Why mobile phones? - Version 2

Last March I wrote a note to this blog with the title why mobile phones? In that post I was reflecting the issue in the light of implementing learning events that are providing meaningful learning experience for the participants. The note was written related to the first school pilot.

What is meaningful learning is already a tricky question, but there are some characters of which most researchers in the field of educational science agree on. For instance (1) learners should build new knowledge based on their earlier knowledge. (2) Learners should be the active subjects in the learning process and (3) build knowledge together by relying on each other and the teachers existing knowledge and skills. (4) Learners should be intentional – there should be clear objectives and it should aim to develop learners understanding on some topic or develop their skills in some area. (5) All this should take place in a real-world context or in a simulated environment where the new knowledge and skills are most likely used. (6) And this should result as understanding and skills that are useful in many different situations. Finally (7) learners should be reflective and aware of their own learning and development. (e.g. Jonassen 1995, Lehtinen 1998, Ruokomo & Pohjolainen 1999, Manninen et. al. 2000)

What mobile phone and the mobile phone infrastructure may offer if we consider these principles of meaningful learning?

(1,2,3) With the service, server and wiki-approach we may offer learners the possibility to reflect their existing knowledge and to build new knowledge actively with their peers. (4) Setting the objectives and taking care that they are met is primary teachers job, but learners may also take more responsibility on this. Technology does not play any major role in here. (5) With mobile phones we may go to different context and situations and learn in there. This is because the mobile networks are almost everywhere. (6) The fact of carrying the phone with us practically always makes it also possible tool to be used in a real world problem-solving situations. (7) Again the fact of being connected to other people and saving your work to the server drives you to reflect your learning.

I would not claim that the mobile phone is a better learning tool than a laptop PC, but I am pretty sure that there are some advantages over the laptops. There are also some obvious disadvantages.

Just from the general point of view I see the following advantages:

  • Always with you, which makes it easy to take in use in the context where learning will meaningfully take place.
  • Many features which makes it a great problem-solving too. E.g. call your friend.
  • Always on (no need to start up) which makes it fast to use right in the situation where you need information, problem-solving help, external memory to take “notes”, recording, picture, video etc.
  • Always online.
  • Everyday technology and technology that is available almost everywhere.
  • I am not saying that mobile phones will overtake the PCs or laptops. We obviously need both.

    But if you imaging a group of people learning together under a three, I somehow like better an image where the people are at first focusing on each other and only once in a while consulting their small devices for instance to check some facts related to their discussion, to take “notes of it, to document it (audio, video), etc. I am afraid that laptops on front of the people will make them to focus primary in to them and not to each other. Tools becoming ubiquitous, invisible and less distrubing is good for learing.

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