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5 Myths about mobile learning

[and how to overcome them]

Photo by stefg74

Here are some common mLearning myths I regularly come across in English language teacher training – and some myth-busting lesson plans.

Myth 1: Mobile learning means learning via texting with mobile phones

Mobile phones (or cell phones) are just one of the myriad devices that can be used for learning. ‘Learning with handheld devices’ is probably a less ambiguous and therefore more helpful term than ‘mobile learning’. Netbooks, ereaders (like the Kindle or Sony ereader), gaming consoles (like the Nintendo or Sony DS), tablet computers (like the iPad or Galaxy tablet), digital cameras (like the Flip), MP3 and MP4 players (like the iPod or iPod Touch)…. all can be used as learning tools. Here is a video in which Claire Chapman outlines how she uses digital cameras/smartphones with EFL learners in class:

Myth 2: Mobile learning means ‘learning on the move’

This is one of the most common definitions of mobile learning I hear. Sure you can learn by looking at vocabulary flashcards on the bus. But you can also learn by watching video podcasts on your smartphone on the sofa at home every evening. Or by reading a magazine on your tablet computer while you have a tea break. The ‘on the move’ theory fits ‘the long bus ride’* theory…but it doesn’t exclude ‘on the couch’ learning with a mobile device. Or in class learning. See the lesson plan from Jen Dobson on bringing a mobile devices into the classroom with very young learners, aged 5-6.

*Thanks to Neil Ballantyne for alerting me to this theory, which states that all learners will have a long bus ride to work/school in which they will want to look at flashcards or similar :-)

Myth 3: Mobile learning means learning with apps

Another common misconception. There are indeed many language learning apps around, and here’s an earlier post reviewing several. But mobile devices can give language learners so much more than apps. An Internet-enabled mobile device means learners can access rich media content. They can engage in conversations via social networks. They can produce audio or video. Check out the lesson plan from Dan Rieb where students…

  • access video rich content reviewing mobile phones, and then
  • produce their own audio reviews via mobile devices,
  • which peers and teacher can then comment on.

Myth 4: Mobile learning means content delivered in ‘bite-sized’ chunks

This relates to Myth 3 above. It sees the best mobile content as discrete and ‘bitty´. Content can be in small chunks, but it can also be authentic, extensive and holistic. Learners can access longer content on their mobile devices – see the lesson plan from Ana d’Almeida which brings EFL podcasts into the classroom and teaches learners how to carry on with them outside the classroom in the longer term. You could equally use this structure to introduce your learners to authentic video podcasts such as news broadcasts.

Myth 5: Mobile learning means informal, just-in-time learning.

It can do, but it can equally mean access to formal, structured learning, which is carefully integrated into the curriculum. Check out the lesson plan by Carl Dowse in which Business English students work in groups on short presentations of new products, which are filmed on mobile devices both during and after preparation.

What about you? What mobile learning myths have you come across? Do you have any resources for teachers to help them bust any of the above myths? As always, comments welcome!

Related posts:

Nicky Hockly
The Consultants-E
June 2011


7 Comments

  1. Ann Foreman says:

    Hi Nicky,

    Just posted a link to this on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you’d like to check for comments.

    Best,

    Ann

  2. Jody Hansen says:

    Hi Nicky,

    Now I’m starting to think that my students can do other things in the classroom with their cellphones besides looking at them surreptitiously under the desk. Thanks for the article!

    Jody

  3. Nicky Hockly says:

    You’re welcome, Jody, and thanks for leaving a comment here!

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