Working on an article for Campus Wide Information Systems (CWIS) journal, I came accross an interesting article by John Traxler from the University of Wolverhampton talking about definitions and perspectives of learning in a mobile age.
So far there have been lots of attempts to define mobile learning, such as “learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies” (O’Malley et al., 2003) or “any educational provision where the sole or dominant technologies are handheld or palmtop devices” (Traxler, 2005). The perspectives taken are either technocentric (like in the given examples), consider the mobility of the learners, or rest upon the anytime/anywhere paradigm of existing content (Winters, 2006; Taylor, 2006). Each of these different perspectives is extensively discussed in the literature (Sharples, 2006; Traxler, 2009), but by now there is no generally accepted definition, nor an agreement on which perspective to consider finding one. Especially the technocentric perspective is highly controversial as the underlying development of mobile technologies is continuously progressing, making the attempted definitions highly unstable (Traxler, 2009).
A more promising way towards a theory of mobile learning (Sharples et al., 2005) seems to be the focus on the clarification of significant issues (Sharples, 2006), research challenges (Arnedillo-Sánchez et al., 2007), case studies (Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2007), or motivational or affective aspects (Jones et al., 2006). All these attempts contribute to a definition of key characteristics for mobile learning and sharpen the picture of what constitutes mobile learning rather then finding a precise definition. In his article looking at the definition and evolution of mobile learning Traxler (2009) even suggests replacing the question ‘what is mobile learning?’ by the questions ‘what is learning in a mobile age?’ or ‘what is mobile learning?’ focusing more on the educational part of the domain.
Going in this direction, following this suggestion we decided already a while ago to conduct an explorative case study within the mobile learning domain that is not taking one of the perspectives mentioned earlier. Instead, the focus was set on the educational problems that underpin the expectations on mobile learning, while at the same time trying to find an adequate conceptualization of these problems. For the study the following research questions have been defined:
- What are the educational problems that mobile learning is trying to solve?
- Which problem clusters can be identified and how are they emphasized?
- How are the different problem areas related within the overall research domain of mobile learning?
In a previous blog post “What is mobile learning?” Christian already introduced the resulting expert study. Though the question he asked remained the same, the results enable to see mobile learning from a different perspective. There’s more to come on this, as we proceed with the analysis and evaluation of the results …
Arnedillo-Sánchez, I., Sharples, M. & Vavoula, G. (Eds.) (2007), Beyond Mobile Learning Workshop, Trinity College Dublin Press, Dublin.
Jones, A., Issroff., K, Scanlon, E, Clough, G and McAndrew, P. (2006), “Using mobile devices for learning in Informal Settings: Is it Motivating?”, in Proceedings of IADIS International conference Mobile Learning Dublin, IADIS Press, Barcelona.
Kukulska-Hulme, A. & Traxler, J. (2007), “Design for Mobile and Wireless Technologies”, in Beetham, H. & Sharpe, R. (Eds.), Rethinking Pedagogy for the Digital Age, Routledge, London.
O’Malley, C., Vavoula, G., Glew, J., Taylor, J., Sharples, M. & Lefrere, P. (2003), “Guidelines for learning/teaching/tutoring in a mobile environment”, available at: http://www.mobilearn.org/download/results/guidelines.pdf
Sharples, M., Taylor, J., & Vavoula, G. (2005), “Towards a theory of mobile learning”, in Proceedings of mLearn2005 – 4th World Conference on mLearning, 25-28 October 2005, Cape Town, South Africa, available at: http://www.mlearn.org.za/CD/papers/Sharples- Theory of Mobile.pdf
Sharples, M. (2006), Big Issues in Mobile Learning, Kaleidoskop Network of Excellence, Mobile Learning Initiative, Nottingham.
Taylor, J. (2006), “What are appropriate methods for evaluating learning in mobile environments? Evaluating Mobile Learning”, in Sharples, M. (Ed.), Big Issues in Mobile Learning, Kaleidoskop Network of Excellence, Mobile Learning Initiative, Nottingham.
Traxler, J. (2005), “Mobile Learning- it’s here but what is it?”, Interactions 9, 1, University of Warwick, Warwick.
Traxler, J. (2009), “Learning in a Mobile Age”, International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 1(1).
Winters, N. (2006), “What is Mobile Learning?”, in Sharples, M. (Ed.), Big Issues in Mobile Learning, Kaleidoskop Network of Excellence, Mobile Learning Initiative, Nottingham.