The ubiquitous nature of mobile devices has, over the last decade transformed the way many of us interact with external stimuli. Mobile devices and wearable technology are leading the way in the advancement of mobile learning. A recent Gartner survey suggested that mobile devices are outselling desktop computers and laptops, and predicts this trend to continue. It’s no secret, or should come as no great surprise that mobile users are showing favour to smartphones, tablets, and even wearable devices. Online user engagement is at an all-time high, which has a direct correlation to some of the early pioneers of social media platforms such as, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. Interestingly, all of these social media platforms have been embraced by quite a number of educational institutions in an attempt to reach out to new and existing learners. Many educational organisations even attempted to engage learners, or entice new learners through a virtual reality environment known as second life. So it is very clear to see that educational institutions are keen to embrace technology as a vehicle to deliver content, and to encourage new learners.
The use of new technologies, especially for delivering social media content is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in students’ daily lives. “Free or inexpensive apps distributed through app stores have given rise to a social-media-focused culture that is shaping how we should communicate, teach, and learn”.
Learners are far more likely to engage with an artefact such as a video, presentation, or document as long as the access is instant and without the need for too much additional intervention. So the constant and expedient availability of content via mobile devices makes them an ideal choice for delivering educational content.
Mobile learning or simply mlearning is quite a new phenomenon and as such many educational institutions are yet to take on board some of the suggested benefits mlearning has to offer. More and more people are engaging with online content via mobile devices. A Cisco survey predicted a 66% growth in mobile data traffic from 2012 to reach 11.2 Exabytes by 2017.
Although assisted learning with support from technology is not a new concept, such is the case with established e-learning applications such as Moodle, e-Front and Blackboard, mlearning technologies have the potential to assist a break away from the existing paradigm of centralised teaching and learning.
It has been suggested that mlearning can be harnessed in an approach to breaking down many of the discriminatory barriers that stand in the way of life-long learning. Mlearning could help to improve self-esteem, improve self-confidence and assists mobile learners in developing skills such as numeracy and literacy.
Transitory field based activities where learners are engaging with their environment, artefacts, group facilitators and their peers could benefit from mobile learning aids that allow instant interaction within their groups. This type of augmented learning could see devices, and learners react and respond to certain external stimuli and share their responses with their facilitators and peers within the group. Mobile learning often referred to as mlearning can enhance pedagogy through improved access to content and stimuli. From a pedagogical approach mlearning technology offers great potential for new methods of collaboration, and at the same time introduces some new and interesting challenges.
Mobile devices are getting smaller and the computing power in mobile devices is growing. Wearable technology has had quite a bit of publicity in the last few years, namely from Google Glass, Fitbits and Muse. Wearable tech is increasing in popularity so much so that the likes of Amazon and Microsoft have opened their own wearable tech stores. Wearable tech is not a totally new phenomenon, and there is substantial documentary evidence that shows that educational establishments were keen to support and engage with wearable tech in the 1980’s, some of you might remember calculator watches from Casio and Seiko.
Combining wearable technology with augmented learning could see learners exploring the solar system, discovering the mysteries of the ancient world or conducting surgical procedures, all in 3D and in their own environment. “In augmented reality, there is no bigger mystery than Magic Leap”. The company has been secretly working on building 3D learning application “We’re actually gearing up to build millions of things,” said Rony Abovitz, the company’s president and CEO. If the promise and potential of augmented learning applications such as Magic Leap are realised it could bring about a mini revolution in the domain of mlearning.