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  • Reports of the Department of Mathematical Information Technology

    Series E. Educational Technology

    No. E 2/2013

    Mobile Learning a Review of Current Research

    Jenni Rikala

    University of Jyvskyl Department of Mathematical Information Technology

    P.O. Box 35 (Agora)

    FI-40014 University of Jyvskyl


    fax +358 14 260 2771

  • Copyright 2013

    Jenni Rikala

    and University of Jyvskyl

    ISBN 978-951-39-5292-1

    ISSN 1795-5726

  • 1

    Mobile Learning a Review of Current


    Jenni Rikala


    Mobile learning, learning with mobile devices in various contexts, is an ascending

    trend across different sectors of education worldwide. One major challenge, however,

    is that the mobile learning solutions have not deeply-rooted to educational contexts

    and practices as the mobile learning commonly is characterized by short-term and

    small-scale trials. In this report I give a cross-section about what is topical at the

    moment in the field of mobile learning. This report will also provide a comprehensive

    view of pedagogical models and proposes a new mobile learning framework.

    1 Introduction

    Mobile technologies have changed our societies in many respects [1]. They have

    affected the way people interact with each other, how people communicate, work

    and travel [2]. Mobile devices, systems and technologies are now universally

    owned, accepted and used. As consequence also the meaning and significance of

    learning are changing. [1] Educators, employers, parents and the public have

    begun to emphasize the need for lifelong learning and 21st century skills.

    Technologies can respond to these changes in learning. Technologies have made

    many new educational forms possible but despite this the methods of teaching and

    learning still are in many respects quite traditional, teacher-centred and classroom-

    bounded. There remains definite gap between the knowledge and skills that

    learners learn in school and the knowledge and skills that they will need later in

    life. It has been shown that innovative teaching can support students development

    of the skills that they will need in future life and work [3]. Taking this into account

    even more innovative learning scenarios and practices should be designed and


    Researchers and educators all over the world have recognized the potential of

    mobile technologies as learning tool and mobile technology has promoted a new

    Department of Mathematical Information Technology, University of Jyvskyl, P.O. Box 35

    (Agora), FI-40014 University of Jyvskyl, Finland,

  • 2

    learning style mobile learning or briefly m-learning. Innovative learning practices

    (e.g., student centred pedagogy, extending learning beyond the classroom) can be

    realized through different mobile learning solutions. At best, mobile devices can be

    used to support learners needs and to develop a variety of appropriate learning

    solutions and learning practices.

    Research in the field of mobile learning has been done widely all over the world.

    This research is studying how the mobility of learners augmented by personal and

    public technology can contribute to the process of gaining new knowledge, skills and

    experience [4]. In other words, mobile learning is learning in which learners are

    using mobile devices such as PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), laptop computers,

    mobile phones, smart phones (e.g., iPhone), digital players, media players, cameras,

    games consoles (e.g., Nintendo DS, Sony PSP), voting systems as well as

    customized hardware to enhance learning by gaining knowledge, skills and

    experiences. Learners can learn anytime and anywhere so learning can be very

    personalised, situated and authentic [5].

    Mobile phones and PDAs are the most commonly used technologies for mobile

    learning but as above listed there is also wide variety of other possible mobile

    technologies as well. Mobile, commonly understood as portable and movable, can

    also implicate a personal, so mobile technologies can be classified by using the two

    orthogonal dimensions of personal vs. shared and portable vs. static. [6]

    Naismith et al. [6] emphasized that mobile technologies comprise all devices from

    quadrants 13 and also those from quadrant 4 that are not at the extreme end of

    the static dimension (Fig. 1).

    Figure 1: Classification of mobile technologies [6]

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    The new wireless and powerful handheld devices have new exiting capabilities

    and possibilities such as multimedia, social networking, and geo-location [7]. But

    also less powerful handheld devices with slower communication have been used

    for mobile learning for several years now. For example, three applications such as

    classroom response systems, participatory simulations, and collaborative data gathering,

    have been re-implemented many times, and studied by many different research

    teams. [8]

    The mobile learning context can be extremely dynamic. Because of this also the

    applications of mobile learning can vary greatly according to the context and

    situations (from K-12 to higher education and corporate learning settings, from

    formal and informal learning to classroom learning, distance learning, and field

    study). Some of the mobile applications and software have been purpose-built for

    educational use but some of them are off-the shelf solutions originally intended for

    other uses like business use. The extremely dynamic mobile learning context and

    different reasons to utilise mobile technologies in education make it tricky to make

    any generalisations about the requirements and ways of using them. The ways that

    mobile technologies have been used to support teaching and learning are, for

    example: individual study, group work, data collection, recording reflections/diaries, skills

    practice, feedback/questions to teacher, peer-to-peer communication/support, reviewing

    knowledge, warm up/cool down exercises. [9, 10, 11, 12]

    There are several challenges with m-learning, such as connectivity, small screen

    sizes, limited processing power, and reduced input capabilities. Also the great

    variety of mobile devices and possibility to personalize and use them in different

    settings creates challenges to mobile learning. One more considerable challenge is

    the diversity of educational goals and needs of the users. Also the lack of cohesive

    theoretical mobile learning framework and mobile learning standards brings some

    challenges. Undoubtedly, there are number of technological and pedagogical

    issues that need to be take account. [13, 14, 15, 16]

    Mobile learning is still developing rapidly, but it is evidently undeveloped

    compared to technologies and their pedagogies. The use of mobile devices is

    increasing across every sector of education, and across both the developed and

    developing worlds. Mobile learning also has growing visibility and significance.

    There is the growing size and frequency of dedicated conferences, seminars, and

    workshops. There have also been a rising number of references to mobile learning

    at generalist academic conferences. There are now much larger and more sustained

    and blended trials and experiments than before but so far the development and the

    delivery have focused on short-term small-scale pilots and trials in the developed

    countries of Europe, North America, and the Pacific Rim. [1, 5]

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    The purpose of this report is to review articles to summarise the current research

    concerning the mobile learning. For this review I have examined articles that I have

    found in electronic databases using keyword searches including mobile learning

    and m-learning. I searched articles from the Jyvskyl University librarys Nelli

    portal which provides access to databases, e-journals and other electronic resources

    and also from the Google search engine and Google Scholar. I sought to explore

    and analyse the most recent studies (20072012).

    2 Theories behind the mobile learning

    Mobile devices by themselves do not guarantee effective teaching or learning.

    Methods of teaching and the teachers views of learning are essential part of the

    educational use of technology. In the background of every educational effort there

    is always a theory or idea of how the learners mind works and how the learner

    should be taught [17].

    Pedagogical theories and strategies are normally strongly linked to learning

    theories so the way to use mobile devices to support learning widely depends on

    the learning theory. To crystallize the importance of the learning theories in mobile

    learning, I quote Herrington and Herrington [18] who argued that: Adopting more

    recent theories of learning has the potential to exploit the affordances of the technologies in

    more valuable ways.

    Mobile learning research integrates research from different theoretical

    perspectives. Many researchers have explored the relationship between existing

    learning theories and mobile learning. Naismith et al. [6], for instance, compared

    mobile learning against learning theories such as behaviourist, constructivist, situa