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Running Head: MOBILE LEARNING IN EDUCATION

Mobile Learning in Education


Linda Davis, Mark Drye, Michael Chapple, Cornelia Emery,
Mary-Kate Hagedorn and Dolores Hinojosa
Liberty University Online
November 30, 2014

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Abstract

Mobile learning is a moving, growing entity with multiple components that school leadership
and educators need to be aware of to effectively implement emerging technologies and keep up
with new trends. As school districts consider moving from traditional teaching and learning to
incorporating mobile technology, thorough research and planning is required. This literature
review aims to assist in supplying research and trends in the key parts of a successful technology
integration program. Along with the decisions and protocol of purchasing the appropriate
hardware and software, a networked infrastructure must be established. The foundation of cloudcomputing and mobile learning management systems must be in place in order to allow
educators to challenge their students using familiar technology and devices they already use in
everyday life to investigate their world in a more balanced way (Collins & Halverson, 2009).
Curriculum should include technology based objectives using innovative pedagogical practices
for implementation and educational learning theories. Consideration for equitable learning for
students with disabilities must be taken into consideration when implementing mobile learning
using mobile devices. Trends in social software, gaming and collaborative learning are explained
to demonstrate the productivity that can be accomplished as schools prepare students for the 21st
century workforce.

Keywords: Social software, constructivism, socio-constructivism, blended learning, social


collaboration, connectivism, scaffolding, cloud computing, mobile learning, social media, mobile learner,
mobile technology, e-learning, cloud service, pubic cloud, private cloud, community cloud, hybrid cloud

Wiki link: http://mobiletechnologiesin639.wikispaces.com/home

MOBILE LEARNING IN EDUCATION

Mobile Learning in Education


Introduction
Technology enables man to reach further and understand more than some just a few
decades ago could have imagined. Technology opened the door for exploration, entertainment,
and connecting the world. No longer do students learn solely using the chalkboard and textbook,
but they manipulate information through the use of technology, experiencing, collaborating, and
learning like never before. Mobile learning (m-learning) is simply defined as learning across
environments, which may include mobile phones/smartphones, laptops, e-books, and tablets.
However, multiple views exist on how to best clarify mobile learning. Some focus on the device
itself as the facilitator of learning, others on the students learning environment and experiences
(Rismark &Solvberg, 2012).
The challenge for the educational system becomes how to provide the necessary tools for
students to complete tasks and compete in a world that constantly uses technology to better itself.
From an institutional perspective, the digital world is emergent, evolving, embedded,
fragmented, and a provisional social production, shaped by cultural and structural forces as well
as technical and economic ones (Orlikowski & Barley, 2001, p. 154). While the task may seem
daunting to a school facing a limited budget or lower income families whose children cannot
afford these technologies, accomplishment of the task can occur with careful planning and
constant attention given to rising technological advances and consideration of student diversity.

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Mobile Learning Management and Cloud Computing


The literature review for Mobile Learning Management and Cloud Computing begins
with the research question Can learners achieve sufficient learning outcomes using mobile
devices through cloud computing? The following questions guided the research: Can e-learning
benefit from multi-media Web resources? Is mobile learning (m-learning) just for higher
education? Can successful integration of m-learning occur at the K-12 education level? Are there
advantages and challenges to using mobile devices for m-learning?
Literature suggests that e-learning can benefit from existing multi-media resources as
long as it uses a well-defined knowledge framework as a standalone learning model. Mobile
devices offer the learner convenience of mobility; however, intrinsic constraints exist as screen
size and resolution, storage limits, energy expenditure, software restrictions, bandwidth
limitations, and cost of communicating. Literature indicates these frameworks can create multimedia learning content using Web resources while adapting to the above constraints. These
authors intend to pursue future research in adaption of learner content to learner context using
time, location, interest, and age for a more systemic model for delivering the correct content to
the correct learner in the correct context (Alzaabi, Berri, & Zemerly, 2010).
Literature relating to mobile learning systems based on cloud computing indicates that
global cloud computing has become a multibillion dollar market and remains as one of the top
ten trends in the Information Technology (IT) industry. Literature predicts the average annual
growth of cloud services at 26% by 2018. Universities, institutions, and businesses realize for an
individual to successfully survive global competition and challenges in the workforce lifelong
learning must occur. Mobile learning through the cloud makes this easily possible as learners can
learn anywhere, anytime (Chen, Ma, Liu, Jia, Ran, & Wang, 2013).

MOBILE LEARNING IN EDUCATION

Services and management make up the architecture of cloud computing offered in a


three-level infrastructure; "infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and
software as a service (SaaS)" (Chen et al., 2013, p. 2572). Literature suggests that learners enjoy
the advantages of accumulative and successful learning resources, lower mobile device
requirements, a virtual learning environment, in-depth interaction, promotion of educational
equity, low carbon, low cost, learning anytime and anywhere, and improved learning competence
and motivation (Chen et al., 2013).
The cloud computing platform offers management and course content in the cloud when
the learner initiates the initial interface, placing him or her at the center of learning promoting
learner interest. This literature presents the platform as consisting of four modules; learning
resources, course learning, system management, and learning community modules. The learning
resources module provides the learner with his or her learning content. The course learning
module introduces the learner to his or her learning plan, objectives, and online learning. The
system management module provides security to the learner in his or her resources, billing, and
course. The learning community module provides a place for parents, teachers, and learners to
communicate (Chen et al., 2013).
According to Collins and Halverson (2009), in Rethinking Education in the Age of
Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America in their investigation of
technology use in American K-12 schools they perceive that a new central learning platform will
develop in adult education, online learning, and learning centers. This literature equates mlearning as the direct opposite of classroom-based learning. The authors take the view that
Americas children obtain a bulk of their knowledge while outside the classroom; therefore, the
only logical thing to do is to bring this familiar technology and devices into the classroom. The

MOBILE LEARNING IN EDUCATION

literature suggests the instructor can then challenge his or her students to investigate the world
they live in. The authors believe gains and losses will occur from this educational technology
revolution. They believe in lifelong learning as well as the learner having control of his or her
learning, which promotes m-learning (Collins & Halverson, 2009).
On the same token these revolutionary technologies have left their mark on higher
education. The definition of m-learning consists of the ability for the learner to learn while using
wireless technology on pocket size handheld mobile devices where transmission signal
availability occurs allowing these devices freedom from the confinement of the lecture hall or
classroom in a particular location or area. Young adults believe attachment to their mobile
devices is essential; therefore, using this mode of learning only makes good sense for higher
education institutions. Literature suggests that using mobile learning opens up the minds of
learners to a new way of thinking, communicating, reacting, and learning. This mode of delivery
takes advantage of the Internet as a convenient portable education using new processes for
receiving and writing information as well as a new way to transmit video clips. This literature
agrees with the other articles in the challenges and advantages of using m-learning. In addition,
the literature points out similar features to other studies as providing enhancement of
accessibility and availability to information networks, engagement of students in various areas
through learning related activities, project-based groups, improvement of collaboration and
communication, and enablement of quick content delivery. The literature supports the many
aforementioned challenges. This m-learning model views "mobility in three areas; mobility of
technology, mobility of learner, and mobility of learning" (El-Hussein & Cronje, 2010, p. 17).
However, mobility constraints may consist of insufficient wireless technology in mountainous
areas or areas of the world that do not have WiFi accessibility. Further research is needed

MOBILE LEARNING IN EDUCATION

regarding these issues (El-Hussein & Cronje, 2010).


Research of Information and Communication Technology devices discovered in February
of this year uncover the following facts as 1.3 billion mobile phones exist in the market, in 2011
55 million tablets were sold versus 409 million PCs, young adults under 34 years-old stay
connected socially and to the Internet using these devices, and 69% of Web traffic involves video
delivery every day. In addition, Apple and Android enjoy 73% of mobile phone browsing, games
are the fastest growing application, and employees want the same experiences at work as they
enjoy at home. A new trend consists of 28% of smartphone owners access the Internet using
these devices. New growth includes just-in-time learning, job aids, surveys, testing, contextual
learning, social networked m-learning, location-based learning, m-learning using bidirectional
SMS messaging, educational gaming, mobile voting, mobile storage, and mobile contests (Velev,
2014).
The newest technology aiding in mobile education involves collaboration through social
media, cloud computing, and the integration of smaller Internet-capable devices so students can
remotely learn from anywhere. The literature presents this possibility because of the advent of
social networking services (SNS) providing connectivity and interactivity among learners.
Literature investigates how these sites can provide greater collaboration for students and teachers
in the online environment using mobile devices (Velev, 2014).
Researchers view cloud computing as an on-demand service that utilizes virtualization
and distribution of computing technologies online via Web browsers allowing immediate
accessibility of software and stored data from other servers in the cloud. Implementation of this
on-demand service for deployments consists of public, private, community, and hybrid cloud
using servers and applications to provide online data and backup. Literature suggests using this

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form of technology for m-learning presents some unique challenges, such as variability among
devices, limited Internet accessibility, slow download speeds, poor resolution, small screens,
limited memory, and difficulty inputting data. The largest challenge for developers presents as
the ability to create applications that fit most mobile devices with cross-platform capability
(Velev, 2014).
However, many advantages do exist for using mobile devices, such as data processing
and storage occurring outside the device with information displaying on the device screen or
through its speakers. Other advantages consist of easy accessibility of backend business
applications, applications capable of reaching large audiences, and applications that run in the
cloud provide greater security because using these devices make them part of the clouds
centralized security (Velev, 2014).
The latest trend of using these devices in the cloud makes faster delivery and
development of services, lower cost using seamless delivery services, guarantees delivery of
email and critical applications, and allows social collaboration through wikis, blogs, social
documentation, and file sharing. Cloud computings immediate scalability streamlines learning
delivery by providing autonomy to the learner and the learning organization. A huge advantage
exists in cloud computing as it requires no information technology help since it needs no
modifications, updates, or implementation to its delivery platform. Research finds using an opensource environment provides enrichment of the applications through diverse learning content
with learner achievement occurring in multiple locations using stored and accessed data in the
cloud. The literature points out accessibility of learning from various locations significantly
decreases the risk of system failure. This network provides on-demand learning of content and
instructor availability globally. Utilization of cloud computing for mobile learning must provide

MOBILE LEARNING IN EDUCATION

data security, accessibility, and confidentiality by providing specifications for preserving and
producing requested data. Careful consideration of encryption along with crisis management
with appropriate organizational, technical, and procedure measurement must occur (Velev, 2014).
The literature in this review answers the questions as follows: Yes, learners can achieve
sufficient learning outcomes while using mobile devices through cloud computing. E-learning
can benefit from using multi-media Web resources, utilizing m-learning in both higher education
and K-12 learning settings as well as provide advantages and challenges when using mobile
devices for m-learning.
Mobile Learning Software: Evaluating, Purchasing, and Implementing
Criteria of Evaluation
As more school districts make the decision to move from traditional teaching and
learning to incorporate technology, the need for software and equipment has increased. Picciano
(2011) presented the major criteria for evaluating hardware and software and examined issues
associated with hardware and software evaluation and acquisition. He focused on (a) hardware
(b) software (c) performance. Site visits or field test should be a part of every major acquisition,
particularly when purchasing new models (Picciano, 2011, p.190). Picciano dedicated one
chapter in the book on setting criteria to evaluate hardware purchased by a district. Picciano
explains the following as factors to consider when completing a hardware evaluation:
performance, compatibility, modularity/expandability, ergonomics, software availability, vendor,
and cost.
The most important process for technology leaders, when evaluating software comes
down to cost. According to Picciano (2011), the total cost of ownership takes into consideration
not just the purchase price but also maintenance, upgrade, and support cost. The chapter provided

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a case study where a school district needed to make a decision on purchasing a CMS for credit
recovery for an online course. The district faced evaluating the cost of software, as well as the
overall needs for managing the CMS along with the quality of the courses provided to the
students. The case study provided the opportunity to use all of the evaluation resources to take
into account for software as well as hardware for guidelines given by Picciano. Picciano brings a
focus to the ability to expand the technology after the purchase. Also, the plan of replacement
and upgrading of technology ranging from components to large-scale software.
Ling, Harnish, and Shehab (2012) focused on the effect of application design on learning.
The research consisted of 26 participants, 15 men and 11 women. The produced hypothesis
developed from the thought, For a mobile app to be an effective learning tool, it must impart
knowledge to facilitate learners understanding via interactions designed in the app (Ling,
Harnish, & Shehab, 2012, p. 534). The selected interactive application provided feedback to the
user. The participants were split into two groups, the control and application group, both lecture
type. The measure of effectiveness came through a t-test that evaluated the mean of the quiz
scores. The quiz consisted of questions on Blooms taxonomy, three lower levels with a total of
14 questions. A review of the results revealed the application-based group outperformed the
control group on the quiz. The researchers believed the better performance by the applicationbased group resulted from the interactive form of learning of the application. By giving the
application users the ability to actively touch and swipe the screen it gave them a hands on
approach and more effectively engaged the students. The application also produced a change in
learning style for those users compared to the controlled group. This process provided necessary
testing for hands on evaluation of mobile applications and it also showed the impact it can have
on students achievement.

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Fitting the Curriculum


As technology use in education continues, a steady need increases to transition from brick
and mortar curriculum to one that will fit the needs of mobile learning and technology. One of
the most important pieces of curriculum in education involves assessment. According to
Pellegrino & Quellmalz (2010), research and learning technology created the ability to have
adaptive testing, give immediate feedback for teachers as well as students, and also meet
accommodation needs for special education students.
Changing the view of curriculum changes the delivery of the information and
assessments. Keengwe & Schnellert (2012) indicate in addition to schools updating curriculums
they must recognize the power in digital devices to engage, enable, and empower learners. The
article pushes for ways to adopt mobile phones, which engage learners in education. The authors
of the article considered the following topics: millennials, mobile phones, challenges for using
mobile phones, opportunities for using mobile phones, and implications. The article refers to
students during this time period as millennials. One hazardous factor of schools embracing
mobile devices results in the level of cheating that could occur. They note cheating has occurred
in schools for years. Today many students do not view cheating as a bad thing. The use of mobile
phones in education also presents security issues. Mobile phone use in a school setting would
require teaching phone etiquette to educate students on the proper use of a cell phone while
completing an assignment. The main push for using technology and adapting the curriculum
involves the implementation process. The best practice involves a practical application from
leadership in the district.
Winslow, Dickerson, Lee, & Geer (2012) conducted an evaluation of an iPad rollout to
the administration of a district to find out if it would create improved workflow, efficiencies, and

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promote technology leadership self-efficacy. The evaluation involved school district leaders
interested in incorporating iPad usage and its effect on their daily workflow. The evaluations
were based on the following questions: (a) What professional school administrator tasks are
improved by using iPads? (b) Does iPad utilization increase administrator perceptions of
technology leadership self-efficacy? (c) Given the current budget climate, do school
administrators perceive iPads as worthwhile investments? One of the main reasons given in the
journal for the evaluation involved the ability for administrators to use technology for the large
amounts of data required for them to view. According to the article, the data consisted of 37
active principals completing the survey producing a 69% response rate. Notable findings in the
surveys yielded 100% of the principals who participated agreed the use of iPads added
improvement for performing teacher evaluation walkthroughs. Survey results showed a positive
reaction from the principals believing their iPad use helped improve their images as technology
competent. The final results revealed using the iPads created a positive impact on the principals
participating in the survey as well as facilitating the future use of technology in school districts.
The importance of the technology use was considered a wise budget decision.
Learning Theories in Mobile Learning
As school districts consider restructuring their educational objectives towards mobile
learning, several foundational learning theories should be present in the instructional design.
Mobile learning occurs primarily as hands-on learning. As a result, constructivism becomes one
of the most appropriate educational theories to align with this learning. Secondly, an educational
environment at any level can benefit from social collaboration with mobile learning. Lastly, the
emerging learning theory of connectivism takes into account that todays learners primary source
of information and knowledge are retrieved through a quick Web search. Each educational theory

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presents important characteristics that blend well into the new educational technology era.
Constructivism in Mobile Learning
The foundations of constructivism originated with the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget.
Piaget built his research on the concept that children learn through actions. Concepts are
collected with the experiences and the developmental phase of the child (Slavin, 2012). In the
process, their ideas gain in complexity and power, and with appropriate support, children can
develop insight into their own thinking processes (Ferguson, 2001, p. 47). Mobile technology
devices become powerful tools for students to use in combination with the constructivist theory.
Curriculum coordinators should consider technology integration as an integral part of their
school district's goals. Highly effective teachers will strive to incorporate mobile learning
activities with age and developmentally appropriate technologies. Increased technology use
proves to connect the curriculum with real life applications. These active learning approaches
are decidedly more student-centered, allowing learners to take control of how they engage with a
subject and to brainstorm and implement solutions to pressing local and global problems
(Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2014, p. 8). The socio-constructivist theory
broadens constructivism to include cultural beliefs and values into learning. This theory
emphasizes that students acquire knowledge from social activities, rather than individually. Each
individual shares his or her knowledge, culture, and beliefs to direct awareness and interpretation
of a new situation and information (Nguyen, 2013). Allowing students with diverse backgrounds
and levels of prior knowledge as well as experiences to explore an educational task together can
generate discussion and produce work that empowers students.

Trends in Constructivism and Mobile Learning

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In the constructivist model, students are self-directed to complete project-based and


inquiry-based learning as well as WebQuest type activities. Teachers often act as facilitators that
establish scaffolding techniques such as asking questions, providing clues and connections to
prior knowledge. In a pilot program with mobile devices, teachers used iPods to create and
integrate podcast for students into existing curriculum. The iPod was chosen since it was a less
expensive and versatile tool (Keengwe, Pearson, & Smart, 2009). Appropriately integrated into
the curriculum, mobile technologies can enhance teaching effectiveness as well as promote
student learning (Keengwe, et al., 2009, p. 336). Research showed teachers believed podcast
creation was simple, classroom students became excited to listen and create their own podcast,
and the iPod was a useful tool for differentiated instruction. Simple innovative devices such as
iPods can greatly influence a students learning, collaboration with peers, and motivation for
creating material.
Social Collaboration in Mobile Learning
Whether residential, online, elementary, secondary, or higher education ignoring the
importance of social collaboration and mobile devices cannot occur. Students of the 21st century
spend their time, in and out of the classroom, on mobile devices. The distinction between online
and offline or plugged and unplugged becomes blurred as this generation of users no longer has
an online or offline time due to mobile devices (Ahuja, 2013). Educators must take into account
the out of classroom trends and tendencies of students to facilitate and teach in a manner that
benefits students.
Educators experience the challenge of integrating collaborative and social learning
practices with students assuming they have prior technology knowledge and experiences. An
important aspect of collaborative, active mobile learning relies on social software. Social

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software uses group interaction to create and publish new material. Learning activities on
laptops, tablets, or smartphones need to be balanced with a traditional learning environment. The
establishment of blended learning resulted from the combination of the traditional face-to-face
situation and asynchronous text-based Internet. From primary to higher education levels, mobile
learning presents simple drill-and-practice activities to collaborative problem-based activities.
Classroom teachers may hesitate to embrace this approach but may identify online learning
environments as a way to provide a new layer to established learning. This perspective should
help to relieve teachers from the pressure of starting from scratch when integrating mobile
technologies (Vesisenaho, Valtonen, Kukkonen, Havu-Nuutinen, Hartikainen, & Karkainen,
2010).
Trends in Social Collaboration and Mobile Learning
Social collaboration became more pertinent in the last few decades with the emergence of
Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and similar programs. These programs importance and
integration into education cannot be denied. Educators face the challenge of deciding which
social software to purchase and how to integrate it into the curriculum effectively. Studies show
that true learning occurs when all participants, students and teachers, experience the opportunity
of collaborating in the knowledge building process. Therefore, it necessitates certain applications
and programs for mobile devices to be used effectively in the educational setting. However, for
the most part, the use of these devices involves transmitting information rather than actively
engaging learners in the learning process. For example, mobile phones are mainly used to send
short messages in texts, twitter, etc. for quizzes or to relay classroom information. Class Dojo
and similar programs provide ways for students to view reports as well as provide the
opportunity for student-to-student, student-to-teacher, and even teacher-to-parent

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communication; however, the program devices and applications are not fully utilized to their full
potential. With social collaboration becoming more prevalent with the emergence of Facebook,
educators would do well to utilize the mobile technologies available to them in a way that
promotes social constructivist theories for learning. In a study done at University of Texas, by
professor Orlando Kelm, findings showed that students given the opportunity to utilize social
media via blogs, online photo databases, and YouTube channels became actively engaged in the
material. The study came to the conclusion that we can learn much from observing how young
people use technology (Kelm, 2011, p.15). Social media and collaboration implemented
effectively in education and mobile devices can facilitate learning.
Research reveals social software can record students' notes during a lecture environment
using the micro-blog Qaiku on mini laptops (Vesisenaho, et al., 2010). The students posted notes
from the lecture in a live, shared format. This blended learning provided feedback for both the
students and the teacher. Despite the introduction to the Qaiku software, students reported that
they would prefer to take notes in a format that included the lecture slides displayed through
PowerPoint. Technology integrated for the appropriate use in age appropriate students can result
in productivity.
As technology continues to grow and provide new opportunities for learning,
collaboration, and awareness, education needs to be prepared to effectively use it. Mobile
devices continue to grow in popularity and use. These mobile devices can prove advantageous to
educators if used properly. An emerging technology of augmented reality uses mobile devices as
its main source provides endless possibilities for educational learning. A professor at Ohlone
College, Dr. Deborah Lemon, uses augmented reality with social media to produce effective and
engaging learning processes. She set up a classroom in Facebook that allows students to

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collaborate on a business project in Spanish. By using a fixed picture and augmented reality,
students engage in work across time and space to collaboratively create a travel brochure. This
example shows an educator who uses technology to her teaching advantage. By using a mode of
communication familiar to the students and combining it with mobile devices as well as
emerging technology, this educator provided her students with an engaging, effective learning
experience. In order to effectively use mobile devices, educators must willingly change their
schema on education, mobile devices, and the importance of social collaboration to provide a
meaningful learning environment for their students. Social collaboration has become more
pertinent in the last few decades with the emergence of Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and
similar programs, denying the importance of integrating social collaboration into education must
not occur. However, the question arises: what format(s) of integration emerge as the best for both
students and teachers?
Past and current trends in mobile learning show these devices as a supplement for
learning, but not as the main source of learning. Current applications are designed to engage and
teach students of all ages, but none exist to facilitate social collaboration (Thinley, Reye, &
Geva, 2014).
Connectivism in Mobile Learning
The connectivism theory or model of learning came about from the new era of learners
relying on the Internet and social media to gain and share knowledge. Learners today do not
depend on the teacher as the primary source of information (Johnson, et al., 2014). To some, the
term googleable describes how student now approach learning. Students must know how to
search for accurate and reliable information and how to connect to peers, experts and strangers
on social networks for learning (Nyguen, 2013, p. 1286). These connectivity tools changed the

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way people communicate and engage in their community. As Collins and Halverson explain,
community traditionally referred to ones town or neighborhood. Those whom, shared the same
experiences, values, and beliefs about the world (Collins & Halverson, 2009, p.11).
Technologies have now loosened community boundaries. Social software feeds to the consumers
desire to customize their way of learning and communicate with others. Children growing up in
a digital world will be so used to making choices in their lives that they will demand
personalized learning choices (Collins & Halverson, 2009, p. 17).
Trends in Connectivism and Mobile Learning
Learners today look to connect with others to find accurate and primary source
information. The use of social networks such as Skype, Google Hangout, FaceTime and blogs
allow this to occur in real-time. Without on-going updates to curriculum, teachers expectation
becomes the understanding of how to use these types of tools integrating them effectively to
produce authentic digital learning (Johnson, et al., 2014). In a study conducted by Ozan (2013) a
college provided students with iPod touch devices to access mobile learning management and
applications to include Google Docs, Facebook, and Twitter to manage course content. During
the 14-week course data collection occurred through social network, Facebook wall entries,
personal messages, chat records, blog entries, emails, etc. Analysis revealed Facebook (85%) and
Twitter (43%) as the top two ways students interacted with the course. Answers to the exit survey
revealed mobile technologies present as a positive effect on learning performances. The
researchers also learned the participants relied on the instant and fast access of information the
mobile device provided and that the students developed an emotional attachment to the device.
Young learners predisposed to these types of connectivity deserve a classroom environment and
teachers who can build mobile learning into the core practices of school.

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Mobile Learning and Special Education


The intent for mobile learning is to expand the learning environment for the learner.
Doolittle and Mariano (2009) characterize mobile learning as the ability to move beyond the
place-bound learning environment with the use of wireless educational technologies. Often when
contemplating the possible impact of the usage and acquisition of mobile technologies, schools
neglect a crucial factor. When developing mobile learning experiences, the device or technology
being used must provide equitable learning for all students. Of utmost importance is the
consideration needed in regards to students with communicative, physical and cognitive
disabilities. The US Census Bureau categorizes types of disabilities into three domains: (1)
communicative, (2) physical, and (3) mental (Betts, et al., 2013). Communicative disabilities
include difficulties with hearing, vision, and speech; physical disabilities include students unable
to walk or with debilitating diseases such as arthritis and cerebral palsy; and mental disabilities
include students with a learning or intellectual disability, such as dyslexia or dyscalculia (Betts,
et al., 2013). Not only is it morally and ethically prudent to consider the learning experiences of
all students, but it is also legally mandated through the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which was
amended in 1998 to include technologies both hardware and software- purchased by or with
federal monies be usable and accessible to individuals with disabilities (Hashey, 2014).
Benefits and Concerns for all Learners
Mobile learning allows the learner flexibility, which translates into anytime, anywhere
ways to learn and access educational tools and materials (Elias, 2011). This is clearly a benefit
afforded to the student who uses mobile technologies to access curriculum and materials for any
course or subject. Additionally, mobile learning allows curriculum to be present in multiple ways
audio, video, and text as well as providing immediate feedback for teachers to customize pace

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and focus on how best to meet each students educational needs (Hashey, 2014). This also
contributes to differentiating the learning experience to meet a students specific academic
weaknesses and strengths. It goes without saying that these benefits of mobile learning are not to
be overlooked for any student, regardless of varying levels of cognitive and physical abilities.
Along with the positive benefits of incorporating mobile technologies into a mobile
learning environment are the concerns for equitable access and usability for all students.
Educators must be aware of the accessibility barriers learners with disabilities face within mobile
environments (Hashey, 2014). This means software, mobile devices, and even online curriculum
and content have a functionality that accommodates for diminished levels of visual, audio,
speech, and fine motor capabilities. Small screens and cluttered keyboards are just a few
examples of how accessibility to mobile technologies can impede the learning process for
students with disabilities.
Ensuring Equitable Learning
A key asset in determining if software or hardware can provide equitable access for all
learners is the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT. This template, adopted by the
Information Technology Industry Council, is a document that vendors fill out to reveal the degree
that their products and services are in alignment with Section 508 federal technical accessibility
standards (Betts, et al., 2013). This becomes a starting point for schools to decide if a product is
appropriate for their students. A well-developed VPAT will help determine if a selection of
software or a particular mobile device is appropriate or not appropriate for individuals with
limited mobility, hearing impairments, or visual impairments (Hashey, 2014).
A multitude of products are available to assist in the equitable usage of mobile devices
for mobile learning. Screen readers are software applications that convert text (words or

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numbers), documents (e.g., a word processed document, a spreadsheet), or web pages on a


computer display screen into audible speech (Betts, et al., 2013). In addition, some screen
readers use Braille output in place of speech. As a great resource, screen readers can be highly
effective for equitable access to mobile technologies for many students, including learners who
are blind or have low vision and are also used by students who have learning disabilities (e.g.,
dyslexia, dysgraphia, attention deficit disorder) or are English language learners (Betts, et al.,
2013).
Knowledge is power, and as such, knowing the availability of software and hardware
specifically designed to assist learners with disabilities will help empower all educators to
service all students during the mobile learning experience. Most mobile devices are designed
with assistive features as build-in equipment. Apple iOS devices come standard with VoiceOver,
which is a gesture-based screen reader that allows individuals to fully interact by using gestures
(tapping, swiping, flicking) on the screen of the iOS device (Betts, et al., 2013). Microsoft
documents in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel can be modified with formatting functions to make
documents accessible to all learners (Betts, et al., 2013). Assistive technologies for the deaf and
hard of hearing include real-time captioning services,
The availability of mobile devices is both abundant and varied. As such, educators in a
mobile learning environment have an ethical and legal responsibility to ensure that the learning
experience is equitable opportunity for all learners, regardless of ability or disability.
Gaming in Mobile Learning
Mobile learning has become an important and substantial part of modern education.
When it comes to mobile learning many different facets to explore exist, one of particular
interest for many involves mobile gaming. If you were to look around at any school, restaurant,

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22

or other public establishment, you would no doubt see children absorbed in a mobile device. On
that mobile device you might find them doing a number of things. However, the most likely
scenario becomes one of absorption in a game. Games played for recreation involve objectives,
problems, and scenarios requiring skills for the player to accomplish. The games used in
education teach critical thinking, problem solving, and covering curriculum content in a very
meaningful way to the learner. Many aspects of mobile gaming need addressing if educators
hope to implement this learning tool into education. Most importantly, staff and students desire
gaming and design implementation strategies for these games.
Staff and Student Desires and Attitudes
Project Tomorrow conducted a survey in 2008 and more than 50% of responding students
said they could access technology more easily by bringing their own device. More than 33% of
K-12 students responded they had access to their own personal laptop, while 35% of primary
grade students, 52% of middle school students, and 67% of secondary students stated they had
access to their own personal cell phone (Electronic Education Report, 2008, p. 4). These
statistics come from a survey taken by Project Tomorrow about aspects of technology that
students desire for implementation. The importance of this quote shows that the technological
resources needed to implement gaming into curriculum exist, especially at the secondary levels.
With this number likely to grow, and the large number of students that bring a mobile device
with them to school could mean implementation becomes more practical than in the past.
Additionally, 51% of grade 6-12 students said games make it easier to understand difficult
concepts; 46% say they would learn more about a subject if presented through a game; 44% say
gaming would make it more interesting to practice problems (Electronic Education Report,
2008, p. 4). These statistics show the desire for gaming implementation as well as the resources

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23

needed exist. Finally, the desire from the school staff side of this equation: Forty-five percent of
school and district administrators identified online learning as a way to boost student
Engagement, and 33% of teachers have explored how to integrate online learning into their
classrooms (Electronic Education Report, 2004, p. 4). All of these statistics go to show that a
desire for mobile gaming and online learning opportunities by many stakeholders in education
exists.
Mobile Gaming Implementation and Design
The literature reviewed leads to a lot of good designs, and suggestions for proper and
successful implementation of gaming. A number of different ways to use mobile gaming to
reinforce learning as well as making it more meaningful exist. One of the more interesting
designs for mobile gaming came from Facer (2004) in the UK. This design presented as an
experiential learning model using GPS devices in addition to mobile devices. The design also
incorporated students interacting both in their physical environment as well as through the use of
devices. The objective of the game used in the study consists of teaching students about the lions
that inhabit the Savannah. Each student was given both a GPS and PDA device to use during the
game; the device programs gave the students specific tasks to accomplish as a member of the
pride of lions. Students received information and tasks from teachers in the den, and this game
required the students to interact with each other and use information provided from the devices
to accomplish goals in the game. This design allowed students to construct their own experiences
and partake in meaningful learning experience with their peers.
Another mobile gaming design, executed by Huang (2010) in China sought to implement
a narrative centered interactive game for discovery learning. These teachers designed a variety of
narratives for their students to follow; through the process students learned through their own

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24

discovery of content playing the game. The researchers found this to be a very effective design,
with hidden story plots as the most effective narrative implemented. Teachers acted as facilitators
rather than instructors in this study, and the students had to make a series of choices that would
lead them to a number of different outcomes.
Mobile gaming is a new and exciting learning tool, more research remains to discover
and modify to make them more effective. Skills educators seek to shape and grow in students
today; critical thinking and problem solving, in all of the literature reviewed found those skills
necessary to complete the tasks in the games. Teachers found ways to design and implement
games to fit their content and students; as with any teaching method, flaws exist, but those flaws
do not outweigh the benefits of mobile gaming.
Mobile gaming, with its many characteristics as a learning tool, could through the
reviewed literature show growth in the desired skills of students. The advent of mobile devices
and easier access to technology makes this a more feasible option in educating students. The
literature reviewed showed great progress in the design of games and the potential for
improvements in the future, in both design and implementation. Gaming will most likely become
an important aspect of mobile learning in schools (Power, Daniel, Barma, & Harrap, 2010)
Conclusion
The current age of technology as a part of daily life will continue to change the way we
communicate, learn, and work. Our global work environment relies on the use of mobile devices,
innovative multi-media resources, and cloud computing. Educational systems at all levels must
reevaluate their administrative processes and priorities to make informed decisions that reflect
current best practices and integration of 21st century technological skills. Research reports that
mobile learning systems with Web resources can benefit mobile learning in K-12 settings.

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Appropriate evaluation and modeling of software and applications can increase student
productivity, motivation, and assessment strategies. Mobile technology integration changes the
objectives and tools used in districts curriculum. Mobile learning is adaptable to foundational
learning theories and equitable for all students. Every aspect of mobile learning; from email,
gaming, presentations to blogs, exist as an essential avenue to access learning using critical
thinking skills in collaborative environments.

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26

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