and buzz-word exhaustion that surrounds a lot of tools introduced into the higher learning environment, its strengths support types of learning not typically associated with learning technologies: that envisioned by constructivist and socio-cognitive models.
With a constant connection to the electronic classroom provided by the blackboard system, both students and instructors can take advantage of opportunities to connect their learning to activities and environments that are cooperative, socio-cultural, and that provide insight into the potential context-dependence of the content that they learn through the reading and lecture portions of a course, consider:
- students in public health who might be required to spend a couple of hours at the Jefferson County Department of Health ;
- the art students spending a class period touring the Birmingham museum of art; or
- the mechanical engineering student who spends some Saturdays as a volunteer with habitat for humanity.
These students will be connected to a community of learning and a community of practice simultaneously. In fact, if we get it somewhat right, there will be no such distinction. Direct connections between the classroom and service, activity-based, and other authentic learning environments can create significant opportunities for students to grasp the nuances of the environments in which they seek careers. With almost everyone walking around with the power of a desktop in their pocket, it might well be time to detach, unplug, and drop in on the world of learning at the practical, people-centered level. Won't it will feel pretty good to be around (if only virtually) when the student "gets it" and is excited enough to communicate that to you and her or his classmates?
There are of course drawbacks to be considered. First and foremost, the size of the screen and the technological limitations of the devices that students have. Beyond that, a frequntly cited study at the Stanford Language Lab found that poorly designed mobile learning structures could fragment the learning experience and many environments are are laden with distractions that hinder learning (qingyang, 2003). While Retta Guy (2010) suggests that the type of self-directed learning promoted by mobility may lack a solid external feedback loop, and thus could impact learners' ability to self assess. But to be fore-warned is fore-armed: feel free to explore while you ponder the merits and demerits of this new tool.
Click here for a summary of what you and students can do with mobile Learn. This page provides a summary of the routine types of communications and tasks that can be performed with this app, but there's a flexibility provided by this tool that offers great potential for expanding its use to increase student time on task outside of the classroom, and this is where the greatest benefit for the student lies. While not ideal for first exposure to concepts, it has great potential for facilitating reinforcement of learning in situations where it might not otherwise occur.
Some additional "Don'ts"
As you explore, keep in mind the following when using Blackboard Mobile Learn:
- Don't add new content to a course
- Don't build a test or quiz
- Don't grade assignments
- Don't adjust grade center options
Masrom, M. & Ismail, Z. (2010). Benefits and barriers to the use of mobile learning in education: Review of the literature. In Guy, Retta, (Ed.). Mobile Learning: Pilot Projects and Initiatives. Santa Rosa, CA: Information Science Press.
Qinyang, Gui (2003). M-Learning: A new development towards more flexible and learner-centered learning. Teaching English with Technology, 3 (2).