Have we moved on to M-Learning? If so, in what ways?

Mobile Learning means 24/7 access to learning, despite one’s location (Woodill:15), through wireless and 3G/4G technology, which enables portable devices such as smartphones and iPads to reach content stored on virtual servers and Cloud Computing.  Learning tools and material can migrate across multiple devices (Jacquez 1) through responsive design and synchronization (Gayle Haugen comment in Jacquez 2) and so documents stored in Google Drive or Yahoo Groups can be accessed from one’s own mobile device or by logging on to the Cloud from someone else’s computer. Tools such as Quizlet and Learning Manangement Systems such as Edmodo can be used on both Apple and Microsoft software, affording anytime, anywhere, any device learning.

However, Woodill (Woodill: 15) warns that not all computer-based learning involving the Internet qualifies as M-Learning.  The computer labs of the 1980s in which all students worked on the same Storyboard at the same time, but completed gap fills or story builds in isolation is E-learning and not M-Learning. M-learning embraces connectivity with others either as collaborative learning endeavors using Wikis, Google Hangouts to co-author digital products and share ideas or for example,  as User Created Content to help tutor others (Tolisana) e.g. Blogs, Podcasts, Screencasts. Here lessons produced by the learner can become learning material for other learners. So, for example, a student can research information about a country, present it by Keynote, record the presentation and make it available for other learners. This user generated content becomes the substance of a listening lesson for future learners.  Communication can also move across an ‘ecosystem of screens’ (Jacquez 1) e.g. Aurasma App, QR codes, hyperlinks allowing learners to decide how deeply they want to interact with the material. They can choose a surface approach, or work in depth following the extra layers the author has been able to construct. Learner choice and the tailoring of materials to suit the needs of individual learners is pivotal to M-Learning. Technology enables learners to go at their own pace, get instantaneous feedback and decide if they wish to repeat a learning encounter or progress. M-Learning fosters flexibility. It enables students in a learning community to work on different learning activities at the same time, entering them from different points in accordance with their needs or preferences. However, the connectivity afforded by Web 2.0 and Cloud Computing means learners are supported by interdependence and collaboration. They have access to each other’s work as reference; they can message each other and ask for clarification, share their learner outcomes and solicit feedback etc.

In conclusion, digital technology enables the ubiquitous, collaborative, flexible, mobile consumption, creation and curating necessary for learning. So, our question to ourselves is

“Are we fostering M-Learning in our classrooms or are we continuing the e-learning that we have been doing in one shape or another since 1985?”

To help answer this question, we compiled a list of the activities we did in class over the first semester of teaching.


Features of


How this feature is utilized on our courses Benefit to the learner

Moving around within the institution utilizing wifi, and the technological functions e.g. camera, microphone, chat rooms or Skype to contact other group members

Scavenger Hunts (gamification). Students look for information to be found within QR codes (embedded texts) and Aurasma images(embedded videos). They use scanning technology within their mobile devices to unlock this information.

Students find images to photograph, and people to interview and record or video.

They can legitimately move about and release kinesthetic energy.

Hunts/races can be collaboratively competitive suiting both male and female learning styles.

Different students can be given different information to gather, increasing group accountability and creating an information gap which means learners need to share what they have learned. Gamification may engage reluctant learners.



Study within the classroom and outside the classroom using Web 2.0 tools and Apps

Whether at home, work, or in an outdoor wifi hotspot, students can use EFL material accessed through websites such as Tense Buster, Quizlet, Spelling City, and ESL Grammar Lab and those produced by publishers or institutions such as the British Council e.g. My WordBook and O.U.P’s Graded Reading Resources to access either generic material or material created by their teachers in line with units of study.



Previewing. reviewing and working with material following an extended rehearsal process( reviewing work periodically : 1 day later, 3 days later, 1 week later etc) leads to better retention of information. This is possible when students can dip into material frequently for short periods of time. Learning is more engaging when it can be done when learners feel in the mood to study.

This fosters independent learning, a prerequisite for lifelong learning.




Seamless connections exist between home and class

Work can be started in class, so that everyone knows what is expected of them and continued at home, then uploaded to a platform such as E-Backpack or Dropbox to be accessed by teachers and returned to students in the interval between lessons.

Students can post questions in chat rooms or on discussion boards, or email someone and received rapid feedback on an area of work they misunderstand.

The shorter the time lapse between assignment completion and feedback, the more meaningful it becomes. It helps correct errors in interlanguage (emergent learning) and informs the teacher of any remedial work required when connecting a sequence of learning activities spread over several days. The relevance and clarity of feedback seems less effective when the for example, Day One feedback has to be given on Day Three, and Day Two is a stand-alone lesson because homework can on be submitted in a f2f classroom.

Teachers and fellow students produce digital tutorials and instructional material accessible across devices and across time and place


Each person involved in a learning context is an educator. Everyone can produce instructional material using Apps and Web 2.0 tools such as Explain Everything, Keynote, Prezi and iMovies. When stored on a shared platform such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, or You Tube, this material can act as a stimulus to other learners. The belief is that we are all responsible and capable of contributing to the body of knowledge on the Internet and Cloud Computing. In order to teach someone something, a learner needs to understand it themself and the effort they put into clearly articulating that knowledge and representing it with multimedia, leads to high level engagement and deep learning. Feeling they can contribute, increases self-esteem. (Tolisano)

The spin off are the 21st century skills and digital literacies acquired at the same time.



Students co-author texts using multi-device co- authoring tools such as wikis, or shared boards such Linoit and Wallwisher. The co-construction of texts can be a synchronistic or synchronistic. The constructivist approach to learning states that learners create understanding during their interaction with the material and fellow learners. Understanding is constructed by each individual and simply not transmitted. Being forced to articulate one’s understanding for the consumption of another helps a learner firm up emergent knowledge. Asking questions drives forward the learning processes in others when they attempt to answer these questions. Hence, the synergy of co- construction fosters learning.

In addition, students may find it less face threatening to hand in a joint product for which several learners are responsible, than to submit a piece of work for which they are solely responsible .


Learning is personalized, and customized to their needs because students can choose what suits them best

Many Apps perform the same functions. Students can select the ones they like best. One size does not have to fit all. Examples of student choices are:

*Students can choose from an array of annotating apps such as iAnnotate, Neu Annotate and Adobe Reader.

*They can choose whether to read in silence or have the Speak Selection read the text out loud as they read function (iPad, Setting, General, Accessibility, Speak Selection).

*They have ownership of their device and can decide on how they want to arrange Apps, where they want to store material etc.

*Learners decide how they want to capture learning in action and the meaning they are constructing- in note form, by photographing work done on the board, by recording notes to themselves or recording a group discussion etc.

If learners feel comfortable with something, they are more likely to use it and benefit from it. Cognitive capacities will not be taken up operating a system, but will be available for focused learning.
PERSONALISED FEEDBACK LEADS TO 1:1 TARGETED PEDAGOGY Many Apps such as Socrative and Nearpod include a software feedback loop, and so they record students’ responses to an instructional item and transmit this data to the teacher who can make more informed responses about when and how to intervene in an individual students learning process. Other Apps such as Spelling Free present a student with items they have made errors with, a substantially greater number of times than items they are performing well on.


Students are more motivated to complete tasks when they know that they will receive immediate feedback on their performance, enabling them to take corrective action and quicken the pace of learning. Feeling in control of your learning increases self-esteem.


Realistically we are doing a combination of E-Learning and M-Learning in our classes. Learners themselves are not ready to transfer from a traditional way of teaching, where the teacher directs lock step classes, into a totally learner centered approach. The transition to different ways of learning in and outside of class needs to be scaffolded, so that learners feel secure and capable of using M-Learning opportunities to best effect. Learners need to be aware of what Apps or Web 2.0 tools they can use to reach specific learner outcomes, and develop specific skills. For example, they need to know where to go to study vocabulary independently, how to get feedback from peers or the teacher at a distance, the digital options available to them when the need to produce an output product to demonstrate their learning etc. They need to understand the resources available to them and the learning management tools that will keep them on track. The college website supports this approach. (http://elearning.hct.ac.ae/mlearn/52-mlearning-basics-2 )

The important thing is that we explore what M-Learning can be, and that we start to move all stakeholders involved in the M-learning initiative out of the comfort zone of E-Learning and into M-Learning, so that we can all reap the benefits of the ubiquitous, collaborative, flexible, mobile consumption, creation and curating necessary for learning.


G. Woodill, 2011, The Mobile Learning Edge, The McGraw-Hill Companies




Ed Technology Innovation Center http://elearning.hct.ac.ae/mlearn/52-mlearning-basics-2

One thought on “Have we moved on to M-Learning? If so, in what ways?

  1. Pingback: Have we moved on to M-Learning? If so, in what ways? | Education Technology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.