The nature of mobile devices
- mobile handheld devices (e.g., mobile phones, including basic/feature phones & smartphones; tablets, including the iPad; e-readers, including the Kindle; digital media players, including the iPod, iPod Touch, and MP3 players; digital cameras; and PDAs, or personal digital assistants)
- wearables (e.g., fitness bands; smart watches; smart glasses; and smart contact lenses)
- embeddables/implantables (e.g., retinal & cochlear implants; and nanobots)
In addition to those devices in the list above, it is also important to remember that there are devices which are partly or wholly independently mobile:
- smart vehicles
Mobile phones > The most common mobile devices are still mobile phones, ranging from basic phones, also called feature phones, to smartphones. Since 2013, smartphones have been outselling feature phones globally: they are already widely available in the developed world but they are also spreading rapidly in the developing world. Due to the spread of smartphones, some older mobile devices with more restricted functionality are now becoming obsolete; these include PDAs but also digital cameras (for all but professional photographers).
Smart devices > Smart devices, like smartphones and tablets, run on dedicated mobile operating systems (OS), with the two leading operating systems in the world now being Google’s Android and, in second place by market share, Apple’s iOS; other well-known operating systems have included Blackberry OS and Windows Phone. Smart devices may be used in two main ways. Firstly, they offer connectivity to the mobile web (which simply refers to the general-purpose web accessed on mobile devices, increasingly in the form of mobile-optimised pages) so they can be used to access web 1.0 or web 2.0 tools and platforms. Secondly, they allow users to download apps which in many cases can operate independently of a live web connection and are optimised for mobile devices; indeed, most major web 2.0 services are available in app versions. Many mobile device owners use some combination of mobile web access and apps, but the trend is very much away from browsing the general-purpose web and towards employing specific-purpose apps.
Emerging devices > New possibilities are now opening up with the arrival of smartwatches and smart glasses, as well as other types of wearable computing. The field of robotics is also developing rapidly.
Learning with mobile devices
Feature phones in education > Basic phones, or feature phones, which remain common in many parts of the world, are largely restricted to making phone calls and sending SMS messages, but are nevertheless capable of supporting learning in contexts where educational institutions and qualified teachers are in short supply. More advanced feature phones may be able to send MMS messages, take still photos, play MP3 audio files, and possibly access the web, and therefore offer more teaching and learning options.
Smart devices in education > Smart devices offer enhanced functionality, including options which are better aligned with the contemporary active, collaborative, learner-centred pedagogical approaches which dominate educational thinking in the developed world. Instead of talking about mobile learning, some researchers prefer the term ubiquitous learning, or u-learning, which places less emphasis on mobility and contextual independence, and more emphasis on the situated, contextualised learning enabled by mobile devices, and smart devices in particular. However, as noted earlier, smart device usage is dominated by apps, and in reality many apps offer end users far less control over their creations and communications than they would have on the general-purpose web 2.0. As the world increasingly shifts towards the use of smart mobile devices, this may have important ramifications for education.
BYOD/BYOT > While some educational institutions continue to provide mobile and other equipment for students, many have shifted to a BYOD (bring your own device) or BYOT (bring your own technology) model, where students may bring their own internet-enabled devices. These must sometimes be chosen from a limited range of devices preselected by an educational instititution, though the trend is towards students being able to bring whatever devices they wish. While this has advantages in terms of giving students more freedom and flexibility, it may sometimes raise issues of network security, and hardware and software compatibility.
Mobile learning tools > In the pages in this section, you’ll find accounts of many of the major mobile learning tools, platforms and techniques, with guidance on how to use them in a variety of educational contexts. Arranged along a rough continuum from the more passive to the more active, and from the more pedagogically traditional to the more pedagogically contemporary, these include: educational apps, e-books, virtual reality, chat & messaging, polling, multimedia recording, digital storytelling, QR codes, geosocial networking, and augmented reality. Some of these are essentially mobile versions of web 2.0 tools; virtual reality might be seen as a mobile version of virtual worlds, for example, and chat & messaging are available both on stationary and mobile devices.
More information about mobile learning is available on the Publications on Mobile Learning page. You might also like to keep up to date with the Mobile Learning board on Pinterest, or Mark Pegrum’s Ubiquitious Learning feed on Scoop.it (with the 10 most recent posts embedded in the slideshow below). For an overview of mobile tools relevant to libraries and librarians, see the 23 Mobile Things site or the ANZ 23 Mobile Things site.
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