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Five Ideas for Mobile Learning (#EDUSprint)

Posted by on Monday, May 9, 2011 in News.

by CFT Assistant Director Derek Bruff

During the last week of April, EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit organization that promotes and supports the use of information technology in higher education, hosted the Mobile Computing Sprint, a five-day series of online events on the use of mobile computing in higher education. Although some of the discussion was directed at mobile infrastructure, much of the discussion during the Sprint focused on mobile learning, the use of mobile devices (smart phones, tablets, laptops, cell phones, and such) in support of teaching and learning.

The Sprint consisted of live online seminars (now archived), blog posts, short videos, podcast episodes, a set of discussions on IdeaScale, and a healthy backchannel on Twitter. I was active throughout the event, particularly on Twitter (where I ended being the most “retweeted” participant) and on IdeaScale (where I had the second-most popular claim, that mobile learning can transform what happens *in* the classroom).

I also managed to write five blog posts during the week on the topic of mobile learning. Back in 2009 on my blog, I posited that there are five types of mobile learning, and so I thought blogging about each type during the five-day Sprint would be useful way to participate in the EDUCAUSE event. If you’re interested in the use of mobile devices, including the ones that students bring with them to campus, you might enjoy reading these blog posts:

  1. Using Word Clouds in Open-Ended Response Systems – In this post, I review a recent article reporting on the use of word clouds to make sense of student responses to open-ended questions on the fly during class. A University of Minnesota team first had students respond to open-ended questions using their cell phones and Twitter, then developed a custom system for this they call ChimeIn. In my blog post, I suggest some alternate methods for visualizing student responses to open-ended questions.
  2. The Backchannel: Dealing with Distraction, Incivility, and Unfairness – This post is part of a series on Cliff Atkinson’s book, The Backchannel. In this post, I look at some of the risks Atkinson identifies in his book associated with backchannel conversations (often via Twitter) that now happen regularly at business and academic conferences. I try to map those risks onto classroom uses of backchannel and suggest ways instructors might mitigate these risks.
  3. You May Now Use Your Electronic Devices: Google Jockeys and Information Literacy – Although having a few students ready with their mobile devices during class to look up information (“Google jockeys”) may sound like a useful type of mobile learning, in this post I connect that idea with the challenge of teaching students information literacy. I suggest a couple of ways instructors might build information literacy instruction into their lessons while leveraging students’ mobile devices.
  4. Mobile Learning and the Inverted Classroom – This was the post that was by far the most shared on Twitter during the Sprint. Many of those who consider mobile learning focus on ways to provide course content (textbooks, lectures, and so on) on mobile platforms such as smart phones and iPads. Mobile content delivery is important, and, in this post, I argue that using these tools to provide students with pre-class reading / listening / viewing assignments might be a way to free up more class time for active learning–using an approach often called the “inverted classroom.”
  5. Using Twitter to Teach Ornithology: Tweets about Tweeters – For my final post, I focus on the mobility of the student more than the mobility of the device. I describe a biology professor’s use of Twitter to invite her ornithology students to share bird sightings with the class as they go about their lives. Since students can post to Twitter using just about any mobile device (even the lowly feature phone), this platform helps them apply what they’re learning wherever they are.

If you’re interested in using mobile devices in the classes you teach, please feel free to contact me or the CFT’s educational technology, Rhett McDaniel. We’d be glad to help you think through ways you can add some mobile learning to your teaching. Also, see these highlights from a conversation on leveraging student laptops and smart phones that the CFT hosted last fall for a few more ideas.

Image: “SXSW 2007,” Scott Beale, Flickr (CC)

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