How Mobile Learning is Transforming Education

October 29th, 2013 No Comments Other

The rise of mobile devices with internet connectivity, such as smartphones and tablets, has transformed many aspects of day-to-day life, but perhaps one of the most significant benefits of mobile technology has been its impact on how we learn.

According to research by Blackboard Inc., 67% of school aged children had a personal smartphone in 2011; nearly three times more than in 2006. Additionally, teacher access to smartphones more than doubled from 20% in 2008 to 54% in 2011.

Today, those numbers are higher still, with research by Project Tomorrow showing that 80% of high school students now own a smartphone, and 45% own a tablet.

With connected devices becoming increasingly prevalent and affordable, experts believe that more young people will want to employ mobile devices to make education more engaging and personalize it to suit their specific needs.

But how exactly is technology changing education, what does this change look like and how can wireless technology empower, enable and engage students and teachers in ways that transform the learning environment?

A recent report released by the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings addresses these and other questions relating to mobile technology and learning.

The report, written by Darrell M. West, vice president and director of Governance Studies, is part of the Brookings Mobile Economy Project, an initiative that examines how the rapid expansion of mobile technology around the world is transforming economic opportunity for millions.

“Mobile learning represents a way to address a number of our educational problems,” notes West.

“Devices such as smart phones and tablets enable innovation and help students, teachers, and parents gain access to digital content and personalized assessment vital for a post-industrial world.”

He emphasizes the fact that both teachers and students can benefit from digital technologies.

“Digital technology helps teachers think about new classroom models. Students can take more responsibility for their own learning, while teachers can focus on more advanced problem-solving and building critical skills for those in their classrooms.

The result will be an educational collaboration that is more satisfying for students and teachers.”

According to the research, 52% of teachers believe digital instructional tools motivate students to learn. Many teachers also believe the tools help students develop creativity, encourage problem solving and critical thinking and help students take ownership of their own learning.

“Students are quite positive about the ways they think the use of mobile devices will transform their learning environment,” writes West.

The research shows that using a mobile device in school helps students increase their learning, with 78% saying it allows them to check grades, 69% saying it enables them to take notes in class and 64% indicating that it helps them access online textbooks.

Mobile devices also increase personalization of the learning process, and many students report that using mobile devices allows them to undertake research anywhere at any time, and helps them collaborate with peers and teachers.

Organizing schoolwork assignments and accessing school networks from home were also reported to be big benefits of using mobile technology.

These findings support the Blackboard report, which indicates that mobile devices, when combined with social media and wireless connectivity, enable more personalized learning opportunities for both students and educators.

In closing, West highlights the need for progress on building digital infrastructure, expanding digital content, embedding digital assessment and providing professional development for teachers.

He points out that: “Challenges exist but the results from a wide variety of promising pilot projects and research indicate that students, teachers, administrators and parents are excited about the opportunities and interested in exploring how to effectively leverage these devices and tools to increase student achievement, teacher productivity and home support of learning.”

The full research paper, Mobile Learning: Transforming Education, Engaging Students, and Improving Outcomes, can be found here.


Marianne Stenger is a London-based freelance writer and journalist with extensive experience covering all things learning and development. She’s particularly interested in the psychology of learning and how technology is changing the way we learn. Her articles have been featured by the likes of ABC Education, The Huffington Post, Lifehacker, and Psych Central. Follow her on Twitter @MarianneStenger.

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