Mobile devices in learning: It’s not the future. It’s the present.

smartphone

As part of day 1 on the Bring Your Own Devices For Learning mini course we were asked to view a short video – this one – and use it to prompt some reflection on the ways in which we used smart devices to discover and connect to people, ideas and resources.

My initial impression of the video was that the scenario seemed very contrived and exaggerated. I thought it provided us with a stereotype.  A dinosaur academic who is content with face-to-face interactions and feels too busy to use mobile technology to enhance their learning, teaching and professional development. Of course it IS possible to deliver high quality education without the use of mobile technology. It IS possible to access the resources you need without the use of mobile technology. And it IS possible to connect and network with peers and students on a national and international basis without the use of mobile technology. But it isn’t as easy and empowering as when you take advantage of the portable tech and associated software available to us all.

In contrast to the lady in the video, I am an enthusiastic user of mobile technology. A few examples neatly illustrate how using smart devices are substantially benefiting my own effectiveness and promoting connectivity.

  1. Twitter (accessed largely though Ipad or Android phone) allows me to interact with a developing network of students and professional colleagues across the globe. It facilitates discussion and the sharing of resources that inform both my teaching and own professional development. It has become an invaluable tool. I’ll construct another blog post at some point discussing how I am starting to use Twitter in learning and teaching contexts.
  2. Simple video-conferencing through Skype and Facetime facilitate meetings that would otherwise be unlikely to take place. Many meetings with my PhD supervisory team have occurred this way.
  3. Evernote and Cloud-based file sharing with Dropbox and Google Drive interact well with a wide variety of mobile apps and allow me to collate resources and work collaboratively with students and colleagues anywhere.

Of course none of these are without problems. It particularly concerns me that using smart devices in the ways I describe can become all-consuming and impact on a healthy work-life balance. This study by Stawarz et al. (2013) highlights this very point.  Overall though, my feeling is that, with some awareness of the drawbacks and some effort directed at managing them, the benefits outweigh the limitations. Furthermore, I really don’t think that adopting an uncompromising opposition to the use of mobile devices in education is a sustainable one.

By all means feel free to swim against the tide and not use smart devices within your professional capacity as an academic but be prepared to be left behind. Quickly.

2 Comments

Filed under Mobile learning

2 responses to “Mobile devices in learning: It’s not the future. It’s the present.

  1. You are right tech doesn’t come without problems but the benefits far outweigh the negatives and open so many new learning opportunities. Indeed some of the ‘fails’ are learning experiences in themsleves. I look forward to hearing your reflections going forward!

    • Thanks Sue. I think it’s important that we don’t always just use the tech ‘for the sake of it’ but yes, you follow what appears to work effectively in practice. I rely so heavily on the technology for connecting with students and colleagues now that it is difficult to see how others appear to manage without it 🙂

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