As Abilene Christian University rolls through year two of its iPhone experiment, ProfHacker (my new favorite blog) features a post by Jason B. Jones asking, “What would it take to demonstrate the academic value of handheld computing?“ My answer: Research on the impact of smart phones on student engagement and student learning. However, assessing the impact of smart phones on student learning is a bit like assessing the impact of chalkboards on student learning–it all depends on how the technology is used. I would be interested in seeing research on the use of smart phones in the following ways:
- “Super-clickers” allowing for multiple-choice as well as free-response questions during class
- Tools for student-to-student communication and collaboration during class (e.g. backchannel discussion)
- Portals to the world outside of the class (e.g. Google jockeys)
- Mobile platforms for delivering content (lecture notes, videos, texts, etc.) anywhere students happen to be
- Tools for collecting and analyzing data (interviews, photos, scientific data, etc.) while out in the field
Using mobile devices in any of these ways would certainly require a variety of teaching choices to be made, but these seem to be the most common proposed uses of mobile devices that I hear about. Have I missed any big ones?
I’ll admit here that I still haven’t read Liz Kolb’s book Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education. I’m betting she has some ideas that don’t fit into these five categories.
Update #1: I’ve been thinking about where “simple augmented reality” would fit in on this list. While it involves the use of mobile devices in specific places outside the classroom, which sounds like #5, I think it’s more likely a more interactive example of #4, providing geo-aware content to students.
Update #2: Thanks to some comments in the #lrnchat Twitter stream on January 7, 2010, I’ve learned that some interpret the “mobile” in the term “mobile learning” to refer to the mobility of the students, not the computing devices. By that definition, items #1, 2, and 3 wouldn’t count as mobile learning–unless the students were roaming around the classroom while participating in those activities. I prefer the Abilene Christian University definition of mobile learning, which interprets the “mobile” as referring to the computing devices. Their definition includes situations in which the students are mobile, too, leaving all of #1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 as aspects of mobile learning.