Looking Ahead: 7 Future Developments with M-Learning
The idea of utilizing mobile devices to support learning in schools has faced understandable scrutiny and resistance for years, but trends reveal that mobile learning isn’t a fad.
Adoption of any breakthrough idea, method, tool, or technique requires a break from old ways of thinking and accepting new paradigms. I believe that the education field is rapidly approaching mass adoption of mobile devices to support and enhance learning. Once mass adoption occurs, we can fully expect new ideas to emerge and further research and development to be vested into mobile learning.
In The Singularity Is Near, Kurzweil discusses seven stages in the life cycle of all technology. I used this cycle to reflect on the current state of mobile learning in schools. While mobile devices have been adopted for general use in society, mobile (electronic) devices used to support learning in schools is a fairly new concept taking root. I believe integrating mobile devices to support learning is in the third stage of this cycle, where a community of innovators and tinkerers build upon the original invention, thus enabling the invention to mature and flourish.
Where will these new paradigms, innovators, tinkerers and R & D lead us? It’s very early to tell, but we can still interpret mobile trends and blend these with trends in education and learner-centered pedagogy. Here are a few emerging developments I predict – some concrete, some abstract – that I feel have serious implications in K12 learning environments:
1. Location-Based Group Texting
This is a new phenomenon that hasn’t hit many schools yet. While this has many positive implications for use in schools, there’s also potential threats; will this serve to enhance collaboration or will it enable and facilitate cheating? Learn more about location-based group texting.
This video showcases Yobongo, an emerging location-based group texting tool:
2. ”Free” E-reader Devices
Once digital textbooks become a priority for school districts and textbook companies, market competition will expand and drive down prices. Textbook and ereader companies will subsidize the cost of the device itself for school-wide adoption of their tool or book and make their money back with book sales. Amazon has recently announced they’re offering a cheaper Kindle that’s ad-supported that will ship May 3rd. For now though, you’ll have to pay $139 for a new Kindle, which is still a fraction of the original price. This isn’t a new strategy; for example, Microsoft did this with their Xbox gaming consoles. They sold the console at a loss but made profits to compensate for their losses with video games.
3. Redefining Absences, Attendance, and Policies
Many 1:1 school districts allow remote learning opportunities in lieu of cancelling school for bad weather days. With mobile learning devices such as the iPad 2 that feature two cameras, students can attend class and complete/submit homework from any location.
Also, once mobile devices flourish for academic gain, policies governing technology use will have to shift from a “band-aid” approach (detail-oriented policies, such as defining Facebook etiquette), to a paradigm that focuses more on intents, morals, and ethics. The pace of technology advancement will be too rapid to do otherwise. I suppose the other option would be to redefine the pace of adopting and amending policies; ultimately, I think that will lead to mass confusion.
4. Mobile Augmented Reality and Glasses-Free 3D
Augmented reality is a hot topic, and 3D is becoming a trending topic… again. I’ve personally integrated augmented reality in our math curriculum; from my perspective, the level of student engagement is unbelievable. Additionally, glasses-free 3D is currently in development and showcases another futuristic idea to engage learners.
This video represents more of a proof-of-concept more than anything else; it represents future possibilities with glasses-free 3D on mobile devices:
Are these novel experiences that will quickly lose the “coolness” factor? I don’t know. Even if they do, AR and 3D may be effective methods to engage learners that might otherwise show minimal interest.
Check out the free augmented reality section of K12 Mobile Learning. These AR manipulatives aren’t mobile-compatible yet, but AR apps on the iPad 2 are about to flourish.
5. Contribution to the Slow Death of Standardized Assessments
Advocates of mobile learning will testify that utilizing mobile devices for academic gain has shifted their focus from rote memorization to processing skills (how to find knowledge as opposed to repetition of facts).
The problem with adhering to this new paradigm of learning is that it isn’t aligned with the current system of standardized assessments. As a math teacher, I have to play the game of standardized tests, as well as adapt my classroom structure to the parameters required by public education. I’m not saying that’s entirely bad; we need rules, we need structure, and we need accountability. However, I don’t think that the system we (the field of education) currently employ is the best way to promote lifelong learning.
6. The Pinnacle of Collaborative Note Sharing
Although note sharing is an old idea, mass adoption of mobile learning tools will bring this idea to its apex. With Evernote’s notebook sharing feature and the ability to easily export Kindle highlights to Evernote, learners can attain “the best of the best” from a community of like-minded participants. This community has no boundaries; it can be isolated to a single class, a school, or people from around the world that share a common interest. These notes can then be tagged and retrieved by users at any time. If a common tagging system for participants has been established, knowledge sharing and knowledge organization will lead to exponential gains in knowledge acquisition.
For example, when I purchase a book on my Kindle, I like to view the top ten community highlights. I believe that reflecting on these top ten highlights captivates the bulk of the book’s message. I think of it as community-generated Cliffs notes. I can then assimilate the top ten highlights from a variety of sources into new knowledge, giving me a new lens to see fields of interest through that would otherwise be hard to accomplish because of time limitations. Many times, however, the top ten highlights have piqued my interests enough to read the entire book.
7. Advancement of User Generated Content
This has been talked about for years; however, I think the content currently being generated misconstrues what really happens. Right now, not everyone has a smartphone or a device with multimedia capabilities; unless adoption is equally represented by every demographic, current content may not represent an accurate reflection of what really happens. If all students are afforded the opportunity to submit podcasts, reflections and videos, more ideas will permeate throughout the school community and engage all learners, not just the fortunate few.
These ideas are just a reflection of what I feel we can expect to see over the next few years. What other advancements do you anticipate? Feel free to leave your comments below or on the K-12 Mobile Learning Facebook page.