Technology is pervasive in all elements of society in 2019, and it’s been that way for some time. There seems to be no slowdown in either new, innovative technological solutions to problems, or evolution of existing technology to add more value to the given task it functions. In education, interactive whiteboards, as well as more conventional consumer products such as tablets, have been used for many years to allow methods such as gamification to enhance the learning process.
It is increasingly popular to use mobile devices for educational purposes. These devices are always nearby in students’ hands, pockets, or bags, expand the borders of a physical classroom, and provide necessary information anywhere, anytime.
Some time ago, the Internet was mainly perceived as a space designed for computer users. Websites opened on a mobile phone looked awkward, had inactive buttons and replaced images. Software developers understood that browsers, games, and office programs should be adapted and it is important to think mobile-first.
Now, internet resources may be not only accessed using a phone but also used with comfort and pleasure. Special apps have been created for such social networks as Facebook. They scale the size of a screen, memorise users’ habits, build personalised algorithms, recognise voice and fingerprints, provide useful notifications and location-based alerts, work in a multitasking mode and more. Software and hardware evolve in parallel. Developers create mobile and desktop programs for all new devices, and each of them functions well in its native environment.
The only thing that is better done at a computer is writing long texts. A virtual keyboard is not as considered as convenient by many, as a physical one. In all other respects, smartphones are not worse and sometimes even better than PCs and laptops.
Academics should focus on realizing the full potential of mobile technologies in education, think which learning processes may flow smoothly and automatically in the virtual space, what information may be provided to students and how, what obstacles may be eliminated, and what benefits may be achieved.
The advantages of mobile-first teaching
There are no ideal methods – each of them has pros and cons. The appropriate time and place for the method to be applied need to be considered. Critics have weighty reasons for scepticism. It is also worth not being stubborn and approaching innovations with prejudice. Teachers should be flexible, open for progress, rethinking and improving instructional methodologies, constantly asking themselves where the educational system is, where it should be, and what may be done to reach higher academic goals. Leaders of education establishments should drive this thinking.
Experts from Pro-Papers have analysed the advantages of a mobile-first approach and found 10 main reasons why it deserves more attention:
- Simpler planning.
- Easy access to learners’ data.
- Students may be connected directly to communities and content.
- A teacher occupies a new role – can show oneself as a coach, a mentor, and an expert.
- Students get countless convenient and fast opportunities to provide feedback, while educators can collect and analyse it.
- All stakeholders (learners, teachers, parents, government, partner schools and universities, investors providing grants and scholarships, etc.) may enter an educational network.
- Mobile-first teaching increases engagement and learning enthusiasm. Since young people are used to treating gadgets as extensions to their everyday lives, they take these devices in hands much more willingly than textbooks. Information is transmitted in the environment and through channels they like. Unfiltered content is mixed with course materials. Education more seems aligned with the way they may have fun than hard work.
- Physical and virtual spaces merge in a natural way so that it becomes possible to use the best features of both.
- Young people get used to working harder than teachers.
- In comparison with virtual reality, hi-tech robots, and many other innovations, mobile-first teaching is inexpensive and easy to implement. Educational institutions should just provide sturdy Internet connectivity and good apps which may be downloaded to learners’ devices. Well-financed schools may also wish to buy their own tablets, but with the commoditisation of such devices, might not be required to do so.
A new look at old methods
M-learning takes place in the same environments as traditional educational activities: classrooms, libraries, campuses, and students’ homes. So old-school professors should not be afraid that their many years’ experience and well-tested technologies would be abandoned. Mobile-first learning is a great way to expand eternal classics and supplement it with something new.
Educators may get rid of tedious, time-consuming duties and direct their energy to creative work. In a traditional classroom, a teacher should observe students’ behavior, act as their leader, distribute assignments and course materials, check homework, put objective marks, announce them, help students to fix mistakes, assess everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, offer solutions for improving academic performance, communicate with parents and other teachers.
With m-learning, most of these responsibilities may be shifted to smart apps. Therefore, technology in the classroom is beneficial for both professors and learners.
How to start?
Here are the things which educators should consider before incorporating mobile-first strategies:
- Content: these may be exclusively educational materials or non-academic sources like music, apps, and social media.
- The ways to collect young people’s feedback and understand whether a curriculum is effective.
- It is great if students may share their learning results with other community members, for example, in social networks. Publicity allows them to feel proud and inspires hard work.
- Personalization: how individualized academic plans would be compiled and used.