Tag: mlearning

Which apps should I buy?

Working as an e-learning adviser, it may be expected that I should be asked ‘Which apps should I buy?’ A perfectly reasonable question coming from someone new to mobile technology to someone who has been researching and working with it for some time. However, the question takes me back to my earliest days as an adviser, when I was working with modern languages teachers. The phone would ring and a teacher would say “Hello, I’m from XYZ school in Never Never land – We’ve got a budget to buy software and I’m just wondering what we should buy?” I can’t blame the teacher for asking the question – it came from the days of e-learning credits where schools had money thrown at them and just wanted to be able to buy software. However, it rarely came with any thinking about what was the purpose of the software. I would probe for an answer: which languages are you working with? Which age group? Which skills are you looking to help pupils with? How does your curriculum work – when and how do pupils have access to computers? (The inquisition continued until I was able to find something for the school to spend their money on…and I was reminded of my dad saying ‘That money’s burning a hole in your pocket’.)

So, back to the ‘app’ question. Which apps should you buy? Well, what are you teaching? What are the pupils learning? Is an app the cover-all pill that a pupil can take to digest this chunk of learning? Will you be using the app for the whole class or is this something that the pupils will use on their own / in groups? ….

I don’t want to knock apps completely – there are some very good ones, some which pupils enjoy and no doubt will learn from effectively, but until we have a clear idea about what we are teaching and what pupils are learning and how, buying an app as a sticking plaster isn’t going to work.

After sharing this post with Joe Dale, he suggested the following sites which give tools for evaluating apps:

You may want to add a link to Silvia Tolisano’s app evaluation blog post – http://langwitches.org/blog/2012/05/27/evaluating-apps-with-transformative-use-of-the-ipad-in-mind and Tony Vincent’s http://learninginhand.com/blog/ways-to-evaluate-educational-apps.htm

Both very useful, adding some substance to the ‘Which app?’ debate.


Mobile Learning Technologies

This article looks at learning with Mobile Technologies. Whilst it is possible to create a list of mobile devices, they are changing every day and it is better to look at their characteristics. Typically, they are small, portable, connect wirelessly to the internet, capable of managing multimedia (audio and video) and may have additional functionality, such as a camera or the ability to run ‘applications’. However, Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler (2007) point out that simply looking at the devices is ‘constraining and technocentric’. The key thing to examine is ‘the underlying learner experience and …how mobile learning differs from other forms of education’. (Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2007, p. 181)

Secondary schools are taking a keen interest in the use of mobile technologies as pilot studies have indicated that there may be ‘considerable pedagogic potential’ (Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2007, p. 181). Indeed, a term that has emerged in the last couple of years is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), defined as ‘bringing [one’s] own mobile devices… into the workplace for use and connectivity’ (Webopedia, 2011) Increasingly, schools are realising that the technology held in their pupils’ hands can be of benefit rather than being disruptive. Some schools are encouraging and even supplying the technology. But why?

The reason must lay with the functionality of these devices. ‘These technologies offer unique possibilities to design for learning that are unlike any afforded by other e-learning technologies’ explain Kukulska-Hulme and Traxler (2007, p.183) They go on to say that they are capable of supporting designs for learning which are ‘personalized, situated and authentic’. Let us explore these further.

Learning that is personalised ‘delivers learning to each learner when and where they want it’ (p.184). There may be a misconception that learning with mobile devices is about learning on the move but the more important understanding is that the device is with the learner – whilst in the classroom, on the bus or at home. It is fully accessible at all times, with the content that the learner wants to use.

Learning that is ‘situated’ delivers learning in a context that is directly relevant to the learner. There are some very useful applications in the Secondary school. Pupils can collect data and information from outside the classroom. For example, pupils can video and replay action for Sport, collect digital photos of realia for Art, record real interviews from people for History or English.

This leads neatly to the third area which is that learning should be ‘authentic’, that it ‘involves real-world problems and projects that are relevant and interesting to the learner’.  (Kukulska-Hulme & Traxler, 2007, p. 185)  School can seem to be removed from the real world but the increasing connection pupils can have with the outside world through mobile devices can bring a validity to work which may otherwise seem dry and irrelevant.

In researching this piece of work, I have realised the full scope of what will become a revolution in the way we teach and learn. Whilst predicting the future is rarely possible, it is almost certain that learners will make increasing use of mobile technologies and, ‘in the future, the success of learning and teaching with mobile technologies will be measured by how seamlessly it weaves itself into our daily lives, with the greatest success paradoxically occurring at the point where we don’t recognise it as learning at all.’ (Futurelab, 2004).


Futurelab. (2004). Report 11: Literature Review in Mobile Technologies and Learning. Birmingham: Futurelab.

Kukulska-Hulme, A., & Traxler, J. (2007). Designing for Mobile and Wireless Learning. In H. Beetham, & R. Sharpe, Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age (pp. 180-192). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Webopedia. (2011, December 17). BYOD – Bring your own Device. Retrieved December 17, 2011, from Webopedia: http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/B/BYOD.html