Mobile learning is about student expectations

I love my wife. She makes me stop and think about why I am passionate about the things that matter to me. Tonight at dinner I was telling her about Friday’s mobile learning mini-conference at Roane State. She shrugged and asked, “Why should you want faculty to teach mobile-ly? Isn’t it hard enough to teach already?”

After talking to dozens of people about what mobile learning needs to be and reading hundreds of articles, this was a fascinating way to phrase the question.

Obviously, tablets and smartphones should make teaching more powerful, not more difficult. The technology we use should help solve teachers’ problems and make teaching easier. I get inspired by the potential for responsive touchscreen graphics and animations to help make abstract concepts real to students and offer teachers ways to connect classroom learning to out-of-the-class learning. If students are only thinking about the course material while sitting in a lecture hall chair, they are not really learning.

But there is an even more basic element: access to course materials. Mobile learning is about helping faculty appreciate the ways our students expect their course materials to be available. Students expect to be able to access their course materials wherever they are, whenever they want. Students expect to be able to work toward class assignment deadlines on their own schedule and to connect in some way to their professor in between classes. Students want to always know how they are doing in the class and want to create things that are both challenging and personally meaningful.

They want to connect with others. They want to share stories. They want to be engaged.

Mobile learning isn’t about iPads, Androids or Kindles. Mobile learning isn’t really about technology at all.

Mobile learning is understanding how students expect to access and use the learning resources available to them. Once we have done that, we can help students  expect much more of themselves. We can help them discover they are capable of being creative, interested and involved in their own learning.

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